03/10/2011 5:38PM

Oaklawn Park's Honeybee draws strong cast


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – With five of the nine fillies in Saturday’s Grade 3, $125,000 Honeybee at Oaklawn Park listed in this weekend’s Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, the mile and a sixteenth race should offer some insight into the $1 million big dance to be run at Churchill Downs on May 6.

Rigoletta, winner of the Grade 1 Oak Leaf on a synthetic surface at Hollywood Park last October, will be making her dirt debut in the Honeybee. Joyful Victory will be adding blinkers off her fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Salty Strike is returning to graded competition for the first time since finishing third by a neck in last summer’s Grade 3 Debutante, while Holy Heavens and Summer Soiree will be stepping up in class Saturday.

The field for the Honeybee is completed by Dixie City, winner of the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct, Jazzin’ Okie, who is multiple stakes-placed, Hearts On Fire, an impressive allowance winner over older rivals, and Norma’s Dream, a five-length maiden special weight winner at Oaklawn.

Joyful Victory has turned in some strong works for her 3-year-old debut, her latest a five-furlong breeze in a bullet 58.80 seconds Monday. She has even done some things that remind her new trainer, Larry Jones, of one of his most accomplished fillies, another gray, the 2008 Kentucky Derby runner-up Eight Belles.

“It’s just always so easy for her,” Jones said of Joyful Victory. “It was kind of freaky when we worked her from the gate the other day. It was like, ‘Oh, I think I’ve seen this before.’ ”

Joyful Victory, who prior to the Breeders’ Cup was third in the Grade  1 Frizette at Belmont Park, is seeking her first stakes win Saturday. She will break from post 3, with Mike Smith in to ride for Fox Hill Farm.

“I think she’ll lay kind of close,” said Jones, who along with his wife, Cindy, has trained the winners of the last three Honeybees, No Such Word, Just Jenda, and Eight Belles.

Rigoletta made her seasonal debut Feb. 21 at Santa Anita, and was fifth in the Grade 3 La Habra at 6 1/2 furlongs on the turf. She was shipped to Arkansas for the chance to return to both the main track and the mile and a sixteenth distance of her win in the Oak Leaf.

“I don’t think grass is her thing, she doesn’t have a real quick kick,” said Dan Hendricks, who trains Rigoletta.

Rigoletta, who worked five furlongs in a bullet 58.80 seconds Sunday, will break from post 2 under Michael Baze.

“We need a good, solid race and a move forward and hopefully we’ll come back next month in the big race, the Fantasy,” Hendricks said of the Grade 2, $300,000 stakes which will be run April 10.

Dixie City came to Oaklawn with the Honeybee penciled in, said her trainer, Tony Dutrow.

“It looks like that will be a good race to get her started off this year,” he said. “She’s only run two turns one time in her life, and she was very successful in the Demoiselle. So, I’m feeling very good about Dixie City.”

Jeremy Rose has the mount from post 5.