04/02/2016 5:43PM

Celestine wins Honey Fox Stakes on front end

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Barbara D. Livingston
Celestine, ridden by Junior Alvarado, wins the Grade 2 Honey Fox Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths Saturday.

Celestine led every step of the way in the Grade 2, $300,000 Honey Fox Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, beating Mississippi Delta by 3 1/4 lengths for the first graded stakes win of her career.

Celestine, a 4-year-old Scat Daddy filly, is owned by Phaedrus Flights LLC and trained by Bill Mott. She’s won five of her 11 career starts for $409,755. Celestine won three stakes on turf last year, taking the $75,000 Sanibel Island at Gulfstream Park in March followed by the $98,000 Wait a While in May and the $100,000 Wild Applause in June, both at Belmont Park.

Celestine began her 2016 campaign at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 27 with a third-place finish in the $100,000 Sand Springs Stakes, in which she contested a rapid pace, led briefly, and finished 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner, Faufiler.

With Junior Alvarado aboard Saturday, Celestine was allowed to set a modest pace, covering a quarter-mile in 24.44 seconds, a half-mile in 48.42, and six furlongs in 1:12.83. She reached the top of the stretch with a one-length advantage over Mississippi Delta, who had tracked her in second the whole way, and widened her lead down the lane, finishing the one-mile race on “good” turf in 1:36.09.

“In her training in the last few months, she’s really blossomed,” Mott said. “Her coat has come in, she’s probably put on 50 to 75 pounds, and she’s really thriving. She got a good pace scenario. She was on the lead, and she finished up great. We thought in that past that it might be hard to get a mile with her, but she was drawing off at the end.”

Mississippi Delta finished a neck ahead of Sandiva, who was a nose better than fourth-place finisher Elusive Collection. They were followed by Tammy the Torpedo, Lady Lara, and A Little Bit Sassy in the field of fillies and mares ages 4 and up. E B Ryder was scratched.

Lady Lara, favored in the Honey Fox after finishing second to the champion mare Tepin in the Grade 3 Endeavour Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in February, tried to advance three wide around the final turn but flattened out.