Molly Morgan makes her seasonal debut in the Royal Delta Stakes at Gulfstream Park.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Molly Morgan makes her seasonal debut in the Royal Delta Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
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Anne M. Eberhardt

Molly Morgan Heads Royal Delta Lineup

Multiple stakes-winning mare begins her 6-year-old season at Gulfstream March 21.

Molly Morgan begins her 6-year-old season March 21 in the $200,000 Royal Delta Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park. The race was formerly called the Sabin.

On an upward trend since her career debut in 2011, the Ghostzapper  mare had a breakthrough year in 2014 after spending much of her 3- and 4-year-old seasons racing in allowance company. Though the Kentucky-bred went winless in three starts at two before breaking her maiden in a $50,000 maiden-claiming event at Churchill Downs in her sixth career start, last season she captured three graded stakes and placed in three others.

"She always acted like she could be a good horse, and that's why we never gave up on her and kept trying her," trainer Dale Romans said."We felt like, one of these days, she was going to have a breakthrough, and she finally did."

The upward swing began to show in the La Troienne Stakes (gr. I) last May. Fresh off a solid third-place effort in a Gulfstream allowance race March 19, the mare proved that she did indeed belong among the nation's top female runners, closing to get up for second behind multiple graded-stakes winner On Fire Baby in the $300,000 event and earning her first graded placing.

She would build upon that effort in her next start, the Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) June 14, turning the tables on On Fire Baby and running off to a four-length victory. From there, she won the Gardenia Stakes (gr. III) at Ellis Park and the Chilukki (gr. II) at Churchill, and also hit the board in the Locust Stakes and the Juddmonte Spinster (gr. I) at Keeneland

Molly Morgan capped her 5-year-old campaign for Poplar Hill Equine and W. Cubbedge with a third- place finish in the Falls City Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Nov. 27, in which she was beaten just three- quarters of a length by the winner and a neck by the runner-up Don't Tell Sophia, who was the runner-up in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park.

"That was a great race for her," Romans said. "We're hoping she can get us a grade I and get us to the Breeders' Cup this year."

After making 10 starts in 2014, seven of them in graded stakes, Molly Morgan was given some time off from the races following the Falls City.

"We just gave her a freshener," Romans said. "There wasn't anything wrong with her. We never even took her out of training. We just gave her a little time to get her feet back under her.

"She had a big year last year. I think she's ready to go. I don't know if she'll win first time out against this stiff competition, but we're going to give her a chance."

Molly Morgan drew the outside post of seven entered for the Royal Delta with jockey Corey Lanerie assigned to ride, and shares co-highweight duties with Carl Nafzger trainee Tiz Windy, winner of the Indiana Oaks (gr. II) last October. The 4-year-old daughter of Tiznow  has not raced since finishing fifth in the Falls City, a length behind Molly Morgan; she will be ridden by Julien Leparoux from post 2. Both runners carry 123 pounds.

The David Fawkes-trained Sheer Drama is another mare who has found greater success as she has gotten older. A half-sibling to 2010 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner Big Drama, the 5-year-old daughter of Burning Roma won her first stakes in 2014, taking the Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes by three lengths at Laurel Park Sept. 9. The chestnut most recently finished second in the Rampart Stakes  (gr. III) at Gulfstream Feb. 21.

"She came out of the race really good, and we worked her the other day," said Fawkes, who took over the mare's training last fall."She had a fabulous work, a bullet five-eighths (five furlongs in 1:00.05). She's eating good, training forward; I couldn't ask her to be doing any better."

The 1 1/16-mile Royal Delta will be Sheer Drama's first start for Fawkes in which she is asked to run farther than a mile. She breaks from post 3 under Joe Bravo and a 117-pound impost.

"She may be a little better around two turns," Fawkes noted."Her first (start for me) was seven eighths; her last was a flat mile; and this one is a mile and a sixteenth. I don't think the short stretch will hurt her."

House Rules, the Rampart winner, will also return in the Royal Delta. The 4-year-old daughter of Distorted Humor  will look for her third straight stakes victory after also capturing the Bal Harbour Handicap at Gulfstream on Jan. 2. Javier Castellano gets the return call from post 6 as part of a 121-pound assignment.

Trainer Marty Wolfson entered the duo of Swinger's Party and Flores Island in the Royal Delta. Swinger's Party most recently finished third in the Wayward Lass Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 14, the same day Flores Island was the runner-up in Laurel's Maryland Racing Media Stakes. The field is rounded out by the stakes-placed Oasis at Midnight, the fourth-place finisher from the Rampart.

Entries: Royal Delta S. (G2)

Gulfstream Park, Saturday, March 21, 2015, Race 10

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/16m
  • Dirt
  • $200,000
  • 4 yo's & up Fillies and Mares
  • 5:30 PM (local)
11Swinger's Party (FL)Edgard J. Zayas117Martin D. Wolfson-
22Tiz Windy (KY)Julien R. Leparoux123Carl A. Nafzger-
33Sheer Drama (FL)Joe Bravo117David Fawkes-
44Oasis At Midnight (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJesus M. Rios117Joseph F. Orseno-
55Flores Island (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJohn R. Velazquez117Martin D. Wolfson-
66House Rules (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJavier Castellano121James A. Jerkens-
77Molly Morgan (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateCorey J. Lanerie123Dale L. Romans-