The Old Hat, a six-furlong event that drew a field of five newly-turned sophomore fillies, is the fifth race of Jan. 1 at the South Florida oval with an approximate post time of 2:37 p.m. EST. It is joined by the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby, in which a wide-open field of eight 3-year-olds will go a mile (Race 9, 4:35 p.m.), and the $100,000 Spectacular Bid which attracted six of the same age going six panels (Race 3, 1:41 p.m.).
But Kauai Katie is the biggest name of the day, winner of her first three races by more than 22 lengths, and she'll be heavily favored in her season debut. The Todd Pletcher-trained lass made her first start at Saratoga Race Course July 20 with a front-running 12-length triumph going 5 1/2 furlongs despite stumbling at the break from the rail post position. She came right back at Saratoga on Aug. 12 to win the 6 1/2 -furlong Adirondack (gr. II) by nearly three lengths under a hand ride, then put Stonestreet Stables in the Belmont Park winner's circle on Sept. 30 following a 7 1/2 -length victory in the Matron (gr. II) at six furlongs.
Kauai Katie comes off her first defeat, fourth in the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) going 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita Park.
"It wasn't a bad race, (but) it was probably a little farther than she wants to go," Pletcher explained. "She'll probably be best at sprint distances for now, and this is a good spot to get started."
Rosie Napravnik, who has ridden the Kentucky-bred filly in all of her starts, will venture from Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for the return mount in the Old Hat.
Beside Kauai Katie in her number one post position will be Power Lady, a promising daughter of Discreet Cat. Trained by John Servis, Power Lady finished a troubled third in her stakes debut in the $100,000 Smart Halo at Laurel Park on Nov. 3.
"She was in behind a wall of horses the whole race and turning for home, she had an opening on the inside. She went for it and the horse in front came down on top of her," said Servis, whose filly was beaten by 1 1/4 lengths.
Power Lady was an easy winner in her previous two starts, breaking her maiden at Penn National Race Course by nearly 12 lengths Sept. 13 and scoring by nearly eight lengths in an entry-level allowance at Parx Racing Oct. 6.
"She showed pretty much from the get-go that she's a pretty talented filly," Servis said.
Power Lady will be making her graded-stakes debut in the Old Hat with a rather imposing rival in Kauai Katie.
"I'm glad she's in the one hole and inside of me, but she's also a very talented filly," Servis remarked of Kauai Katie. "This will be a good test for my filly to see where she's at."
She's All Scat, who is trained by Michael Pino, will seek her second straight stakes score in the Old Hat. The daughter of 2007 Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Scat Daddy fought back in the stretch to capture the $100,000 Gin Talking Stakes at Laurel Nov. 24. Her victory was her second in four lifetime starts for Joni & Barry Butzow.
Cor Cor is also seeking a second straight stakes victory in the Old Hat, having captured the $75,000 Sandpiper at Tampa Bay Downs on Dec. 1 by a half-length. Previously, trainer Joan Scott saddled the daughter of Smoke Glacken for a debut victory at Keeneland by nearly three lengths for owners Steve Ballou and Harriet Waldron.
In the Gulfstream Park Derby, John Oxley's Star Contender and Goodwood Racing II's Purple Egg are the likely choices. Star Contender was among the leading 2-year-olds developed at Woodbine in 2012, winning the $250,000 Cup and Saucer Stakes and finishing second last out in the $250,000 Coronation Futurity on Nov. 10. The Canadian-bred son of Henny Hughes sets out on his 3-year-old campaign with jockey Patrick Husbands aboard for trainer Mark Casse, who is putting blinkers on.
"We had a lot of nice 2-year-olds this year and he was the greenest of the bunch," Casse said from Palm Meadaows. "He's Canadian-bred and there are so many good races for them at Woodbine, we just left him up there. He has trained very well on dirt, but it's a question you want to answer."
An $80,000 Canadian September yearling sales purchase, Star Contender finished third making his career debut sprinting in the Simcoe Stakes in early September, a race won by Casse-trained stablemate Dynamic Sky. Star Contender stretched out to two turns to break his maiden in his second start later that month prior to capturing the Cup and Saucer on turf.
Jockey Joe Rocco Jr. will get aboard Purple Egg for the first time as the Lion Heart gelding bids for his fourth victory in as many starts for trainer Jane Cibelli. A modest $22,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, Purple Egg was an impressive debut winner at Monmouth in late August, won an allowance race by 6 3/4 lengths at Parx in mid-September, and rallied to a one-length victory last out in the Dec. 1 Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
The horse he beat, Brave Dave, is running on the undercard in the Spectacular Bid.
"The first time I saw this horse gallop, I said, 'What a stride!' He did things so easily," Cibelli said. "His last race was his toughest after the first two came to him rather easily. I've always thought he wanted to go long."