De Bertie, a two-time stakes winner over the Gulfstream Park strip last year, heads a field of 13 fillies and mares in Friday's $65,000 Escena Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. If all 13 go, the race will have a gross value of $75,400, with $45,240 to the winner.
Elaine, Richard, and Bertram Klein own De Bertie, the now 5-year-old daughter of De Niro who was a powerful force in the distaff ranks here last year. The Steve Flint-trained mare started her season with a second in an allowance race, and then reeled off back-to-back wins in the Sabin Handicap (gr. III) and the Rampart Handicap (gr. II).
De Bertie made her first Florida start of the season on Dec. 22 at Calder, where she failed to fire and finished fifth as the favorite in the Stage Door Betty Handicap.
Under the conditions of the Escena, De Bertie gets in with 120 pounds -–as do all but one of the entrants -– and will have jockey Jerry Bailey up for the first time. Jorge Chavez, the mare's regular rider, is currently serving a suspension.
Alter's Racing Stable's Happily Unbridled will get her share of attention in the Escena. The 4-year-old daughter of Unbridled was beaten just a neck by Extend in the Stage Door Betty. Earlier in the Calder meet, the Happy Alter-trained filly won the Judy's Red Shoes Stakes and was second in the Shocker T Handicap.
Happily Unbridled won an allowance race at Gulfstream last winter, then ran fifth behind Tap Dance in the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes. Edgar Prado gets the call for the first time as Happily Unbridled goes from post nine.
Edward P. Evans' Unrestrained, who drew post 11, demands another look. The Mark Hennig-trained daughter of Unbridled was pitched high last season when she ran second in the Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. II) and seventh behind Flute in the 10-furlong Alabama (gr. I) at Saratoga. She won the Summit Stakes at Meadowlands in November, but more importantly for Friday's race, Unrestrained broke her maiden over the Gulfstream track last March, drawing off to an 8 1/2-length win. Mark Guidry gets the call on the filly for the first time.
Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. sends out a stakes winner in Thorobeam Farm's Sara's Success. The 4-year-old filly by Concorde's Tune has been at her best on the turf, where she won three stakes last year, including the Calder Oaks. She has won three lifetime starts on the main track, but her outside post will be a factor to overcome. Cornelio Velasquez has the mount again.
Centaur Farms' Halo Reality and Ione and H.J. Elkins' Castlebrook, who both finished in front of De Bertie in the Stage Door Betty, come back to test the likely favorite again. Ralph Ziadie trains Halo Reality, who turned in a big effort at 40-1 in the Calder race to be third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths. Last season, the daughter of Prospector's Halo finished in front of Happily Unbridled in the Bonnie Miss, running second to Tap Dance, 11 lengths in front of Happily Unbridled. Manuel Aguilar rides. Castlebrook, trained by Bill Kaplan, on the pace in the Stage Door Betty, but weakened to finish fourth, nearly a length in front of De Bertie. The Montbrook mare won four Calder stakes in 2001.
International Turf and Sports LLC's Blondaway drew the rail for the Escena and carries 116 pounds under the conditions. She won the Cherokee Frolic Stakes in her final start of 2001. Trainer Manny Azpurua gave the call to Jose Santos. Stronach Stable's Tina Dynamite, second here last year in her only Gulfstream start, will have to do some running from post 13. The daughter of Dynaformer won three times last year, with scores at Santa Anita, Keeneland, and Aqueduct. Rene Douglas rides.
The others entered are G. Watts Humphrey Jr.'s Miss Kate, Gary Boulanger; Mrs. J.W. Abernethy's Cash's Pride, Enrique Jurado; Bayard Sharp's Shag, Pat Day; Double A Partnership's Lily's Affair, Eduardo Nunez; and Jacks or Better Farm's Precious Feather, Jon Court.