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 Bianconein 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 1/2 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.
G3 Winner Current Returns to Turf in $100,000 Dania Beach
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Robert LaPenta and Dixiana Farms’ Current, winner of the 1 1/16-mile Bourbon (G3) on the turf last fall, finds himself back on the grass for his 3-year-old debut in the $100,000 Dania Beach.
A chestnut son of two-time Horse of the Year and 2014 Hall of Famer Curlin trained by Todd Pletcher, Current finished seventh in back-to-back starts to cap his juvenile season, both on off tracks, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) – his first dirt try after four straight on the grass.
“We decided to give him a try on the dirt and unfortunately we had bad conditions that day. The track came up sloppy but he ran OK despite that,” Pletcher said. “We’re looking forward to getting him back on the turf and have been kind of targeting the Dania Beach for a while.”
“At some point he might try the dirt again, but his maiden win and his win in the Bourbon were pretty impressive on the grass,” he added. “Unfortunately he turned his head at the start of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and lost any chance at that stage, but he’s been training well and we’re looking forward to getting his season started here.”
The Oct. 7 Bourbon is the only race where Current hasn’t run over an off track, rallying to win by a nose on a firm Keeneland course. In his previous start, he broke his maiden by three lengths over A Thread of Blue at Belmont Park.
“It seems every time he’s run there’s been some sort of rain involved, but he caught a firm turf in the Bourbon and he liked that,” Pletcher said. “I don’t think he ran probably as bad as it looks on paper in the Kentucky Jockey Club considering he got bumped at the start and caught a lot of slop in his face and [had] a rough way around there. We’ll get him started back on the grass here and see where that leads us.”
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, up in the Kentucky Jockey Club, gets the return call from Post 10 at topweight of 122 pounds.
Leonard C. Green’s A Thread of Blue rebounded from his maiden loss to Current with victories in two of his next three starts, also finishing third in the one-mile Awad Nov. 4 in his previous stakes try. He graduated in an off-the-turf maiden special weight Oct. 7 and last time out was a front-running 2 3/4-length winner of an entry-level optional claiming allowance going 1 1/16 miles over the Gulfstream turf Dec. 22.
“He jumped and made the lead last time pretty impressively, so he will be forwardly placed. He doesn’t have to be on the lead but he won’t be far away,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. ‘He’s doing very well. He’s trained great since the last race and we’re looking forward to running him back. Hopefully it stays on the turf, but he could dirt, also. We like him a lot, so we will run either way. He keeps working really well, so we can’t wait to get him going.”
Championship Meet-leading rider LuisSaez will be aboard from Post 6.
Four horses exiting the 7 1/2-furlong Kitten’s Joy Jan. 5 at Gulfstream will meet up again in the Dania Beach – winner Casa Creed, Royal Urn (third), Armed Forces Stakes winner Louder Than Bombs (fourth) and Juvenile Turf Stakes winner Stirling Drive (sixth). Also entered are Fed Fever, a Dec. 21 maiden winner at Gulfstream; My Silencer, a stakes winner over Woodbine’s synthetic surface in his career bow last fall; Shootin the Breeze, Rayo My King and Ole Mole. Going for Gold is entered for main track only.
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