Miss Linda and Forest Secrets, both grade 1 winners last year, make their seasonal debuts at Gulfstream Park Friday when they head a field of 12 fillies and mares in the $100,000 Sabin Handicap (gr. III) at 1 1/16-miles.
While Miss Linda and Forest Secrets are expected to be favored in the 12th running of the Sabin, they'll have to deal with some tough rivals, especially De Bertie, who won last year's renewal, and Tap Dance, who is coming off a 12-length allowance score.
John Kimmel trains Miss Linda for Ackerley Brothers Farm and the 5-year-old Southern Halo mare will carry highweight of 119 pounds. She has not started since she finished fourth behind Forest Secrets in the Falls City Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill in late November. The Argentine-bred mare enjoyed a successful first season in the U.S. in 2001, winning the Lady's Secret Stakes at Monmouth Park, then taking the Spinster Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland in October. Richard Migliore is traveling from his Aqueduct winter base to take the mount.
Debby Oxley's Forest Secrets had a good spring and fall last year as a 3-year-old, taking the Acorn Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont in June and the Falls City (gr. III) in Kentucky last November. The 4-year-old daughter of Forest Wildcat has been working at Palm Beach Downs for trainer John T. Ward Jr. Pat Day will ride at 117 pounds.
Trainer Steve Flint will send out the Klein family's De Bertie for a repeat try in the Sabin. Last year, the daughter of De Niro took the Sabin in January and came back to win the Rampart Handicap (gr. II) in March. De Bertie made her 5-year-old debut here Jan. 11, winning the Escena Stakes over Sara's Success, who is also entered in the Sabin. That brought her Gulfstream record to an enviable 3-1-1 in 5 starts. Jerry Bailey, Gulfstream's leading stakes rider, returns in the irons.
Edward P. Evans' Tap Dance has a perfect (three-for-three) record at Gulfstream and showed off last out on Jan. 7 when she toyed with four rivals in an off-the-turf allowance event, drawing off to win by 12 lengths. As a 3-year-old last year, the daughter of Pleasant Tap won the Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II) here for trainer Mark Hennig. John Velazquez gets the riding call for the first time on Tap Dance.
There are two other last-out Gulfstream winners entered in the Sabin. Marylou Whitney Stable's Gulch Legacy took an optional claiming-allowance event by more than four lengths here on Jan. 13, while John H. Peace's Sound of the West drew off to score by more than 11 lengths in a conditioned allowance. Nick Zito, who already has saddled eight winners at the meet, trains Gulch Legacy, who makes her stakes debut with Jon Court in the saddle. Sound of the West, trained by Rusty Arnold, also makes her debut in stakes company, and Mark Guidry gets a return riding call.
The others entered are Ione and H.J. Elkins' Castlebrook, Rosemary Homeister Jr., who was fourth behind De Bertie last out; C. Allard's Extend, Jorge Chavez,; Town and Country Corp's Coolbythepool, Rene Douglas; Stuart Janney 3rd's Search Party, Edgar Prado; Alter's Racing Stable's Happily Unbridled, Gary Boulanger; and Thorobeam Farm's Sara's Success, Cornelio Velasquez, a surprise second to De Bertie in the Escena.