NICKNAME LEADS SHORT, BUT TALENTED HONEYBEE FIELD
Hot Springs, Ark. (Friday, March 11, 2016) – Grade 1 winner Nickname is the 7-5 program favorite for Saturday’s $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies Saturday at Oaklawn. Probable post time for the race, which drew six entrants, is 4:38 p.m. (Central). It is the eighth of nine races on a program that begins at 1:05 p.m.
Trainer Steve Asmussen nominated six horses to the Honeybee before deciding to enter Nickname and lightly raced Terra Promessa. Owned by LNJ Foxwoods (Jamie Roth), Nickname scored her biggest career victory in the $400,000 Frizette Stakes (G1) Oct. 3 at Belmont.
The 1 1/16-mile Honeybee is scheduled to match Marquee Miss, Nickname and Dorodansa, the 1-2-3 finishers, respectively, from the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 6 at Oaklawn. Marquee Miss edged Nickname by a half-length in the mile race, with Dorodansa 1 1/2 lengths farther back in third. Nickname was making her first start since finishing fourth in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) Oct. 31 at Keeneland.
“She needed the race,” Asmussen said.
Terra Promessa, the 5-2 second choice in the program, exits a nine-length entry-level allowance victory at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 5 at Oaklawn. The daughter of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin has won 2 of 3 career starts and will be making her stakes debut in the Honeybee, which Asmussen has won a record-equaling five times.
“The timing is right for this race,” Asmussen said.
Marquee Miss (3-1 in the program) is seeking her third consecutive stakes victory after winning the Martha Washington and $100,000 Dixie Belle Jan. 15 at Oaklawn in her 3-year-old debut.
Trainer Ingrid Mason said Friday morning that she loves her extreme outside draw (post 6) but was concerned about the possibility of an off track Saturday afternoon. The trainer has said Marquee Miss doesn’t have an affinity for a sloppy track, and heavy rain was falling shortly before training hours began Friday morning. Hot Springs has had more than four inches of rain since Tuesday.
“It’s just a matter of if the track conditions stay OK,” said Mason, who won the race last year with Sarah Sis.
Two of Marquee Miss’ three career losses have come on a sloppy track. Mason said she decided to keep Marquee Miss at Oaklawn, rather than ship for a race at Fair Grounds, because of her success over the local strip.
“Given that, whether it be wet or dry, she may like it,” Mason said of an off track. “She trains fine on it. We’ll give it a shot. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll definitely stay away from a muddy track.”
The Honeybee field from the rail out: Cosmic Evolution, Calvin Borel to ride, 117 pounds; Dorodansa, Chris Landeros, 115; She’s a Bootsy Too, Ramon Vazquez, 117; Nickname, Corey Nakatani, 119; Terra Promessa, Ricardo Santana Jr., 119; and Marquee Miss, Channing Hill, 122.
Cosmic Evolution, who broke her maiden in the $100,000 Debutante Stakes June 27 at Churchill Downs, will be making her two-turn debut in the Honeybee.
Trainer Lon Wiggins said he isn’t thrilled about drawing the rail, adding “it is what it is.”
“The good thing is she breaks good every time, so far,” Wiggins said. “I think Calvin ought to be able to get her in good position.”
The Honeybee is the final major local prep for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 9 and offers 85 points, including 50 to the winner, toward starting eligibility for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 6 at Churchill Downs.