03/31/2016 11:56AM

Mott no stranger to Honey Fox and Appleton winner's circles

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Tom Keyser
Lady Lara will try to defend her title in the Honey Fox on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has won the Appleton and Honey Fox stakes a combined 10 times. There’s a very real possibility that he will add to that total when he sends out top contenders in both one-mile graded turf stakes Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Mott has won the Honey Fox – a Grade 2, $300,000 event for fillies and mares – seven times, including last year with Lady Lara. She and Celestine give Mott a solid one-two punch in a contentious renewal of the Honey Fox, the richest of seven stakes on the undercard of the $1 million Florida Derby.

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Mott is a three-time winner of the Appleton – a Grade 3, $200,000 race – and will send out the potential favorite in Long On Value in an eight-horse field.

Lady Lara beat Sandiva by a neck in the Honey Fox last year and faces that rival again Saturday. Lady Lara didn’t win again until Nov. 21, when she took the My Charmer (with Sandiva third) at Gulfstream Park West. Last out, Lady Lara chased the champion Tepin around the track, settling for second in the Grade 3 Endeavour on Feb. 13 at Tampa Bay Downs.

“If we quit chasing Tepin around, we should have a better chance,” Mott said.

Celestine comes off a third-place finish behind the impressive Faufiler here in the Sand Springs Stakes, Celestine’s first start off a 10-week layoff. Two starts back, Celestine was beaten a neck by Tammy the Torpedo in the Tropical Park Oaks. Tammy the Torpedo, 2 for 2 at Gulfstream, is also in this field.

Completing the Honey Fox field are E B Ryder, Mississippi Delta, A Little Bit Sassy, and Elusive Collection.

While Lady Lara futilely chased Tepin, Long On Value was equally unsuccessful chasing Heart to Heart in the Canadian Turf here Feb. 27. Long On Value finished second, beaten 2 1/2 lengths by Heart to Heart and a neck in front of Divisidero. Long On Value, Divisidero, and the Grade 1 winner Force the Pass top the Appleton field.

KEY CONTENDERS

HONEY FOX (RACE 12)

Lady Lara, by Excellent Art

Last 3 Beyers: 93-97-93

◗ When she won this race last year, Lady Lara took advantage of a super-hot pace, according to DRF Pace Ace. It’s questionable whether that same scenario develops Saturday.

◗ Showed the ability to adapt to slower paces by laying closer in the Grade 3 My Charmer, which she won, and the Endeavour, in which she finished second to Tepin.

Sandiva, by Footstepsinthesand

Last 3 Beyers: 92-100-95

◗ Back on turf after running second to Penwith in the Grade 2 Royal Delta on dirt.

◗ She is 3 for 4 over the Gulfstream turf course but surprisingly is 0 for 8 at the one-mile distance.

Tammy the Torpedo, by More Than Ready

Last 3 Beyers: 94-93-85

◗ If you take out the two races where she faced her undefeated stablemate Lady Eli, she has four wins from five starts.

◗ She is 2 for 2 over this course and is cutting back from 1 1/16 miles to a mile.

“She’s training very well,” trainer Chad Brown said. “She’s shown an affinity for the Gulfstream turf course. Cutback in distance I don’t think will hurt her any.”

Celestine, by Scat Daddy

Last 3 Beyers: 92-92-75

◗ Ran well but was outfinished in both the Tropical Park Oaks (finished second) and Sand Springs (third) in her two starts over the turf at this meet.

◗ Won the Sanibel Island Stakes going a mile over this course the day after the Florida Derby last year.

APPLETON (RACE 8)

Long On Value, by Value Plus

Last 3 Beyers: 99-95-93

◗ Has shown an affinity for this turf course, having won last year’s Grade 3 Canadian Turf from post 11 and running second behind loose-on-the-lead winner Heart to Heart in this year’s Canadian.

◗ This will be his second start off a 259-day layoff.

Divisidero, by Kitten’s Joy

Last 3 Beyers: 98-89-90

◗ Came off a 238-day layoff to finish third behind Heart to Heart in the Canadian Turf at this same distance.

“I don’t think we got to get into the position we wanted to before making our move,” trainer Buff Bradley said. “Just to get to see him run and put in his patented stretch kick is something we were to happy see.”

◗ Has a win and two thirds in three races over the Gulfstream turf.

Force the Pass, by Speightstown

Last 3 Beyers: 91-92-98

◗ Was talented enough to win stakes at a mile and 1 1/4 miles last year, with the latter win coming in the inaugural Belmont Derby.

◗ Returns from a 194-day layoff, but trainer Alan Goldberg doesn’t think he is bringing a short horse to this race.

“He’s ready to run a good a good race,” Goldberg said. “I wouldn’t think that he would need a race.”