01/18/2013 4:40PM

Oaklawn Park: Sam's Bliss would benefit from American Beauty speed duel

Coady Photography
Sam's Bliss will switch from turf to dirt for Sunday's American Beauty Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.– Sam’s Bliss and Cheery are both on the verge of becoming stakes winners and figure to vie for favoritism Sunday when they meet in the $60,000 American Beauty at Oaklawn Park. The six-furlong race for fillies and mares is the second half of a stakes double. The $60,000 Dixie Belle for 3-year-old fillies has been brought back for Sunday’s card after having been canceled due to poor weather Jan. 12.

Sam’s Bliss, who has placed in three stakes, and Cheery, who edged Sam’s Bliss for second in November when the horses met in the Dream Supreme at Churchill Downs, are part of a six-horse field. The most accomplished runner in the gate is five-time stakes winner All About Allie.

Sam’s Bliss appears to have several factors working in her favor in the American Beauty. She has recency on Cheery, and she might get an ideal pace setup if Cheery, All About Allie, and Mysterious Chimes duel for the lead. Sam’s Bliss also is making a meaningful surface switch after running second in a $62,500 optional claimer on turf at Fair Grounds in her last start Dec. 19.

“She’s bred for grass, but I think she’s much better on the dirt and that’s why we’ve sent her up there,” said Bret Calhoun, who trains Sam’s Bliss for Double R Stable.

“The race at Churchill Downs – the Dream Supreme – that was a very tough race for a $65,000 stakes. There were graded-stakes caliber horses in there, and she ran a very good third. She came back and ran well on the grass, even though it’s not her best surface.”

Sam’s Bliss is by War Front and out of the Navarone mare Brief Bliss, who produced the multiple turf stakes winner Cherokee Triangle as well as Grade 3 Derby Trial winner Hierro. Sam’s Bliss is a winner on the grass, but put up her best Beyer Speed Figure on dirt, when she won a Churchill Downs allowance sprint with an 87 last May. She will break from post 4, under Cliff Berry.

Cheery will be making her first start since the Dream Supreme and will break from post 3 under Victor Lebron. The Al Stall trainee won three straight races leading up to the Dream Supreme, a race in which she finished a half-length behind winner Salty Strike. Cheery is by Distorted Humor and out of the Grade 2-winning mare Yell, and she races for her breeders, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider.

Lady Stonewall in Dixie Belle

Lady Stonewall was geared up for last weekend’s Dixie Belle, but the race had to be rescheduled after flash flooding forced the cancellation of live racing. The flooding and subsequent freezing temperatures led to the track being closed for training Jan. 13-15, but Lady Stonewall indicated she remains on her toes by breezing four furlongs in a bullet 47.20 seconds Thursday under jockey Robby Albarado.

“Everyone’s training got compromised in the freeze, but she’s doing well and she’s a filly of quality and should be okay,” trainer Lynn Whiting said.

Lady Stonewall will be making her stakes debut after a maiden special weight win at Churchill on Nov. 15. One start earlier, she ran second to Cor Cor, Whiting noted. Cor Cor has since won a stakes at Tampa and finished second to Kauai Katie in the Grade 3 Old Hat at Gulfstream.

Others in the field include two-time stakes winner American Sugar and the undefeated Baby Princess.