Both have done everything asked of them this season, producing a string of successes. Now Arlene London's homebred Miss Sky Warrior and Danny Chen's Yorkiepoo Princess meet in the $300,000 Gazelle Stakes (G2) April 8 at Aqueduct Racetrack, a race that will determine the likelihood of their progression to the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1).
Miss Sky Warrior, third on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard and winner of the March 4 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) last out going a mile at Gulfstream Park, has back-class at Aqueduct, where she is undefeated for trainer Kelly Breen. She is the only member of the nine-horse field who has won at the Gazelle's 1 1/8-mile distance, and looks for her fifth straight win, fourth consecutive stakes score, and third grade 2 victory in a row in the 122nd running of the Gazelle.
"She seemed to like the track, so that's why we're coming back. Things are going well, so why change things?" said Breen, who sent the filly out to a four-furlong breeze in :47.90 at Palm Meadows Training Center March 29 before shipping her north.
After breaking her maiden Oct. 15 at Parx Racing, Miss Sky Warrior took home the Nov. 5 Tempted Stakes (G3) going a mile, then stretched to 1 1/8 miles to win the Nov. 26 Demoiselle Stakes (G2) by half a length. The First Samurai filly breaks from post 5 under Paco Lopez as the 122-pound highweight.
Yorkiepoo Princess could also stamp her ticket to the May 5 Kentucky Oaks, with points on a 100-40-20-10 scale on the line to the top four finishers. The daughter of Kantharos is another who puts an impressive winning streak on the line, trying for her fourth straight stakes win. After ending her juvenile campaign with a win on the track in the six furlong Furlough Stakes Nov. 24, she kicked off her sophomore season with a 7 1/2-length triumph in the Ruthless Stakes at the same distance on Aqueduct's inner dirt track. Last time out, she closed convincingly to take the Busher Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the inner surface.
The Florida-bred filly, who was acquired for the bargain price of $8,000 as a 2-year-old in training and has gone on to earn $244,811, has 50 points toward the Kentucky Oaks, but is not nominated. However, trainer Edward Barker noted that a first or second-place Gazelle finish will land her in Louisville and in the Oaks starting gate.
"She's doing very, very good. She's excellent. We're ready to go," said Barker, who breezed the filly three times in nine days due to a weather disruption in the normal training schedule.
Leading Aqueduct rider Irad Ortiz, Jr., aboard for all three of Yorkiepoo Princess' stakes wins, gets the return call. The two will depart from the rail.
"I'd like to see her run the same way she did in the Busher," Barker said of the filly's demonstrated ability to come from off the pace. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. It looks like there's going to be speed in the race. But the last time she ran long, she improved. So hopefully she'll improve again this time."
Full House, a full sibling to multiple graded stakes-placed Classy Class, was the runner-up behind Yorkiepoo Princess in the Busher last out. Now trainer Jimmy Jerkens hopes to turn the tables as they stretch out around two turns. The daughter of Discreetly Mine comes into the Gazelle with 20 Oaks points. Regular rider Rajiv Maragh retains the mount from post 2.
Busanda Stakes winner Lockdown, who ships in from Hall of Famer trainer Bill Mott's winter base at Payson Park, seeks her third straight win as she returns from a 2 1/2-month layoff. The homebred filly has 10 Kentucky Oaks points and carries the famed green-and-pink colors of Juddmonte Farms, who won the 2013 Gazelle with eventual champion Close Hatches.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Mike Repole homebred Stay Fond graduated from the maiden ranks at second asking March 15 when she took a one-mile race at Gulfstream with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez. A daughter of Stay Thirsty , she is being asked to handle a substantial class hike in her first stakes try and stretching out to the Gazelle distance.
Aspen Hilltop lost all chance in the Davona Dale when she stumbled over a fallen foe shortly after the start and was eased, so trainer Gary Contessa drew a line through the race.
"We didn't get anything out of the race, but she's coming into the Gazelle pretty well," he said. "I know it's a stretch to go a mile and an eighth out of the box, but she's training very well for this race. She's also a (daughter of) Bernardini , so she should like the distance."
Trainer Chad Brown, who won last year's Gazelle with Lewis Bay, sends out North End under Javier Castellano. The Into Mischief filly graduated from the maiden ranks in her second start March 15 going a mile over the inner track.
The Gazelle is carded as the 11th race on a 12-race program that also features the $750,000 Wood Memorial Presented by NYRA Bets (G2).
Aqueduct Racetrack, Saturday, April 08, 2017, Race 11
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Yorkiepoo Princess (FL) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 120 Edward R. Barker 6/1 2 2Full House (KY) Rajiv Maragh 114 James A. Jerkens 10/1 3 3Rimanisempreforte (KY) Luis Saez 114 Robert N. Falcone, Jr. 20/1 4 4Lockdown (KY) Kendrick Carmouche 120 William I. Mott 5/1 5 5Miss Sky Warrior (KY) Paco Lopez 122 Kelly J. Breen 9/5 6 6Aspen Hilltop (KY) Manuel Franco 114 Gary C. Contessa 15/1 7 7Tiz Rae Anna (KY) Rosario Montanez 114 John T. Toscano, Jr. 20/1 8 8North End (NY) Javier Castellano 114 Chad C. Brown 7/2 9 9Stay Fond (KY) John R. Velazquez 114 Todd A. Pletcher 8/1
Aqueduct Racetrack, Saturday, April 08, 2017, Race 11