03/28/2015 4:42PM

Lady Lara comes off layoff to win Honey Fox

Barbara D. Livingston
Lady Lara wins the Honey Fox Stakes by a neck Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Lady Lara showed signs of quality last year as a 3-year-old when she came over from Europe and won a listed stakes at Belmont Park and placed in a graded race at Churchill Downs.

After a four-month freshening, Lady Lara showed she could be a player in the filly and mare turf division with a neck victory over Sandiva in Saturday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Honey Fox Stakes at Gulfstream Park. It was 1 1/4 lengths back to Coffee Clique, the 2-1 favorite, in third.

The victory was the fourth win from 16 starts for Lady Lara, an Irish-bred daughter of Excellent Art owned by Swettenham Stud and trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott.

Lady Lara was sent to Mott last October, and she won the Pebbles Stakes by a half-length. A month later, she finished second in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs. In both races, she came from well off the pace.

On Saturday, Lady Lara, under Junior Alvarado, was within four lengths of the pacesetter Istanford, who ran a half-mile in 47.31 seconds.

“I don’t know if it was just her being fresh coming off the layoff, but she certainly had herself a little closer maybe than we thought she would be but equally I think in a good spot,” said Kenny McCarthy, assistant to trainer Bill Mott, who was in Dubai. “Even Junior was saying, ‘I was waiting for the gaps to open.’ He knew once it did, she was going to kick.”

The hole opened in midstretch, and Alvarado sent Lady Lara on through and she was able to outfinish Sandiva, who had won two stakes earlier in the meet.

“In the post parade warming her up, she was a little pumped up,” Alvarado said. “She broke good, and I made sure she relaxed. I didn’t want her to get too rank in the bridle. I got between horses, but I got so much horse whatever my decision, I knew she’d be there to help me.  As soon as I turned for home, she did the rest.”

Lady Lara covered a mile in 1:34.03 and returned $11.60 to win as the third choice.

Coffee Clique was making her first start since winning the Grade 1 Just a Game last June.

“It’s always nice to win but certainly not disappointed,” trainer Brian Lynch said. “You’re looking for bigger fish to fry later in the year.”

Lynch said Coffee Clique would likely go to Churchill Downs to run in the Distaff Turf Mile, a race she won last year, on the Kentucky Derby undercard. It would not be surprising to see her meet Lady Lara in that spot.