Juddmonte Farms' homebred Starformer seeks her second straight stakes score at Gulfstream Park March 30, going up against nine others in the $150,000 Orchid Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the undercard of the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I).
The 5-year-old daughter of Dynaformer, who made an auspicious 2013 debut with a dominating 3 3/4-length triumph in the Feb. 16 The Very One Stakes (gr. IIIT), will depart post 5 under jockey Rajiv Maragh as the 123-pound highweight for the 1 1/2-mile turf event. The Orchid is scheduled as race 9 of 13 with an approximate post time of 4:29 p.m. EDT.
Starformer concluded her 2012 season for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott with a victory at Aqueduct Racetrack in the Nov. 10 Long Island Handicap (gr. IIIT). She has run on courses rated good and soft in her last two starts, but doesn't need give in the ground to perform at her best. In her previous start at Gulfstream in February 2012, Starformer zipped over a firm course to win an allowance by three lengths before taking the R.G. Dick Memorial (gr. IIIT) over a firm Delaware Park course by three lengths in July.
"She came to us as a 3-year-old and was a little disappointing running in her first few races for us at a mile or a little more. She seemed to get in trouble. After that we stretched her out to 11 furlongs or more and she seems to like that a lot better," said Mott, who will be in Dubai when Starformer runs, saddling champion Royal Delta in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) presented by Emirates.
Robert S. Evans' Irish Mission, a winner of a Canadian Triple Crown event against the boys last year, will also be making her second start of the 2013 season. The 4-year-old filly stumbled at the start of a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance on the Gulfstream turf on Feb. 28 but recovered to finish second by a length.
Last year, trainer Mark Frostad saddled the daughter of Giant's Causeway to victory in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks - Presented by Budweiser, followed with a runner-up finish in the $1 million Queen's Plate on the all-weather track at Woodbine. After a failed attempt on dirt in the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales, Irish Mission moved to the Woodbine turf to capture the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes at the 1 1/2-mile distance. Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez has the mount aboard Irish Mission from post 6 in the Orchid.
Regalo Mia will be making her second start of the year after capturing the Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf at Gulfstream with a late-closing performance on Jan. 19. The Florida-bred Sligo Bay 4-year-old will seek her first graded-stakes score in the Orchid after being graded-stakes placed three times last season for trainer Michele Nihei. Luis Contreras will be aboard for the first time; Regalo Mia departs post 1.
Trainer Graham Motion, who will also be in Dubai on Saturday to saddle 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) victor Animal Kingdom for the World Cup, entered two horses for the Orchid, including Angegreen, an Italian import who closed well to finish second behind Starformer in the 1 3/8-mile The Very One. Joe Rocco Jr. has been named to ride the filly owned by Team Valor International and Robert LaPenta. Joseph V. Shields' Game Fair, a 4-year-old Quiet American filly who finished eighth in that event, will be ridden by Alan Garcia.
Rounding out the field for the Orchid are St. George Farm Racing's Closing Range; Godolphin's Anjaz making her U.S. debut; Gary L. Chervenell's Seanchai; fourth-place The Very One finisher, Haras du Mezeray and Skymarc Farm's Aigue Marine; and Russell L. Reineman Stables' Tree Hugger.
$150,000 Orchid Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 9, approximate post 4:29 p.m. EDT), fillies & mares 4YOs & Up, 1 1/2 miles (turf) PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Regalo Mia (FL), L. Contreras, 119, M Nihei
2. Closing Range (KY), E. Trujillo, 121, P J Oliver
3. Anjaz (KY), I. Ortiz, Jr., 117, T Albertrani
4. Seanchai (KY), R. Napravnik, 117, T A Pletcher
5. Starformer (KY), R. Maragh, 123, W I Mott
6. Irish Mission (ON), J.R. Velazquez, 117, M R Frostad
7. Aique Marine (GB), J. Lezcano, 117, C Clement
8. Angegreen (ITY), J. Rocco, Jr., 117, H G Motion