With Indian Blessing resting up for a summer-fall campaign in shorter races, a pair of 3-year-old fillies who have tackled the Eclipse Award winner are looking for their chance to shine. Backseat Rhythm and Highest Class may not have beaten their speedy rival, but they’ll get every opportunity to take home graded earnings in the $150,000 Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park March 29.
Part of Gulfstream’s Florida Derby undercard, the 1 1/8-mile Bonnie Miss has drawn a field of seven contenders looking to stamp a ticket to the May 2 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
Paul Pompa Jr.’s Backseat Rhythm was third behind Indian Blessing and Proud Spell in the Gray Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) last fall, and got closer to Indian Blessing with a runner-up effort in Belmont’s one-mile Frizette Stakes (gr. I) Oct. 6. Trainer Patrick Reynolds had the El Corredor filly on a fast-track to graded competition; she entered those two races directly off a maiden victory going 1 1/16 miles on the turf Sept. 20 of last year.
“I guess I could have shopped around, but this filly needed to stretch,” Reynolds said. “She always needed more ground – we ran her short and it took her a few times to break her maiden. My main reasoning putting her into the Frizette was to get some more ground. Sure, the race came up a little tough, but she came rallying from way out and got some points for the Breeders’ Cup, so we thought we’d take a shot. In that race she stumbled at the break and made up a ton of ground, so we’re proud of that effort and we think the mile and an eighth in the Bonnie Miss will suit her just fine.”
Bred in Kentucky by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm and Spast Farm, out of the Kissin Kris mare Kiss a Miss, Backseat Rhythm comes off a third-place finish in a 1 1/16 mile turf allowance at Gulfstream Feb. 22. A good effort in the Bonnie Miss will have her pointing to the Oaks, her trainer said.
“We were thinking about going from turf to Polytrack at Keeneland, we were gonna take her to the Ashland (gr. I), but then we figured to stay here in Florida and run her in the Bonnie Miss instead,” Reynolds said. “I think she’s a real good route filly and the way she’s developed physically and mentally has passed my expectations. She thinks she’s King Kong, and training as good as she’s been training, I’d be really surprised if she didn’t (run well) Saturday.”
Highest Class, owned by William S. Farish and Partners’ Briarwood Stable, also finished third behind Indian Blessing. Her last race was the Feb. 9 Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds, where she closed late after tracking the pace to miss by 2 ¼ lengths.
The Mineshaftfilly, bred in Kentucky by Edward Barton out of the With Approval mare Classic Approval, finished third behind Jolie the Cat in Fair Grounds’ one-mile Tiffany Lass Stakes Jan. 12 and won a 1 1/16-mile allowance there last December after breaking her maiden at Churchill Downs in November. She did not run in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), in which Proud Spell and Indian Blessing finished one-two.
“This is the race we’ve been looking forward to very much,” trainer Neil Howard said. “Mr. Farish and I felt like the mile and an eighth would be where she would have her best chance to start coming forward. As a Mineshaft filly, she’s gonna be much better with time, age, and maturity. She’s older now and that’s the biggest factor; we felt she had more time to go out and mature mentally and physically and was better off for it.”
According to Howard, the filly should get the distance and a trip to the Oaks will be based off this performance. She shipped out of Fair Grounds March 24 and arrived at Gulfstream Park early March 25.
“Obviously we’d love to go to the Kentucky Oaks, and if she’s Oaks material, this race will give us the answer we’re looking for,” he said. “She’s sharp, she traveled beautifully, and we’re extremely happy with her.”
The third standout in the field is Richard Scanlon’s Robbie’s Gal, a daughter of Straight Man who comes off a third-place finish behind Bsharpsonata in the March 2 Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream. Trainer Stephen DiMauro will saddle the filly, bred in Florida by Catherine Hudson, out of the Prospect Bay mare Flutterfree. She was second to American County in the Sunshine Millions Oaks Jan. 26, and won the GTOBA Debutante Stakes at Calder last December.
Completing the field for the Bonnie Miss are My Meadowview Farm’s Overandabeauty, Denholtz Stables’ Shes All Eltish, Three Chimneys Racing and Richard Colton, Jr.’s Halo Hollie, and Paul Pompa, Jr.’s Classy Concern.
$150,000 Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II, race 9, approximate post 5:10 p.m. EST), 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-old fillies, dirt PP, Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Overandabeauty, 116, Kent Desormeaux
2. Backseat Rhythm, 118, Javier Castellano
3. Shes All Eltish, 118, Eddie Castro
4. Halo Hollie, 118, Cornelio Velasquez
5. Classy Concern, 116, Ariel Smith
6. Robbie's Gal, 118, Jose Lezcano
7. Highest Class, 118, John Velazquez