Pletcher chases stakes success in Dania Beach

December 31, 2021

Strategy Queen looks to extend win streak in Ginger Brew; Turf Tests Among Five Stakes for 3-Year-Olds on New Year’s Day Card

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher kickoffs the New Year starting his pair of maiden winners, Grand Sonata and Chanceux, in Saturday’s $100,000 Dania Beach at Gulfstream Park. In their South Florida debut the sophomore fillies will be chasing stakes success.

The 11th renewal of the Ginger Brew and the 14th running of the Dania Beach for fillies, both going one mile on the grass, are among five stakes for newly turned 3-year-olds worth $550,000 in purses on a New Year’s Day holiday program headlined by the $150,000 Mucho Macho Man.

Post time for the first of 11 races is noon.

Pletcher previously won the Dania Beach at Gulfstream with Made You Look in 2017, its last of a five-year run as a Grade 3 event. Whisper Hill Farm homebred Grand Sonata will be making his second straight stakes start after encountering trouble in the 1 1/16-mile Central Park Nov. 27 at Aqueduct.

In that race, the Medaglia d’Oro colt got bumped at the start and trailed the field into the stretch, had to steady at the three-sixteenths pole and wound up fifth beaten less than two lengths after making a belated run.

2017 Dania Beach Stakes Featuring Made You Look

“I think trip handicappers would certainly take note of that,” Pletcher said. “It was a good ground-saving trip until nothing opened up and, unfortunately, there was just nowhere to go. He got extracted late and was closing really well when that happened, but it just didn’t happen in time.”

Grand Sonata ran second to next-out Futurity (G3) winner Slipstream in his Sept. 18 debut sprinting seven furlongs on the Belmont Park turf. He stretched out to 1 1/16 miles for an off-the-turf maiden special weight Oct. 16 at Keeneland, where he led every step of the way for a 2 ¼-length win as the favorite.

“It was a good debut on the turf and then he was able to win off the turf. I think he is a colt that has a future on both surfaces,” Pletcher said. “Right now, we feel like he’s a little better on the turf. He had a rough trip last time but he’s doing really well. He put in a couple good breezes for us at Palm Beach [Downs] and, hopefully, we can get a smoother trip this time.”

Harrell Ventures’ Chanceux is by Speightstown, the champion sprinter of 2004 also trained by Pletcher, out of the Broken Vow mare Rosalind, who was a Grade 2 winner on turf and Grade 1 placed on synthetics. Chanceux raced twice as a 2-year-old, finishing fourth in his Oct. 9 unveiling over Belmont’s main track. Moved to the grass next out, he posted a front-running two-length triumph at the same six-furlong distance Nov. 13 at Aqueduct.

“It was a pretty straightforward performance. He broke alertly and took them wire to wire and seemed to make a move forward on the turf, which wasn’t a surprise based on the bottom side of his pedigree,” Pletcher said. “It looked like there was plenty of turf there.

“We gave him a shot on the dirt first time out and he didn’t run badly, but it looked like he took a big step forward on the grass,” he added. “I think the mile suits him well. I think it’s a good intermediate distance to stretch him out.”

Tyler Gaffalione is named to ride Grand Sonata from far outside Post 8, while Luis Saez has the call on Chanceux from Post 5.

Live Oak Plantation homebred Biz Biz Buzz takes stakes credentials into the Dania Beach at Gulfstream. After winning his debut Sept. 10 at Laurel Park, the Fed Biz colt ran third in the Oct. 10 Futurity and fifth in the Nov. 5 Atlantic Beach sprinting six furlongs on the Belmont turf. Most recently, he set the pace before settling for third in Gulfstream’s one-mile Pulpit Dec. 3. Trained by Mike Trombetta, Biz Biz Buzz is cross-entered in a Dec. 31 allowance at Gulfstream.

Father Glado, owned and trained by Jose D’Angelo; Silverton Hill’s Gingrich and DATTT Stable homebred Smokin’ T all enter the Dania Beach off maiden victories. Father Glado won going a mile and 70 yards Dec. 9 on the Tapeta at Gulfstream; Gingrich scored by two lengths on a yielding Keeneland turf Oct. 8; and Smokin’ T was a two-length winner going 1 1/16 miles Dec. 5 on the grass at Aqueduct.

