02/22/2013 5:07PM

Gulfstream Park: Honey Chile tests new running style in Ladies Turf Sprint


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Honey Chile showed a different dimension, rallying from off the pace, when returning to the turf for her 2013 debut last month at Tampa Bay Downs, and trainer Wayne Catalano is hopeful Honey Chile’s new running style might translate into her long overdue first grass victory when she returns to Gulfstream Park and joins stablemate Trippin’ Along in Sunday’s wide-open $60,000 Ladies Turf Sprint.

Honey Chile, who finished third after pressing the pace in the 2012 Ladies Turf Sprint, has been a fixture on or near the lead throughout her career before suddenly finding herself more than a half dozen lengths off the lead after the opening quarter-mile of Tampa’s Lightning City Stakes. But to her credit, Honey Chile was able to adapt to the situation, rallying strongly through the final furlong to finish fourth in a blanket finish behind Smartys Emperoress.

“She broke well, but they went the opening quarter in 20 and change, and she dropped out of it,” Catalano said. “Then she kind of got buried between horses down near the inside before making a big run at the end. I thought it was a very good race for her, and at least we found out now that she can close. She’s had a couple of excuses sprinting on the turf in the past, but we think that might be her ticket, so we’ll try her again on Sunday.”

Catalano actually felt his other horse in the Lightning City, Trippin’ Along, was probably best that day. Trippin’ Along, making her first start since being purchased privately and transferred to Catalano’s barn late last fall, dropped back to last and then circled the field seven wide into the stretch before finishing best of all, only to fall a nose short of her first stakes win.

“She just lost way too much ground, she was by far the best horse in the race,” Catalano said. “We’ll try to keep her a little closer this time. I think we have a good chance at winning this race with both horses.”

Stopshoppingmaria will likely go postward the favorite in the five-furlong Ladies Turf Sprint, coming off a pair of allowance wins at the distance earlier in the meet. Stolpshoppingmaria, who seems to have found her niche as a turf sprinter after having run second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at 2 earlier in her career, earned an 88 Beyer Speed Figure for her second-level optional claiming victory here last month, the top last-race Beyer of any member of the Ladies Turf Sprint field.

Double the Energy, haltered for $50,000 by trainer Linda Rice last summer at Saratoga, also has been on a roll since shipping south for the winter, having captured a pair of open allowance races during the first seven weeks of the meet. She will renew acquaintances Sunday with both Rose Salvaje and Whipsaw City, who she defeated by less than a length following a long stretch battle Jan. 27.

Brilliant Katie, a first-level turf sprint winner here Jan. 31; Queen’s Award, who finished eighth in the Lightning City; and Klondike Kate complete the lineup.