Robert Smithen’s Bay to Bay hasn’t won since taking the Nassau (Can-IIT) last summer at Woodbine, but she figures to be one of the main competitors in her season debut, the $150,000 Honey Fox Stakes (gr. IIT) March 18 at Gulfstream Park.
The one-mile turf race for fillies and mares drew 11, plus two main track only entrants. The 5-year-old mare Bay to Bay was assigned top weight of 121 pounds, along with Romacaca and Tapitsfly. She finished fifth in this race a year ago when beaten three lengths.
A daughter of Sligo Bay bred by Adena Springs Farm, Bay to Bay has posted earnings of more than $650,000 with her biggest victories coming in the Nassau and the Natalma Stakes (Can-III) as a 2-year-old. The bay mare finished 2011 with a fifth-place finish in the First Lady (gr. IT) last October at Keeneland, but was beaten only 2 1/2 lengths.
“She was fine after the Keeneland race, but we decided to give her a break and gave her November and December off,” said trainer Brian Lynch. “We started back with her on Jan. 1. She’s bigger and stronger than she was a year ago and hasn’t been off as long as she was last year going into the Honey Fox and maybe we can make up some of the three lengths she got beat in this race last year.
“She ran one of her best races in the Diana (gr. IT) at Saratoga last year to be beaten only a length-and-a-quarter by Zagora after racing up on the pace from the start. We plan to follow a similar campaign as last year with the Nassau Stakes at Woodbine her next major objective after the Honey Fox.”
Frank Calabrese’s 6-year-old Romacaca makes her second start of the season. The daughter of Running Stag finished a game second in the Florida Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf on Jan. 28 in her first start since a solid third in the Ballston Spa Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga in late August.
Romacaca is a consistent 12-5-3 from 25 career starts for earnings of $648,000, most since she was claimed for $25,000 at Gulfstream as a 3-year-old early in 2009. She won five of seven starts last year, including five straight between an allowance win in February and the Matchmaker Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Monmouth Park in late July.
Frank Jones' Tapitsfly was a star 2-year-old in 2009 when she capped off her campaign by winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita. The Kentucky homebred daughter of Tapit has earned $790,000, but her only victory in seven starts last year came in a Gulfstream allowance. She did run well in several major races, including a good second in the Ballston Spa.
Trainer Christophe Clement will send out George Bolton and Peter Leidel’s 4-year-old Irish-bred Future Generation. Rajiv Maragh gets a return call on Future Generation after they teamed up for an impressive allowance victory over the course and distance Feb. 15 in her U.S. debut. A daughter of Hurricane Run, Future Generation was a group II winner in Ireland with four wins in 10 starts.
Paul Pompa Jr. and Hidden Brook Farm’s 5-year-old La Reine Lionne finished second last out in the Marshua’s River (gr. IIIT), missing by a nose. She won a starter allowance over the Gulfstream course in her previous start on Dec. 16. The daughter of Leroidesanimaux became eligible for starter conditions when breaking her maiden at Hawthorne in November 2010 for Hidden Brook Farm with no takers.
$150,000 Honey Fox (gr. IIT, Race 10, 5:35 p.m.), Fillies and Mares, 1 Mile (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Persuading (KY), J L Castanon, 117, D L Romans
2. Bay to Bay (FL), L Contreras, 121, B A Lynch
3. Romacaca (FL), J Rocco Jr., 121, N Canani
4. Last Full Measure (KY), J K Court, 117, P J Oliver
5. Cumulonimble (IL), J Lezcano, 117, W M Catalano
6. Louvakhova (KY), E Trujillo, 117, M D Wolfson
7. Tapitsfly (KY), J R Leparoux, 117, D L Romans
8. Future Generation (IRE), R Maragh, 121, C Clement
9. La Reine Lionne (KY), J R Velazquez, 117, C C Brown
10. Entrustment (KY), A O Solis, 117, M D Wolfson
11. New Normal (KY), P Lopez, 117, M R Frostad Main Track Only Lacie Slew (KY), J Rocco Jr., 119, P R Walder
Much Rejoicing (KY), J Lezcano, 117, J J Toner