Completing the field are K.C. Chief, a last-out winner at Gulfstream for owner-trainer Ruben Gracida, and No Nay Franklin, trained and co-owned by Patrick Biancone. No Nay Franklin has run second in each of his two starts, both at Gulfstream. He was beaten a neck in an Aug. 29 maiden special weight sprinting five furlongs on the grass then lost by a head in an off-the-turf edition of the seven-furlong Armed Forces Sept. 18.

Breaking her maiden at Gulfstream, Strategy Queen under Cristian Torres beats Empress Ellie (with Chantal Sutherland in the irons) to the wire by 3/4 of a length, Sept. 30, 2021.  (Lauren King)

Strategy Queen Targets Third Straight Win in $100,000 Ginger Brew

All In Line Stables’ homebred filly Strategy Queen, coming off back-to-back victories, will get the chance to make it three straight as she steps up and stretches out on a new surface for her stakes debut in Saturday’s $100,000 Ginger Brew.

Trained by Championship Meet leader Saffie Joseph Jr., Strategy Queen has yet to race on turf or beyond 5 ½ furlongs through four races. Her first two starts came on dirt, finishing fourth following a slow start in her Aug. 13 unveiling then running second after a prolonged duel with Rapturous in a Sept. 11 maiden claimer.

Strategy Queen has put together her win streak over Gulfstream’s Tapeta surface, graduating by three-quarters of a length in a Sept. 30 maiden special weight before returning for a nose triumph over winners in a Nov. 19 optional claiming allowance. All of her races have come at Gulfstream.

“She’s won two in a row and she’s doing good. The mile is going to be a question mark, obviously, and the turf. I think she’ll handle the turf, but the question will be the distance. Can she stay the mile?” Joseph said. “She’s obviously never done it. She acts like she could, but until they do you never know for sure.

“She’s going from two sprints to a mile. She’s a filly that’s kind of leggy and built long, so she looks more like a miler than a sprinter,” he added. “Sometimes they trick you into thinking they want further and they don’t really want it. We feel like she can get the mile. It’s a step up in class, too, but we feel like it’s worth a try.”

Joseph also entered Vesgo Racing Stable homebred Li Li Bear off a maiden special weight victory Oct. 28 at Gulfstream in her first start for the trainer and first on Tapeta. Prior to that she raced twice on the dirt at Saratoga, running fourth to Echo Zulu July 15 and sixth behind Jester Calls Nojoy Sept. 5. Echo Zulu went on to win the Hopeful (G1), Frizette (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) to compete a perfect season, while Jester Calls Nojoy was sixth in the Frizette and most recently second in the Maryland Juvenile Fillies Dec. 18 at Laurel Park.

“She ran two races in Saratoga with [trainer] Phil Gleaves and then we got her.,” Joseph said. “Her first race was very good when she ran into Echo Zulu. We put her on the Tapeta because we had no grass then and she won. She acts like she’ll stretch out, also. She’ll be stretching out for the first time but she acts like she will. She’s a filly that we think a lot of her.”

Strategy Queen will be ridden by Junior Alvarado from the rail in a field of seven, while Li Li Bear will have the services of Tyler Gaffalione from Post 2.

Teneri Farm and J Stables’ Opalina returns to South Florida following a road trip to Kentucky where the daughter of Optimizer closed to be fifth, beaten 1 ½ lengths, after a troubled start in the 1 1/16-mile Jessamine (G2) Oct. 13 over a Keeneland turf rated good. She raced three times prior at Gulfstream for trainer Roderick Rodriguez, running second twice before breaking her maiden against state-breds on yielding ground Sept. 17.

Soldi Stable and Ohana Racing’s Ocean Safari is also a maiden special weight winner over the Gulfstream turf. Her victory came sprinting 7 ½ furlongs over good ground Sept. 10 and was followed by a third-place finish in a one-mile, 70-yard optional claiming allowance on the Tapeta Oct. 17, her most recent effort.

Also entered are Alittleloveandluck, exiting a Nov. 12 maiden special weight triumph on the Tapeta at Gulfstream; Louella Street, a Sept. 16 winner over Laurel Park’s world-class turf course who finished off the board in the Nov. 28 Tepin at Aqueduct; and maiden Lady Puchi.

Gulfstream Press Release

Top photo: With Irad Ortiz, Jr., aboard, Chanceux flies through the rain for a two-length victory to break her maiden at Aqueduct Nov. 13, 2021. (Joe Labozzetta)

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