In Tune is undefeated in 2 starts.

In Tune is undefeated in 2 starts.

Gulfstream Park Photo

In Tune Takes Giant Step in Gulfstream Oaks

Unbeaten filly for trainer Todd Pletcher tries stakes field for first time March 29.

Fast-developing In Tune, yet to be headed in her two prior starts for trainer Todd Pletcher, faces her toughest challenge yet when she clashes with seven other promising 3-year-old fillies in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II) March 29.

Wertheimer & Frere's homebred gray/roan filly was sharpened for her stakes debut, a major prep for the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), with a 2 3/4-length tally Feb. 27 over an allowance/optional claiming field going 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream Park. By Unbridled's Song out of the winning Affirmed mare Wichitoz, In Tune began her career with a maiden special weight win over the track at 6 1/2 furlongs Jan. 12.

Pletcher won last year's Gulfstream Park Oaks with Dreaming of Julia and also took the 2010 and '11 renewals with Devil May Care and R Heat Lightning. This year's race is the sixth on the Gulfstream program Saturday, one of seven graded events headed by $ 1 million the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I). The scheduled post time for the 1 1/8-mile Oaks is 2:20 p.m. EDT.

In Tune breezed a half mile in :48 4/5 March 22 at Palm Meadows. Javier Castellano, who has ridden the speedy filly in both of her starts to date, has the return engagement from post 6.

Joint Return, coming off a 4 1/4-length tally in the Busher Stakes Feb. 1 at Aqueduct Racetrack for trainer John Servis, spots each of her rivals two pounds while packing 118. Owned by Main Line Racing Stable, the daughter of Include  has won her past three starts by a combined 13 lengths and could well be favored as one of only two stakes winners in the field. Kendrick Carmouche, who rode the dark bay/brown filly in the 1 1/16-mile Busher, is back aboard from post 4.

"Right after the Busher, we decided to send her down and point for this race," Servis said. "I gave her a few days to recuperate from that and then we put her on a van. She's great, she's really doing well and she's enjoying the weather very much."

Joint Return, a $60,000 Keeneland yearling purchase, has recorded four workouts since arriving at Palm Meadows including a five-eighths move in 1:01 March 13. All four of her starts have come at a mile and beyond.

"I think she's looking for (the distance), actually, and maybe even a little bit further," Servis added. "It depends on how she runs Saturday, but if she runs like I think she's going to run, then the Kentucky Oaks is our goal, and we'll go from there."

Camille Claudel ran second to In Tune last time at 47-1 odds after finishing a well-beaten sixth in the Busanda Stakes in January at Aqueduct. Trainer Francis "Tres" Abbott III felt the effort by Sycamore Racing's daughter of Broken Vow  was good enough to merit another crack at In Tune.

"I was a little surprised that she was such a big price last time, even though I realize that she had not run great in New York, but she had some excuses up there," Abbott said. "I thought she ran really well the other dayI knew Todd's filly would be tough to beat and I think she'll still be tough to beat on Saturday. She's been doing really well."

Whomping Willow was second to In Tune in the January maiden race, and came back to graduate by nearly five lengths at Gulfstream Feb. 16. She was second in an overnight stakes March 9 going seven furlongs and will try a route of ground for the first time. Trainer Dale Romans has tabbed Corey Lanerie to ride the Mineshaft  filly once again for owners John and Mark Bacon and Dana Wells.

Darley homebred Penwith was third, beaten by only a neck in last fall's Demoiselle Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct. But the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee was 14 lengths back while fourth in her 2014 debut in Gulfstream's Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 22.

Joseph Shields Jr.'s House Rules was second in the Davona Dale for trainer H. Allen Jerkens. The Distorted Humor  miss managed to finish a half length in front of Aurelia's Belle, who returned March 22 to take the Pure Romance Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III) at Turfway Park.

Bobby Flay's America gets back on dirt for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott after making her seasonal bow with a fifth-place finish on grass in the Herecomesthebride Stakes (gr. IIIT) March 2. Stakes winner Holiday Magic, last of eight in the Davona Dale, completes the field.

The Gulfstream Park Oaks carries 100 points for the winner toward a start in the Kentucky Oaks, should that race be overfilled, with 40 to the runner-up, 20 to third, and 10 to fourth.

$300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II, Race 6, 2:20 p.m.), 3YO Fillies, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. America (KY), J R Velazquez, 116, W I Mott
2. Penwith (KY), L Saez, 116, K P McLaughlin
3. Camille Claudel (KY), F Boyce, 116, F Abbott III
4. Joint Return (KY), K Carmouche, 118, J C Servis
5. Whomping Willow (KY), C J Lanerie, 116, D L Romans
6. In Tune (KY), J Castellano, 116, T A Pletcher
7. Holiday Magic (FL), J C Leyva, 116, W A Kaplan
8. House Rules (KY), A O Solis, 116, H A Jerkens