Game Face and Any Limit may have graded stakes victories on their résumés, but both will have all they can handle when facing a talented group of fillies and mares in the $100,000 First Lady Handicap (gr. III) Jan. 18 at Gulfstream Park.
Among those Game Face and Any Limit, who won this event in 2007, will have to deal with in the six-furlong First Lady are Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) runner-up Slewfoundmoney and J Z Warrior, an improving 4-year-old Harlan's Holiday filly who has dominated in her last two stakes wins. Also worthy of consideration is Ian Wilkes trainee Awsugahnow, who is three parts of a length away from winning three in a row.
A field of eight was entered for the First Lady, which will go to post as race nine on Gulfstream’s program. Any Limit and Game Face will carry top weight of 122 pounds, two more than their seven rivals.
Zabeel Racing International’s Game Face makes her 4-year-old debut after recording a 3-1-1 mark from five starts as a sophomore. The daughter of Menifee—Galleon Gold (by Gone West) won the Old Hat Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream in January, took the La Troienne Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, and most recently, triumphed by a head in an optional claimer in Louisville Nov. 15. Game Face was also a distant third in the grade I Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Game Face turned in a bullet five-furlong work in 1:00.60 at Palm Meadows Jan. 12. Unlike speedy Any Limit, she likes to stalk the pace. John Velazquez will ride.
Joseph Shields Jr.’s Any Limit won two of three starts at Gulfstream in 2007. Along with her 2 1/2-length score in the First Lady, which came under Rafael Bejarano, she took the Hurricane Bertie Handicap (gr. III). Last year, the daughter of Limit Out—Clandestinely (by Forty Niner) won two of six starts for trainer Allen Jerkens–the First Flight Handicap at Belmont and Honorable Miss Handicap at Saratoga, both grade II sprints. The 6-year-old mare was off form in her final two efforts of 2008, finishing sixth in both graded stakes tries.
Cornelio Velasquez will be aboard for Any Limit’s 2009 debut. She has earned a race-high $524,138 thus far.
Live Oak Plantation’s 5-year-old Slewfoundmoney has been racing in stakes company since the middle of last year and has finished in the money in all five of those starts. The Seeking the Gold mare tried graded stakes action for the first time last out in the Nov. 28 Top Flight and was narrowly beaten by Leah’s Secret after taking a short lead into the stretch. Trained by Marty Wolfson, she won a pair of minor stakes by open lengths at Calder this fall and has posted a 4-3-4 record from 18 lifetime starts. Edgar Prado will ride Slewfoundmoney for the first time and break from the rail.
Zayat Stables’ J Z Warrior may be the one to fear the most based on her last two efforts and her affinity for the distance. The Bill Mott trainee scored by nine lengths in the Sept. 14 Light Hearted Stakes at Monmouth Park and a month later was much the best when taking the House Party Stakes at Belmont. Both were at six-furlongs and in her career, J Z Warrior is 4-1-0 from six starts at the distance. But she is winless in graded stakes action with only a third-place finish to show for four efforts. Joe Bravo, aboard for the last two, gets the call.