Bitacora is slated to seek back-to-back stakes wins and her third straight victory in Saturday’s $75,000 Panama City at Gulfstream Park.
The Peter Walder-trained 4-year-old filly, who captured the $100,000 Ginger Punch June 16, will seek an encore performance in Saturday’s mile turf stakes for Florida-bred fillies and mares while clashing with the runner-up and third-place finisher in her recent stakes breakthrough.
Bitacora will be challenged by Unbridled Courage and Madame Uno, the 2-3 Ginger Punch finishers, respectively, in a field of nine (not including main-track-only entrant Shanghai Starlet).
The daughter of Dominus has proven to be a most worthy acquisition for Paradise Farms Corp., Walder Racing and Marshall Mack, who claimed her for $50,000 last December. After a fifth-place finish in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf, Bitacora finished second in three straight races before capturing a first-level optional claiming allowance for Florida-breds May 12 and winning her first stakes in the Ginger Punch.
“Spacing her races seems to help her. Our thinking was that she was stakes-placed. One of the things that really attracted me was that she was still eligible for a one-other-than Florida-bred allowance. The downside was eventually she would win that, but when you win a one-other-than, you have a free horse,” Walder said.
Bitacora broke her maiden in her second lifetime start and finished second behind Graham Motion-trained Party Boat, a multiple graded stakes-placed performer, in the open-company Wait a While Stakes during her 2-year-old season. Last year, the ultra-consistent filly finished a close second in the Ginger Punch.
“The fact that she kept good company and was stakes-placed in Florida-bred races made me think that if she could improve a little bit she could get over that hump,” Walder said. “Having a Florida-bred one-other-than was just a bonus.”
After finishing a half-length behind Bitacora in the Ginger Punch, Unbridled Courage came back to defeat open company in the Treasure Coast July 14.
“The last stake that Unbridled Courage won was an open stake. I figured it was too close for Bitacora. She ran her eyeballs out when she won that stake and came out of the race pretty tired,” said Walder, who awarded the return mount aboard Bitacora to Tyler Gaffalione. “You can’t dance every dance. I figured we’d skip the open race and wait for the Florida-bred race.”
Aubrey Maragh-trained Unbridled Courage, who was claimed three starts back for $25,000 by Aurrichio, and Jacobson LLC/RaDon, closed from far back with a wide run to register a neck victory over Todd Pletcher-trained No Sweat in the Treasure Coast.
Nik Juarez has the return mount aboard the 6-year-old daughter of Leroidesanimaux.
David Fawkes-trained Madame Uno also sat out the Treasure Coast after setting a pressure pace before fading to third in the Ginger Punch. Owned by Jess Siskin, Arnold Levy and William Fuchs, the 4-year-old daughter of First Dude had a most productive Championship Meet, winning a pair of optional claiming allowances before venturing to Tampa Bay Downs for victory in a $100,000 stakes for Florida-bred turf mares.
Miguel Vazquez has been named to ride Madame Uno for the first time Saturday.
Treasure for Gold, who is coming off back-to-back optional claiming allowance wins for trainer Todd Pletcher; Silver Diva, a stakes winner at 2 who is making her second start back off an 18-month layoff; Pop’s Irish Road, who defeated Bitacora in an optional claiming race in April; Starship Bonita, a two-time winner in the 2017 Florida Sire Stakes series who has never run on turf; Jodesanimaux; who finished second in last year’s Panama City; and Spicy Nelly, who finished second behind Treasure for Gold last time out; round out a most contentious field.