Darley Stable’s promising In Step will get a class test when she faces six 3-year-old fillies in the $100,000 Cicada Stakes (gr. III) March 19 at Aqueduct. The Cicada is a six-furlong sprint on the inner track.
Purchased for $1 million at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale, In Step has only made one start to date but showed good speed to break her maiden by a half-length at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 20 going 6 1/2 furlongs.
“It was a really tough maiden race,” said In Step’s trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “I asked Todd (Pletcher) if he liked his filly (runner-up Savvy Supreme), and he said, ‘She’s a nice filly,’ and we knew we had a nice filly as well. And Tom Albertrani was third with another Darley filly (Enrichment).”
McLaughlin said he’d normally run an impressive maiden winner back in an allowance race, but opted to stray from his customary procedure with In Step, a half-sister to Vindication, the undefeated 2002 champion 2-year-old colt. In Step is by Unbridled's Song, out of the Strawberry Road mare Strawberry Reason.
“Graded black type is very important and the allowance races here are tough as the ones at Saratoga,” said McLaughlin. “This is not the normal next step we’d take, but even if she ends up finishing third it will do a lot to enhance her value.”
Eddie Castro will ride In Step, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, from the rail.
Another filly who will face stakes competition for the first time is Dream, undefeated in two starts to begin her career.
Dream, a 4 3/4-length debut winner at Delaware Park in July, enters the Cicada off a six-length optional claiming score at Laurel Park on Feb. 18. She is by Malibu Moon and runs for Dark Hollow Racing Partnership.
“She had a little chip after her debut race,” said trainer Rodney Jenkins. “She was never lame, but she is 16.2 hands and built like a colt, so we decided to take it out. She was about 80% ready for her return effort, but she still ran a good race. We thought about coming back in Wide Country (at Laurel on March 5), but that was probably a little quick back as it was two weeks later. The Cicada’s timing suited us better.”
David Cohen has the call aboard Dream, who drew post 4 and was tabbed at 5-1 on the morning line.
Angle Smart’s Quantum Miss, a 16-length winner of the Blue Mountain Stakes at Penn National on Nov. 24, looks to rebound after finishing fifth as the 7-5 favorite in the Old Hat (gr. III) at Gulfstream on Jan. 5.
“She had a very good 2-year-old year and came around very strongly at the end, as her form suggests,” said trainer Tony Dutrow, who won the 2010 Cicada with Liam’s Dream. “It led us to try her in the race at Gulfstream. As you can see, she ran very poorly that day, and I don’t know why. We decided days after that race to take her to the Cicada so we’d have a chance to freshen her.”
Quantum Miss will break from post 5 under Cornelio Velasquez.
Coax Liberty, owned by Copper Penny Stables, has proven herself over the Cicada’s course and distance, having come from just off the pace to win the Dearly Precious by two lengths at Aqueduct on Feb. 12.
“I was happy to see her take back and make one run,” said trainer James Lawrence II of Coax Liberty’s Dearly Precious performance. “I think that’s how she wants to run.”
Lawrence is hopeful Coax Liberty has found her niche in sprints, having finished second in the six-furlong Brandywine at Parx Racing on Dec. 21 following a 2 3.4-length allowance triumph going 6 1/2 furlongs at that venue on Nov. 12.
“Every time she has gone this distance she has finished in the money,” said Lawrence. “I don’t think a grade III is out of her range, according to the Beyer figures.”
Eurico Rosa da Silva has the assignment aboard Coax Liberty.
$100,000 Cicada Stakes (gr. III, Race 9, 5:15 p.m.), 3YO Fillies, 6 Furlongs (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. In Step (KY), E Castro, 118, K P McLaughlin
2. Full Moon Blues (KY), M Franklin, 118, T J Tullock Jr.
3. Roman Treasure (KY), C Hill, 118, M E Hushion
4. Dream (MD), D Cohen, 118, R Jenkins
5. Quantum Miss (PA), C H Velasquez, 118, A W Dutrow
6. Wild About Sonny (KY), J Valdivia Jr., 118, K J Breen
7. Coax Liberty (KY), E R Da Silva, 120, J L Lawrence II