01/26/2012 3:06PM

Gulfstream: Musical Romance now in a league above

Tom Keyser
Musical Romance was a fast-closing fourth at 62-1 in the 2011 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – What a difference a year makes.

Musical Romance went to post in almost total anonymity, at odds of 62-1, in the 2011 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint. On Saturday, Musical Romance enters the same race not only as the likely favorite but also the reigning Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint champion and newly elected Eclipse Award champion.

Musical Romance will face six rivals in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint, including Pomeroys Pistol, a multiple graded stakes winner who finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Beat the Blues, Derwin’s Star, Indulgence, Honey Chile and It’s Me Mom complete the field.

Musical Romance finished best of all to be fourth, beaten less than a length, in last year’s Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint. That marked the only time she would finish worse than second in seven sprint starts during her championship season. Musical Romance, a daughter of Concorde’s Tune, also made seven starts last year around two turns, but none after capturing Calder’s Ema Bovary overnight stakes in late May.

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Aside from winning the Breeders’ Cup, Musical Romance also won the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters and finished a close second in both the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap and Grade 2 TCA at Keeneland in 2011. She concluded her championship campaign with earnings of $1,040,734 for her owner-trainer Bill Kaplan and the Pinnacle Racing Stable.

“I don’t feel we have any pressure on us whatsoever coming into this race on Saturday,” said Kaplan. “Our pressure was relieved when we won the Eclipse Award. Everything now is just gravy.”

The Sunshine Millions will be Musical Romance’s first start since she clinched division honors with her victory in the Breeders’ Cup, but Kaplan said he is not concerned by the layoff of almost three months.

“She has worked steadily, posted mostly bullets over the last month, and all her works have been in hand,” said Kaplan. “She’s feeling great and is in 100-percent condition. The layoff will not be an excuse. We don’t have to win on Saturday, but I know she’s going to go out there and do her best. She always does. And as long as she runs a good race, I’ll be happy.”

Pomeroys Pistol has won three graded stakes, the Grade 2 Forward Gal, Grade 2 Gallant Bloom, and Grade 3 Sugar Swirl, during the past 12 months. Pomeroys Pistol joined the leaders in early stretch in the Breeders’ Cup only to falter through the final furlong while finishing nearly four lengths behind Musical Romance.

“This is the perfect race for her since it’s a restricted race but it’s also a very tough race,” said Pomeroys Pistol’s owner-trainer, Amy Tarrant. “She rapped her hind shin a little earlier this week, but we’ve treated it with antibiotics and she should be 100 percent for the race. If not she won’t run. I like my post – it gives her a chance to see what’s going on and hopefully avoid a speed duel. Naturally in any race like this you need a little racing luck, but I have a lot of faith in Javier Castellano and my filly has a lot of faith in him.”

Beat the Blues ships in from the Fair Grounds for trainer Bret Calhoun sporting a record of eight wins in a dozen starts at the six-furlong distance of the Filly and Mare Sprint. She also brings a two-race win streak to town, those victories coming under allowance conditions at Churchill Downs and Fair Grounds to close out her 2011 campaign.

It’s Me Mom will play catch-me-if-you-can from the rail. The speedy filly has won 5 of her last 6 starts but finished a tiring fourth behind Final Mesa and Pomeroys Pistol making her only local appearance last winter in the Grade 3 Old Hat.