After winning a pair of grade II stakes on turf against other fillies of her age last season, Centre Court will take on older rivals for the first time when she begins her 4-year-old campaign March 16 in the $150,000 Honey Fox Stakes (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream Park.
A homebred for G. Watts Humphrey Jr., Centre Court closed out last season with a two-length victory in the Mrs. Revere Stakes (gr. II) on the Churchill Downs turf. Trained by Rusty Arnold, the Smart Strike filly out of the A.P. Indy filly Let will try to secure her fourth graded stakes win Saturday.
"She's right on schedule," Arnold said. "She's doing great and this is a perfect spot at a mile to bring her back and set her up for the Jenny Wiley (Stakes, gr. IT, April 13) at Keeneland, which is our first major target for her this year."
Last year Centre Court also captured the Lake George Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga Race Course and the Regret Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs. Regular rider Julien Leparoux will make the trip from the West Coast for the mount in Saturday's one-mile turf race for fillies and mares 4 and older.
"She won two grade IIs last year, but we really want to get her a grade I," Arnold said. "She runs her race every time. She's been particularly satisfying having trained her dam before her."
Grade II winner Let won four stakes for Humphrey, placed second in the 1998 Ashland Stakes (gr. I), and earned more than $600,000.
Trainer Chad Brown holds a strong hand in the Honey Fox with two solid contenders in Hidden Brook and Dan Zucker's 4-year-old Pianist, who enters off an allowance/optional claiming race win on the Gulfstream turf, and Martin Schwartz's grade III winner Samitar.
Pianist is a chestnut daughter of More Than Ready whose win over the course at the one-mile distance Feb. 7 as the favorite was her first start since disappointing when fourth as the odds-on choice in the Stardusk Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 21. In fact, Pianist has been favored in all eight of her career starts, winning four with a second and a third.
Samitar won the Garden City Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont Park in mid-September before a fourth-place finish in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland in her last outing Oct. 13. The daughter of Rock of Gibraltar was a classic winner last year, capturing the Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) at the Curragh before joining Brown in New York last summer.
$150,000 Honey Fox Stakes (gr. IIT, race 10 approximate post time 5:35 p.m. EDT) fillies & mares 4YO & Up, one mile, turf (rail at 48 feet)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Class Included (KY), F. Torres, 121, D. Romans
2. Centre Court (KY), J. Leparoux, 123, G. Arnold II
3. Heavenly Landing (KY), C. Lanerie, 117, E. Kenneally
4. Channel Lady (KY), J. Castellano, 121, T. Pletcher
5. Namaskara (KY), E. Prado, 117, H. Motion
6. Pianist (KY), J. Velazquez, 117, C. Brown
7. Star Torina (KY), J. Castanon, 117, W. Mott
8. Samitar (GB), J. Rosario, 117, C. Brown
9. Frontside (PA), A. Garcia, 117, E. Caramon