Opalina Chasing First Stakes Victory in 100k G3 Sweetest Chant
Among Five Graded-Stakes for 3-Year-Olds on Holy Bull (G3) Program
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Teneri Farm and J Stables’ Opalina, an eye-opening maiden winner over the course last fall, returns to Gulfstream Park looking to snap a two-race losing streak and earn her first stakes victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Sweetest Chant (G3).
The 27th running of the 1 1/16-mile Sweetest Chant for fillies and mares on turf is among five graded-stakes for 3-year-olds on a 12-race program highlighted by the $250,000 Holy Bull (G3), the next step on the road to the $1 million Florida Derby (G1).
Post time is noon.
Trainer Roderick Rodriguez said Florida-bred Opalina got a bit worked up prior to her sophomore debut in the one-mile Ginger Brew Jan. 1 at Gulfstream and faded to third after stalking the pace in her first race since mid-October.
“She was kind of too anxious, a little too nervous in the receiving barn. That was the first time she did that and I think that’s what did her in. She was a little flat at the end, but she ran OK. The main thing is, she came out of it good,” Rodriguez said. “She’s doing very good. I think she’ll be fitter this time.”
After a pair of turf sprints last summer to begin her career, Opalina was a 12-length maiden special weight winner against fellow state-breds in mid-September at Gulfstream. Racing for the first time beyond five furlongs, it was contested at a mile over a yielding course.
“I was very confident in her that she was going to win like that. I had run her short, which is not her game,” Rodriguez said. “That was her first time going long, a flat mile, so I was kind of expecting that performance.”
Her effort was enough to convince the connections to send Opalina out to Keeneland for the 1 1/16-mile Jessamine (G2), a ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). Sent off at 28-1 in a field of 13, she found trouble at the start and ran near the back of the group before coming with a rally to be fifth, beaten 1 ½ lengths. The runner-up in that race, South Florida-based Diamond Wow, beat Opalina in a maiden special weight last August at Gulfstream.
“She kind of lost her race right at the break. She got nervous. I think that was the first time she saw a lot of people in the grandstand because they were warming up right in front of the crowd in the stretch,” Rodriguez said. “When she went into the gate, she started rearing, that’s why she missed the break. But, that was the first time she’d ever done that. She’s always been nice and quiet. Still, she only got beat a length [and a half] and a length [and a half] is like, nothing.”
Championship Meet leader Luis Saez, up in the Ginger Brew, returns to ride from Post 2 in a field of 10.
“I feel a lot better this time. It’s like when you lose, you make adjustments and you say, ‘What can I fix? Where can I get better?’ I’m trying to cover all the angles. She’s a lot fitter and calmer, and I have the leading rider on her,” Rodriguez said. “It motivates you. It makes you want to get up in the morning. A good horse always does that. This is a grind, every day, and you look for horses like that.”
Edward Seltzer’s homebred Running Legacy will be making just her second career start in the Sweetest Chant. The chestnut daughter of Gun Runner was a 1 ¼-length winner in debut going one mile and 70 yards on Gulfstream’s Tapeta Dec. 9.
“When she broke her maiden, she did it quite good. Hopefully she’ll handle the turf when we give her the chance,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “She’s a filly that looks like she wants to go two turns and run all day long. I think this is the right step. We could go to an allowance but we feel like she’s by Gun Runner and if she can get graded-stakes placed or even win, it enhances her value. She’s a homebred so it’s big for the Seltzers. There’s a lot of reasons to give it a shot.”
Dylan Davis comes in from New York to ride Running Legacy from Post 9.
Trainer Chad Brown won the Sweetest Chant six straight years from 2012 to 2017 with Dayatthespa, Premier Steps, Ready to Act, Consumer Credit, Pricedtoperfection and Rymska. He is represented this year by Wonder Stables, Madaket Stables and Golconda Stable’s Miss You Ella, exiting a one mile, 70-yard maiden special weight victory over Gulfstream’s Tapeta Jan. 6 under Irad Ortiz Jr., who rides back from Post 7.
Also coming out of a maiden win over the all-weather surface is Wertheimer and Frere homebred Ambitieuse, who rallied for a three-quarter-length triumph going 1 1/16 miles Dec. 29 at Gulfstream. Trainer Graham Motion, who won the 2018 Sweetest Chant with Thewayiam, enlisted Paco Lopez to ride from Post 4.
The Sweetest Chant is just the third career start and first in a stake for Ambitieuse. She didn’t make her debut until mid-November, when she came on to be third in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Aqueduct.
“She’s a horse that we’ve always liked. We wanted to get her going earlier than we did, but she broke her jaw and it took time to get over that. It was a freak thing, and she’s perfect now,” Motion said. “I thought her first race was good and then she ran another good race on the Tapeta to break her maiden. She’s had a bit of time since then and we’re excited to get her going.”
Average Joe Racing Stables’ Myfavoritedaughter has already started twice this year, running second in optional claiming allowances Jan. 1 at Tampa Bay Downs and Jan. 21 at Gulfstream. As a 2-year-old, she finished fourth in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) and also ran in the Alcibiades (G1) on dirt before going back to the turf for the Wait a While Dec. 3, opening day of the Championship Meet.
Battle Charge, second by a head in the Presque Isle Debutante last October; Hal’s Dream, a maiden winner on turf exiting the Golden Rod (G2) on dirt last out; Nostalgic, whose Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott, won last year’s Sweetest Chant with White Frost; Ginger Brew runner-up Ocean Safari; and Roughly a Diamond complete the field.