Swettenham Stud’s homebred 6-year-old Changing Skies won the $100,000 The Very One Stakes (gr. IIIT) a year ago and returns as the likely favorite in the 1 3/8-mile turf contest Feb. 20 at Gulfstream Park.
A field of six fillies and mares was drawn for the feature of Gulfstream’s 11-race card. Post time is set for 5:26 p.m. EST.
The Irish-bred mare won The Very One by three-quarters of a length last year under Kent Desormeaux for her first stakes score, and those two teamed up for a dominating 3 3/4-length victory during her season debut in the La Prevoyante Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Calder Race Course Jan. 2.
A daughter of Sadler’s Wells, Changing Skies also put together a string of other good efforts during the 2010 season, finishing second in the Bewitch Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland and second in the New York Stakes (gr. IIT) at Belmont. She also won the Waya Stakes at Saratoga and finished a game second by a head in the Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT) at Belmont in early October, but did not go to the Breeders’ Cup.
Desormeaux will have the mount once again for Bill Mott and they will break from post 1.
The other starter likely to take a lot of action is two-time graded stakes winner Keertana
. Jose Lezcano will ride Barbara Hunter’s Keertana for trainer Tom Proctor in her first start since finishing in a dead-heat to win an allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs Jan. 23, sharing the victory with Proctor-trained stablemate You Go West Girl.
A 5-year-old Kentucky homebred by Johar, Keertana ran a big race to finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs Nov. 5, beaten a half-length by Shared Account with defending champion Midday second.
Last season, Keertana finished a close third in the Mint Julep Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill, but hit her best stride going three turns to win the 11-furlong Glens Falls Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Saratoga in early September by 3 1/4 lengths.
An intriguing contender is 5-year-old Chilean-bred Belle Watling, winner of 13 of 16 career starts in her native land and making her North American debut for trainer Patrick Biancone with jockey Edgar Prado aboard. The daughter of Dushyantor has earned $574,000, a tidy sum for racing in Chile, including eight of 11 on turf.
The Chilean-bred mare was purchased with the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in mind. Whether or not she will actually travel to Dubai late next month, her connections apparently also have their focus on the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs in November.
“She likes a distance, which is what we like. That’s the reason we wanted to buy her, because we like to have mile-and-a-quarter horses here,” Biancone said. “There are a lot of big races over here, especially at the end of the year at a mile and a quarter.”
Completing the field is 6-year-old Irish-bred Liberally
with Rajiv Maraj in the saddle for trainer Tom Albertrani. The daughter of Statue of Liberty
finished fourth in the La Prevoyante.
$100,000 The Very One Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 10, 5:26 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 3/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Changing Skies (IRE), K J Desormeaux, 121, W I Mott
2. Musical Rain (IRE), J Castellano, 117, D L Romans
3. Liberally (IRE), R Maragh, 117, T Albertrani
4. Keertana (KY), J Lezcano, 121, T F Proctor
5. Zapparition (FL), J R Leparoux, 117, D L Romans
6. Belle Watling (CHI), E S Prado, 123, P L Biancone