Multiple stakes winner A Bit Special, a neck shy of being undefeated in her young career, will make the step up to graded company for her 3-year-old debut in Sunday's $100,000 Sweetest Chant (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The 23rd running of the Sweetest Chant and the 11th renewal of the $100,000 Dania Beach, both at one mile on grass, highlight a 12-race program that kicks off at noon. One day earlier, 3-year-olds will take their next steps toward the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) in the $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull (G2).
Linda Shanahan, Mrs. M.V. Magnier and J.P. Magnier's A Bit Special takes a two-race win streak into the Sweetest Chant, both as the favorite in one-mile stakes over the Gulfstream turf. She rolled by three lengths in the Our Dear Peggy Sept. 29 and returned with a determined neck triumph in the Wait A While Dec. 8.
“She has a huge acceleration and she relaxes during the races. So far she's been fantastic to me,” trainer Patrick Biancone said. “She is doing very good. We tried to space her races and give her a chance to mature, and she will be a very good filly this summer. We're just trying to go step by step. We have no rush. She has a nearly perfect record, and we'll go from there.”
In addition to her stakes wins, A Bit Special had an eye-catching victory in her debut last summer before their rally came up a neck short in the Sharp Susan Stakes Sept. 1.
“She took a little bit of time but she's maturing. The first time she surprised me because I had to run her five furlongs which I think is much too short,” Biancone said. “I told Romero to let her relax, no whip, nothing, and in the stretch let her run. When she came to the stretch I thought if she could be fourth it'd be perfect, and she blew by them. Unfortunately she missed the start in her second race where she got behind 10 lengths and came up a nostril short, and from there so far, so good.”
A British-bred daughter of Group 1 winner Mukhadram, A Bit Special has reminded her trainer of Gorella, a winner of four of eight starts for Biancone in 2005-06, three of them in graded-stakes, topped by the 2006 Beverly D (G1).
“She's still a little bit young to be compared to the really, really good ones, but she has a good chance to be if she keeps going, improving, growing and getting stronger. She definitely has got talent,” Biancone said. “I would like to have five like her, but that would be very difficult.”
Julien Leparoux gets the call on A Bit Special from Post 7 in a field of nine at co-topweight of 118 pounds.
Trainer Chad Brown won six consecutive editions of the Sweetest Chant from 2012-2017 before finishing second and seventh in 2018, and returns with another pair for this year's race. Group 3-placed La Feve is entered for her North American debut after winning one of six starts in her native France last year, while Paul Pompa Jr.'s Regal Glory looks to push her unbeaten record to 3-0. The daughter of 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Animal Kingdom won the six-furlong Stewart Manor Stakes on the Aqueduct turf Nov. 11 in her most recent start.
Run Like Elle's Mission From Elle will be making just her second career start in the Sweetest Chant, just five weeks after capturing her debut going one mile on the Gulfstream turf. In that race, she rated near the leaders and found room along the rail to slip through and sprint clear to win by 2 ½ lengths.
“She won at the distance and she won over the course, and she's done really well since then, or I'd be very concerned when it comes to these things especially with not much experience,” trainer Brendan Walsh said. “She's come back and she's been working really good.
“I wasn't surprised she won the first time, but I didn't expect it. You never know first time, but she had done really well. The last two, three works before we ran her she jumped up and looked like a filly that was above average,” he added, “so it was nice to see her run the way she did, and she was very professional about it, too. All that made up our minds for us. We're going to give it a go and find out what we've got.”
Tyler Gaffalione returns to ride Mission From Elle from Post 4 at 114 pounds.
Completing the field are French import Ardara Belle; stakes-placed Eyeinthesky and Bella Ciao, the latter entered for her turf debut; Hard Legacy, unbeaten in two starts for trainer Norman Casse; and Miss Unbridled Cat, third in the Our Dear Peggy.
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