HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Ivan Dalos’ stakes-winning homebred filly Court Return, beaten a neck in the E. P. Taylor (G1) last time out at Woodbine, will race south of the border for the first time in her career facing eight rivals in Saturday’s $100,000 Via Borghese at Gulfstream Park.
The fifth running of the 1 3/16-mile Via Borghese for fillies and mares 3 and up on the grass serves as a supporting stake to the $100,000 Mr. Prospector (G3), which features a lineup led by Grade 1 winners Firenze Fire and Mind Control and defending champion Diamond Oops.
Post time for the first of 11 races is 12:05 p.m.
Trained by Canadian Hall of Famer Josie Carroll, Court Return is a younger half-sister to multiple Grade 1 turf winners Channel Maker and Johnny Bear, both Sovereign Award winners in Canada. The 4-year-old filly has run exclusively at Woodbine, with 10 of her 12 lifetime starts coming on the grass.
Court Return debuted in September 2018 and needed eight tries to break her maiden, graduating in a maiden optional claimer last November. The daughter of Court Vision became a stakes winner in her second start of 2020, rallying for a 1 ¼-length triumph in the 1 1/16-mile Eternal Search.
“Mr. Dalos bred this whole family and they all develop late in their careers. I think this is a filly that’s just now starting to come into her own,” Carroll said. “I think she was just one that needed to mature. She’s just a filly that needed some time and Mr. Dalos was very patient with her.”
Carroll stepped Court Return up to graded company off her stakes victory, and she finished third in the 1 1/8-mile Canadian (G2) Sept. 12 after getting away slowly. Stretched out to 1 ¼ miles for the E. P. Taylor, Court Return was again tardy from the gate but came with a strong rally only to fall just short of winner Etoile.
“I felt really good going into the race. That was certainly her best performance yet,” Carroll said. “I think the rider did a good job of not letting her get out of touch too much with the field, which is a danger with her. Sometimes they let her get too far back. You really sort of have to nudge her to stay in touch with the field, so that when she does make her run she is in a position to get there.”
Two-time Championship Meet leading jockey Luis Saez will get that assignment Saturday from Post 3.
“She gets away slow and that’s just her,” Carroll said. “It just takes her a while to get into gear. She’s never forwardly placed.”
Court Return has breezed once on the turf at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, since arriving in South Florida. She is out of the late Horse Chestnut mare In Return, the Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s champion broodmare of 2018. The same year, Dalos was voted champion breeder.
“She shipped down very well and seems to be training forwardly,” Carroll said. “We’re very excited about her. She is the last foal from that mare. The mare died shortly after giving birth, so [Court Return] was actually orphaned and bottle-raised. Mr. Dalos doesn’t have any more out of that mare, so he’s counting on her.”
Christophe Clement won the inaugural Via Borghese with Paige in 2016, and the trainer has Stone Farm homebred Traipsing for this year’s edition. The 4-year-old daughter of Grade 1 turf winner Stroll comes back three weeks off a runner-up finish to stablemate Mutamakina after setting the pace in the 1 3/8-mile Long Island (G3) at Aqueduct.
“It’s back a little bit quick, but she arrived at Payson Park well and she looks well. I think she’s a nice mare,” Clement said. “Because it is a little bit quick we’ll monitor her doing the week and as long as she’s doing well we plan on running.”
Traipsing will be trying stakes company for the third time in what will be her eighth start; she finished sixth in the 1 1/8-mile Treasure Coast in June at Gulfstream in her stakes debut. Robby Albarado is named to ride from Post 2.
“She’s very versatile. You can do whatever you want with her. She can be forward or she can come from out of it,” Clement said. “She’s good enough that she can be versatile and she’s a very good mover, which makes her even more efficient going longer.”
Gulfstream’s 16-time training champion Todd Pletcher entered the pair of Always Shopping and Cap de Creus. Gainesway Stable’s Cap de Creus is winless with four seconds in seven career tries at Gulfstream, and ran fourth in last year’s Orchid (G3). The 4-year-old Tapit filly was fifth last out in the 1 ½-mile Zagora Oct. 31 at Belmont Park.
Repole Stable’s Always Shopping won the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle (G2) on the dirt in 2019, finished off the board in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) and didn’t race again for 11 months, returning in April. Three of her last five races have come on the turf, winning the 1 1/16-mile Monroe Sept. 7 at Gulfstream and most recently running second by a head in the 1 ½-mile Dowager (G3) Oct. 18 at Keeneland.
Rounding out the field are 2020 Ginger Punch winner Kelsey’s Cross, third to Always Shopping in the Monroe; Great Island, winner of two straight making her stakes debut; Gun Society, second to Court Return in the Eternal Sunshine; Cambeliza and Lady Panda.
The stakes is named after the daughter of Seattle Dancer trained by Angel Penna Jr. who won 11 of 22 starts, including Gulfstream’s Suwannee River (G3) and the Hialeah Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap.
Photo Credit: Michael Burns Photo