03/14/2013 3:03PM

Gulfstream Park: Samitar and Pianist make strong pair in Honey Fox

Barbara D. Livingston
Samitar is the lone Grade 1 winner in the Honey Fox, having won the Garden City.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Chad Brown, who has a seemingly endless supply of talented turf horses in his barn, will hold the upper hand Saturday at Gulfstream Park when he sends out top contenders Samitar and Pianist against a very strong field in the $150,000 Honey Fox. The Grade 2 Honey Fox will be decided at one mile on the grass.

Samitar is the lone Grade 1 winner in the lineup, having captured the Garden City in just her second U.S. appearance late last summer at Belmont Park. An English-bred daughter of Rock of Gibraltar, Samitar also won the Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh shortly before joining Brown’s barn in July. She closed out her very successful 3-year-old campaign finishing fourth behind stablemate Dayatthespa in the Grade 1 QE II Cup at Keeneland.

“She couldn’t be doing any better,” said Brown. “A mile to a mile and a sixteenth seems to be her distance. It’s her first start of the season, so she doesn’t have the recency under her belt, but she’s training very well and she’s a proven Grade 1 horse. She was a victim of a slow pace in the QE II, and after the race she appeared to be a tired horse, so we gave her some time off and she’s wintered very well.”

Pianist is coming off a popular 1 3/4-length optional-claiming win on the grass in her first local start and is now perfect in four starts at a mile. Pianist has been favored in all eight career starts but figures to offer a little more value trying Grade 2 company for the first time in the Honey Fox.

“All her wins at a mile, she loves firm turf, she loves Gulfstream – so this is the time to try her back in a graded stakes,” said Brown.

Centre Court, Channel Lady, and Namaskara may give the Brown duo their stiffest challenges.

Centre Court finished second, a half-length in front of Samitar, in the QE II and like that rival is making her first start of the year for trainer Rusty Arnold. Centre Court won a pair of Grade 2 stakes last year at 3, including Churchill Downs’ Mrs. Revere to close out the season.

Channel Lady has won 4 of her last 6 starts, posting her first graded win after leading throughout to register a three-quarter-length decision over Abaco in the Grade 3 Marshua’s River five weeks ago.

Namaskara steps back into graded stakes company for the second time after rallying to a one length mid-level optional-claiming victory on Feb. 3.

Completing the field are graded stakes winners Class Included and Heavenly Landing along with Star Torina, who is riding a two race win streak.