03/16/2013 5:32PM

Gulfstream Park: Centre Court returns sharp in Honey Fox

Courtney Heeney
Centre Court, making her first start since November, wins the Honey Fox under Julien Leparoux.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Centre Court returned from a four-month vacation like she’d never been away, parlaying a perfectly judged ride by Julien Leparoux into a convincing 1 3/4-length victory over Samitar in Saturday’s $150,000 Honey Fox at Gulfstream Park.

Centre Court, a model of consistency who has never finished worse than second in nine starts on grass, had been away since closing out her 3-year-old campaign with a popular  two-length triumph in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs on Nov. 17. But trainer Rusty Arnold had her fit and ready off the bench for her 2013 bow in the Grade 2 Honey Fox.

Centre Court broke alertly, then was rated in fourth position by Leparoux, within easy striking distance of the pacesetting Frontside. Centre Court was able to save ground while commencing her rally on the second bend, eased out for the drive, readily overtook the tiring leader nearing the furlong marker and won going away.

Samitar, the only Grade 1 winner in the field - and like Centre Court making her first start of the season - rallied from near the rear of the field to finish second, a head in front of Frontside. Channel Lady, winner of the Grade 3 Suwannee River here earlier in the meet, was fourth.

Centre Court, a 4-year-old daughter of Smart Strike owned by G. Watts Humphrey Jr., paid $6.20 as the tepid favorite after completing a mile over a firm course in 1:33.18.

“She had trained spectacular at Palm Meadows and we’d been pointing  for this all year,” said Arnold. “We were pretty confident she’d run well but you never know until they do it. It was her first trip against 4-year-olds. She’s pretty special I think. She hasn’t won a Grade 1 yet and we want to get that done. She’s beaten Grade 1 horses but she hasn’t won one. We’re headed to Keeneland and that’s what we hope to get done.”

Arnold said Centre Court would likely make her next start in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley on April 13.