Alter Racing Stable Inc. and Bridlewood Farm’s Curlin’s Approval earned a fees-paid berth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) last year when she drew off to a commanding 4 ½-length victory in the $250,000 Princess Rooney (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
Trainer Happy Alter is looking for the same result Saturday when the multiple graded stakes-winning daughter of Curlin defends her title in the seven-furlong Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ race on the 14-race Summit of Speed program that will also feature the $250,000 Smile Sprint (G3).
With one big exception.
“This time, if we get to the Breeders’ Cup, I hope she doesn’t stumble out of gate,” said Alter, whose homebred lost all chance at the start of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Del Mar Nov. 4.
Saturday’s Princess Rooney will offer the first automatic starting position of the year into the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3 through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series ‘Win and You’re In’ program. Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for the Princess Rooney winner to start in the Filly & Mare Sprint.
Breeders’ Cup will also provide a $10,000 travel allowance for all horses based outside of Kentucky to compete in the World Championships.
Curlin’s Approval will seek to become the first horse to win the Princess Rooney in back-to-back years since Gold Mover achieved the feat in 2002-2003.
The chestnut 5-year-old mare enters the Princess Rooney off a three-length triumph in the June 3 Ana T. Stakes at Gulfstream while winning under wraps.
Curlin’s Approval raced three times during Gulfstream’s Championship Meet without a victory, finishing second in both the Rampart (G3) and Hurricane Bertie (G3), before finishing fifth in the Feb. 19 Royal Delta after becoming involved in an early pace duel with Lewis Bay, the eventual second-place finisher. Freshened for 3 ½ months, she returned to the winning form that produced three graded-stakes triumphs in 2017.
“She’s coming into this race very similar to how she came up to the race last year when she won it,” Alter said.
Curlin’s Approval, scheduled to meet seven other fillies and mares, will be ridden by Luis Saez, who was aboard for her 2017 Princess Rooney score.
“Whenever you’re in a graded stakes the competition has to be respected,” Alter said. “The fact that she won the Princess Rooney last year in a dramatic way, it’s a nice feeling to try to do it again.”
Jim Reichenberg and Cash is King LLC’s Ms Locust Point also brings Grade 2 credentials into the Princess Rooney, having romped to victory by 4 ½ lengths in the Feb. 17 Barbara Fritchie (G2) at Laurel Park.
The 4-year-old daughter of Dialed In won her fourth-straight race in the Fritchie before tasting defeat in the April 7 Madison (G1) at Keeneland, where she broke last of 10, rushed into contention and faded late to finish eighth under jockey Jorge Vargas Jr.
“She got left at the break. She got left flatfooted. Then, she got rank and wanted to take off and dragged Jorge up there into a pretty hot pace and burned herself out,” trainer John Servis said. “Even then she only got beat about 4 ½ lengths.”
Subsequently favored in the May 18 Skipat Stakes at Pimlico, Ms Locust Point came up short to finish third after setting the pace over a sloppy track.
“It was a sloppy track, which she really doesn’t care for. She won the Barbara Fritchie on an ‘off’ racetrack, but it was more of a wet-fast track that day, because there was snow and not rain. Even that day, Jorge said she didn’t handle it like she does a regular track. She was just so much better than them – that was the big difference,” Servis said. “We’re hoping for a fast track.”
Vargas has the return mount aboard Ms Locust Point.
Graded-stakes winner Rich Mommy, who finished directly behind Curlin’s Approval in their last two meetings, is slated for another clash with the Alter homebred. The 4-year-old daughter of Algorithms finished third in the Jan. 27 Hurricane Bertie, 1 ½ lengths behind runner-up Curlin’s Approval, and second in the June 3 Ana T. three lengths behind Curlin’s Approval.
After conceding two pounds to Curlin’s Approval in the Ana T, Rich Mommy is slated to be in receipt of two pounds from the likely favorite Saturday.
“Her last race was a very, very good race. If they go in 22 (seconds) and 44 or 45 (for the first half-mile), I think Rich Mommy will have a very good chance,” trainer Victor Barboza said. “The last race she carried 124 pounds and in this race, she only will have 119, so to me that’s very important. I’m confident in her.”
Rich Mommy, who captured the Sugar Swirl (G3) at Gulfstream Dec. 16, has finished on the board in 11 times in 13 career starts.
“She’s a fighter,” said Barboza, who named Emisael Jaramillo to ride Rich Mommy.
Mathis Stable LLC’s My Miss Tapit is scheduled to put her undefeated record at Gulfstream Park on the line in the Princess Rooney. The Todd Pletcher-trained daughter of Tapit returned from an 11-month layoff to capture a seven-furlong optional claiming allowance by 6 ¾ lengths under wraps April 14. The 4-year-old filly launched her career at Gulfstream Park last spring, breaking her maiden by 2 ½ lengths and coming right back to capture the Game Face Stakes by 1 ¼ lengths over Actress, who went on to graduate in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at Pimlico in her next start.
My Miss Tapit ventured north to finish fourth in the Mother Goose (G2) at Belmont and fifth in the Monmouth Oaks (G3) before heading to the sideline.
Tyler Gaffalione, who was aboard for My Miss Tapit’s triumphant return to action, has the return mount.
Trainer Ron Moquett shipped Treble from Churchill Downs for a quest to add a graded-stakes win to her resume. The 4-year-old daughter of Macho Uno, who is owned by Rialto Racing Stables and Southern Spring Stables, came within a half-length of capturing the six-furlong Winning Colors (G3) at Churchill Downs last time out.
The 4-year-old filly won back-to-back optional claiming allowance races at Oaklawn Park before just missing by a neck in an optional claiming allowance won by Miss Kentucky, who edged her again in the Winning Colors.
David Cabrera, currently riding at Prairie Meadows, has been named to ride Treble.
Mataloma Thoroughbreds LLC’s Stormy Embrace is set to seek her third straight victory Saturday, coming off a half-length victory in the seven-furlong Musical Romance at Gulfstream after capturing a seven-furlong handicap at Tampa Bay Downs. Trainer Kathleen O’Connell awarded Wilmer Garcia with the return mount aboard the daughter of Circular Quay.
Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Spanish Harlem and Loooch Racing Stables’ She Takes Heart round out the field.