To take the 6 1/2-furlong Hurricane Bertie, Emma's Encore will have to best 2012 defending victress R Holiday Mood and do better than the five-wide closing trip that resulted in her second-place finish, 5 1/4 lengths behind Golden Mystery, in the Jan. 19 Florida Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint.
"(Closing is) her style," Jerkens remarked. "She ran into a little bit of trouble when she made her move, but she ran well and I was happy with her race."
That start going six furlongs was her first of 2013 for owners Brenda Mercer and Peter Berglar and first off the layup after her summer form declined for back-to-back off the board finishes in the Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) and Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. II).
Now a 4-year-old, Emma's Encore carries 123 pounds from post nine in a field of 11 under jockey Junior Alvarado, R Holiday Mood carries 121 from post two under John Velazquez, and Golden Mystery returns from that Jan. 19 score to depart post six under Luis Saez and 117 pounds.
Golden Mystery was supposed to have finished off her racing career after winning the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint, and is consigned to the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky mixed sale to be held Feb. 11 near Lexington. Plans still call for the 7-year-old Florida-bred daughter of Awesome Again to make the trip after she runs in the Hurricane Bertie.
"We hadn't even considered running in this race until we found out Dust and Diamonds had been retired," said Wolfson, referring to the Todd Pletcher-trained filly who won the Sugar Swirl Stakes (gr. III) by 2 3/4 lengths on Dec. 9 over Golden Mystery after finishing second to Groupie Doll in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park in her previous start.
"(Golden Mystery) is still going to the sale after the race," the trainer remarked. "The Farnsworth program right now is to sell the older mares and replace them with younger fillies to race."
Golden Mystery has been competitive in graded company and was good enough in 2011 to make it to the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (gr. I), where she finished seventh. Her past three starts have been a solid win and two seconds, with that initial runner-up finish coming in the Dec. 8 Sugar Swirl Stakes (gr. III) to get her first graded placing (stablemate Nakano was third). She won her previous start by vying for the lead, settling back slightly while continuing to press the pace, slipping through on the rail to challenge R Holiday Mood, and drawing away to victory.
Chasing Tails Stables' Starship Truffles, a 4-year-old Ghostzapper filly, rides a four-race win streak into this start after winning by 5 3/4 lengths Jan. 13 at Gulfstream, but steps up to graded company for the first time. Spectacular Sky hasn't raced since a sixth-place finish in the Nov. 3 Chilukki Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs for Farnsworth Stables; the 5-year-old Sky Mesa mare went into that race on a three-race winning roll that included the Whippleton and Barb's Dancer Stakes at Calder Race Course & Casino. Nakano, a 5-year-old by First Samurai, was fourth in a Jan. 27 allowance at Gulfstream and ran third three times previous in stakes company for Thoroughbred Futures Racing. Her most recent win came Sept. 3 in the Connie Ann Stakes at Calder.
E. Paul Robsham Stables' R Holiday Mood was third by 5 1/2 lengths in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint in her first start off the layup; the 5-year-old Trippi mare raced only once for trainer Todd Pletcher after winning the Hurricane Bertie last year and was fourth in the Inside Information Stakes (gr. II) behind Musical Romance, Hot Summer, and Groupie Doll before going to the sidelines.
An intriguing addition to the field is another Congrats filly, the lightly raced but undefeated 4-year-old Applauding. Formerly trained by Al Stall Jr. and now in the care of Michael Matz, she'll make her stakes debut. Applauding broke her maiden by nine lengths at Keeneland, won an allowance at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots by six, and took a Churchill allowance in her last start by 1 1/4 lengths for owner Ramona Bass on Nov. 21.
Charles Dimino's multiple graded stakes-placed Catch a Thief, Charles Fipke's stakes winner Munnings Sister, Ron Hendrickson's stakes winner Who Is Camille, and IEAH Stables and Resolute Group Stables' allowance winner Fantasy of Flight complete the field. Who Is Camille is also cross-entered in the Manatee.
$150,000 Hurricane Bertie Stakes (gr. III, Race 10, approximate post 5:05 p.m. EST), fillies & mares 4YOs & Up, 6 1/2 furlongs (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight Trainer
1. Catch a Thief (MD), A. Garcia, 117, T A Hills
2. R Holiday Mood (FL), J.R. Velazquez, 121, T A Pletcher
3. Starship Truffles (KY), J.A. Garcia, 117, M D Wolfson
4. Spectacular Sky (KY), J. Rosario, 117, M D Wolfson
5. Fantasy of Flight (KY), J. Castellano, 117, M Nevin
6. Golden Mystery (FL), L. Saez, 117, M D Wolfson
7. Nakano (KY), J.V. Bridgmohan, 117, M D Wolfson
8. Applauding, J. Rocco, Jr., 117, M R Matz
9. Emma's Encore (FL), J. Alvarado, 123, H A Jerkens
10. Munnings Sister (KY), J. Bravo, 117, B Tagg
11. Who Is Camille (KY), J.A. Garcia, 117, M Navarro