Lily's Affair well enough in the Escena Stakes on Jan. 11 that she earned a chance in Saturday's $200,000 Rampart Handicap (gr. II) for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream Park.
The 6 year old daughter of Colonial Affair, out of Consider the Lily, makes her first start in graded-stakes company against two tough competitors--Summer Colony and Forest Secrets.
Summer Colony, the highweight at 118 pounds, has won six consecutive races since Aug. 17 at Saratoga where she broke her maiden by 32 lengths. The 4 year old daughter of Summer Squall will be ridden by John Velazquez, who has piloted her for six of her 12 lifetime starts. She is an Edward Evans homebred.
Grade I winner Forest Secrets will carry 117 pounds. She comes into the Rampart off a second place finish in the Sabin Handicap (gr. III) on Feb. 8. The 4 year old daugher of Forest Wildcat, out of Garden Secrets, was bred by William Patterson and James Glenn, and now races for John and Debby Oxley.
Because Lily's Affair finished a half-lengh and a head back in third in the Escena behind De Bertie and Sara's Success, trainer Mike Gorham felt she deserved to step up.
"She ran a big race in the Escena," Gorham said. "She's won a couple of stakes races in the past but they were in sprints. The only race she won going around two turns was a mile allowance race at Delaware Park last fall."
Lily's Affair, owned by the Double A Partnership, is a three-time stakes winner and is no stranger to Gulfstream's racing strip where she won the five-furlong Irish Sonnet Handicap in 2000. Gorham didn't stretch her out around two turns until last summer and she won a mile allowance race at Delaware Park in September.
"She's been training well for me ever since the Escena," Gorham said. "I'm not keen about tackling horses like Summer Colony (winner of six straight races) and Forest Secrets (grade I stakes winner) and some of those other hard knocking mares but there is really nothing else for her at this time."
The rest of the Rampart field includes Castlebrook, Happily Unbridled, and Unbridled Waters who will all carry 111 pounds.