01/17/2010 1:00AM

Sassy Image giving turf a try


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - It's a toss-up as to what was the biggest surprise when entries were drawn for Sunday's $100,000 Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream Park - the fact that the turf fixture drew a field of only seven 3-year-old fillies or that trainer Dale Romans decided to pass the race with his Breeders' Cup winner Tapitsfly in lieu of Sassy Image, who has yet to make a start on grass.

"I decided to give Tapitsfly a little extra time coming back and have her ready for the spring," Romans said. "She'll run in the next one."

The next one Romans was referring to is the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride on March 6.

Romans does have himself a pretty good replacement in Sassy Image, who closed out her 2-year-old campaign with easy wins in the Grade 3 Pocahontas and Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs.

"She's ready to run, doing good, and there are no two-turn stakes for her down here until March," Romans said, explaining why he's running Sassy Image on turf. "I think she'll handle the grass. She's out of a Hennessey mare, and Hennesseys seem to run on the turf. Besides, it's supposed to rain, so if the race comes off, we'll be all right."

Romans also was surprised that the Sweetest Chant came up so light.

"I couldn't believe they only got seven in there, especially after the boys' race on Saturday [the Dania Beach] drew a full field," he said. "It's really kind of a weak spot."

Sassy Image will break from post 6 under her regular rider, Robby Albarado, who will fly in for the assignment. The rest of the field, from the rail out, is Lucky Lass, Dancing Rage, Blackwell, Strike It Rich, Check the Label, and Risky Rachel.

Aside from Sassy Image, Check the Label brings the best credentials into the race, having finished second in Churchill's Caressing on turf in her 2-year-old finale. That performance came on the heels of an easy entry-level allowance victory 17 days earlier for the daughter of Stormin Fever, a Brereton Jones homebred trained by Graham Motion. Check the Label paired career-best Beyer Speed Figures of 81 in her last two starts.

Trainer Christophe Clement warns not to discount his recent maiden winner Strike It Rich, who finally graduated in her third career start on Nov. 22 at Calder.

"I think she's a live outsider in this race," Clement said. "She's a little difficult mentally, an anxious filly, but she has some talent."