A light schedule of races is on tap for this weekend, with just six graded stakes to be held across the country.
All eyes will be on Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs as they host two graded stakes races, the G3 Azeri and the G2 Rebel Stakes. The 1 1/16-mile Rebel has 50 points up for grabs in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system, and as a result has drawn a strong field of 11. Trainer Bob Baffert sends out two in the Rebel, led by the expected favorite, Super Ninety Nine, and Den's Legacy. Super Ninety Nine led from gate to wire and demolished the field by 11 ¼ lengths in the G3 Southwest Stakes in his last start. Stablemate Den's Legacy won the G3 Generous Stakes on the turf as a juvenile, and will be seeking his first stakes win on the dirt.
D. Wayne Lukas will also send out two in the Rebel – Oxbow and Will Take Charge. Oxbow might be considered the stronger of the pair, having won the G3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds by 11 ½ lengths. In his next start he was fourth, defeated just a half-length, in the G2 Risen Star. Oxbow will have Mike Smith aboard for the first time, since Jon Court will be aboard Will Take Charge. Others in the field include the Gary and Mary West-owned pair of Title Contender and Treasury Bill, Delhomme, Texas Bling, Carve, Hard Rock Eleven, and Stormy Holiday.
Immediately prior to the Rebel, older fillies and mares will line up in the Azeri Stakes. The classy My Miss Aurelia, the 2011 juvenile filly champion, will make her seasonal debut under regular rider Corey Nakatani. My Miss Aurelia enters the race off a narrow defeat in the G1 La Brea Stakes Dec. 26. The Steve Asmussen trainee will face stiff competition from Tiz Miz Sue, winner of this race last year. This will be the second start of the year for Tiz Miz Sue, who was third in the Bayakoa Stakes last time out. Others in the field include Holy Heavens, She's All In, Songs and Sonnets, Don't Tell Sophia, and Keiei Tokyo.
The lone Grade 1 of the weekend is at Santa Anita, which will run the 1 1/8-mile Santa Margarita for fillies and mares. A win in the race would provide Joyful Victory with her first Grade 1 win of her career. The 5-year-old daughter of Tapit enters the Santa Margarita off a powerhouse performance in the Houston Ladies Classic. Rosie Napravnik will fly in for the ride.
Gary Stevens will be aboard Great Hot as she goes for her second straight stakes win. The 5-year-old mare went wire-to-wire when winning the G2 Santa Maria in February. Snow Fall, who finished second to her in that race, will also line up here, as will Brushed by a Star, who was runner-up to Joyful Victory at Sam Houston Park. The field is rounded out by G2 La Canada winner More Chocolate and The Only Key.
Santa Anita will also run the G2 San Luis Rey Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile turf contest for older horses. The venerable Bourbon Bay will try to notch his third victory in this race, having won it in 2010 and 2012. He will face the first three finishers of the G2 San Marcos Stakes – Slim Shadey, Interaction, and All Squared Away. Others include Tiz Gianni, Fire With Fire, Huntsville, and Bright Thought.
Gulfstream Park has the G2 Honey Fox Stakes on tap for Saturday. A field of nine fillies and mares will contest the one-mile turf contest, which will feature the 2013 debut of Centre Court. The daughter of Smart Strike capped off her 2012 season with a victory in the G2 Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs. Chad Brown will send out Samitar, winner of the G1 Garden City Stakes and the Irish 1000 Guineas (Ire-I), and Pianist, who is seeking her first graded stakes victory.
Others in the Honey Fox include Frontside, Star Torina, Namaskara, Channel Lady, Heavenly Landing, and Class Included.
Sunday just has one graded stake on tap, the G2 Inside Information at Gulfstream Park. A field of 10 fillies and mares has been entered, with trainer Marty Wolfson sending out four entries – Golden Mystery, Spectacular Sky, Starship Truffles, and Nakano. Golden Mystery enters the race off two straight stakes wins, most recently capturing the G3 Hurricane Bertie. The following day she went through the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Winter Mixed sale and sold for $625,000 to Regis Farm. Her new owners decided to keep her in training, and returned her to Wolfson's care.
Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkins will saddle Emma's Encore, who will be seeking to return to the same sharp form that saw her capture the G1 Prioress Stakes last year. The field is rounded out by Prize Informant, Aubby K, Burban, Ice Cream Silence, and Catch a Thief.
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