03/12/2009 12:00AM

Suncoast top-three rematch in Fla. Oaks


Only two necks separated the top three finishers - Rock Candy, Ameribelle, and Don't Forget Gil - in the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. And even Rock Candy's trainer, Michael Zwiesler, admits it will likely be racing luck that decides the outcome when the same trio meet again over the same course in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Florida Oaks.

Rock Candy wore down Ameribelle in the final 40 yards of the mile and 40-yard Suncoast to register her third straight victory, each coming at Tampa. A daughter of Mineshaft, Rock Candy also captured the seven-furlong Gasparilla by a more comfortable 2 1/4 lengths in her start before the Suncoast.

"It's basically the same group of horses again Saturday," Zwiesler said of the fillies returning from the Suncoast. "I might have had an advantage the last time, because I had a race over the track, but my filly is doing great and I still wouldn't trade places with anyone in the Oaks. Whoever gets the best trip will likely win the race."

Ameribelle slipped through along the rail to gain the lead upon settling into the stretch of the Suncoast. She dug in when challenged by Rock Candy but could not last. Trained by Eddie Plesa Jr., Ameribelle was stakes-placed on the grass at 2.

Don't Forget Gil took the worst of the trips in the group's initial meeting. A New York-bred daughter of Kafwain, Don't Forget Gil broke through the gate prior to the start, was shuffled back a bit after showing early speed into the opening turn, and lost considerable ground when drifting well out entering the stretch before surging late to finish just a neck behind Ameribelle. Don't Forget Gil, a stakes winner coming into the Suncoast, went postward as the 6-5 favorite that afternoon and will likely be the public's choice to make amends in the 1 1/16-mile Oaks.

Six of the eight starters in the Oaks exit the Suncoast. The only two new shooters are Royal Ballade and Miss Ocean City, both of whom have been idle since finishing far back in the Grade 1 Frizette on Oct. 4.

Royal Ballade is trained by the red-hot Tom Albertrani, who has already won seven stakes this year. Royal Ballade was an impressive 6 3/4-length winner of her career debut at Belmont on Sept. 4 before stopping badly in the one-mile Frizette.

Miss Ocean City also won at first asking, posting a 3 3/4-length maiden special weight victory when launching her career last summer at Saratoga. She too flashed early speed before dropping back suddenly in the Frizette.