04/01/2017 4:46PM

Celestine scores repeat as heavy favorite in Honey Fox

Barbara D. Livingston
The 5-year-old Celestine, under Jose Ortiz, scores a front-running 1 1/4-length victory in the Grade 2 Honey Fox.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -  Celestine won Gulfstream Park’s Grade 2 Honey Fox Stakes for the second straight year and did so impressively on Saturday, leading nearly every step of the way en route to a 1 1/4-length decision over Mississippi Delta in the one-mile turf fixture for older fillies and mares.

Celestine, who was purchased by Moyglare Stud Farm at the Keeneland November sale and turned over to trainer Christophe Clement for her 5-year-old campaign, launched the season with a two-length victory in the Sand Springs on March 4. Clement said he felt Celestine would be even better with that race under her belt.

With Jose Ortiz aboard, Celestine took control of the race approaching the first turn and was able to slow the pace, posting leisurely splits of 24.45 and 49.01 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and half-mile. Celestine repulsed bids from both Josdesanimaux and Linda entering the stretch, surged well clear, and was not seriously menaced thereafter.

Mississippi Delta took back off Celestine after showing in front following the break before rallying belatedly along the inside to prove second-best. Linda, making her first start since winning the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere on Nov. 25, took a run at the winner while three wide on the final bend but could not sustain her bid.

Celestine, a daughter of Scat Daddy, won for the eighth time in 16 starts and fifth in eight outings at Gulfstream Park.  She completed the distance over a firm course in 1:35.19 and paid $2.60.

:: Enjoy news and analysis from DRF? Get handicapping analysis, real-time coverage, special reports, and charts. Unlock access with DRF Plus.

“She was the best filly and he rode a great race,” said Clement. “He slowed her down after making the lead, and you’re not going to beat that filly if she’s the first one to dictate. I thought she was fitter today and had trained better going into this race than the last one.”

Clement said he would follow the same path with Celestine as her former trainer, Bill Mott, took last year, pointing her for a repeat in the Grade 1 Just a Game on the Belmont Stakes undercard.