03/16/2012 3:17PM

Gulfstream Park: Evenly matched Honey Fox field poses handicapping challenge


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Handicappers will have their work cut out trying to come up with the winner of Sunday’s $150,000 Honey Fox at Gulfstream. Even trying to pick the post-time favorite could be a chore, that’s how evenly matched the field of 11 fillies and mares is on paper for the one-mile Honey Fox.

“I had no idea who to make the favorite, it was impossible,” said Gulfstream Park’s longtime linemaker, Chuck Streva. “I finally went for [Christophe] Clement’s filly, Future Generation, because she’d won a Group 3 race in Europe and ran well in her first start over here. But I could have just as easily gone for Romacaca or La Reine Lionne or even Tapitsfly as the morning-line favorite.”

Future Generation rallied to a 1 1/2-length optional claiming victory when making her U.S. debut here Feb. 15 for Clement. The outing was the first in nearly six months for the Irish-bred filly who won the Group 3 Desmond Stakes going a mile at Leopardstown last August as a 3-year-old.

Romacaca figures to improve off her second-place finish behind Hooh Why in the 1 1/8-mile Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf on Jan. 28, her first start since she was third in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa last summer at Saratoga.

Romacaca is a model of consistency, having won 12 of her 25 career starts, four of those tallies coming over the local course. The 6-year-old daughter of Running Stag ran off five straight victories over 6 1/2-month span in 2011 that began locally and ended with her 1 1/4-length decision in Monmouth Park’s Grade 3 Matchmaker. She’s also best at a mile, having won six of nine career starts at the distance.

La Reine Lionne was beaten a nose by the late-charging Heavenly Landing in the Grade 3 Marshua’s River on Jan. 7. The narrow setback snapped a modest two-race win streak for La Reine Lionne, a former claimer who is currently in the best form of her career for trainer Chad Brown.

Tapitsfly, the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, finished another head behind La Reine Lionne in the Marshua’s River. Tapitsly set the pace and outlasted Romacaca by a half-length when second last summer in the Ballston Spa.

Other key contenders who figure to attract plenty of mutuel support in the Honey Fox are Louvakhova, Bay to Bay, and Persuading.

Louvakhova has sandwiched a pair of impressive victories around a dull showing in the Marshua’s River in her three starts since shipping to the United States and joining trainer Marty Wolfson’s stable early last fall.

Bay to Bay has not raced since finishing fifth, beaten less than three lengths by Never Retreat, in the Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland on Oct. 8. Never Retreat defeated Persuading by one length to capture the 2011 Honey Fox, which has since been upgraded from a Grade 3 to its current Grade 2 status.