December 18, 2018

Amy’s Challenge, Red Ruby line up in Honeybee

Amy's Challenge and Mia Mischief will renew rivalry in the Eight Belles (c) Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography

A field of seven has been entered to go 1 1/16 miles on Saturday in Oaklawn Park’s $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3).

The third of four races Oaklawn has carded for sophomore fillies prepping for the Kentucky Oaks (G1), the Honeybee is part of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series and will award 50-20-10-5 points to the respective top four finishers.

The winners of the first two contests in Oaklawn’s series – the Dixie Belle Stakes and Martha Washington Stakes – line back up here. It concludes with the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) on April 13.

Amy’s Challenge kept her unbeaten mark perfect when taking the Dixie Belle by a neck on January 20 while exclusively facing fillies for the first time. The McLean Robertson trainee kicked off her career with a 16-length victory against the boys at Canterbury Park on August 6. She followed up September 16 against both boys and girls with a three-quarter length score in the Shakopee Juvenile Stakes back at that track, earning a stellar 105 BRIS Speed rating in the process.

The Artie Schiller filly shipped to Keeneland last fall for a tilt at either the Alcibiades Stakes (G1) against the girls or the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) facing males yet again. Unfortunately she tied up in the days leading up to those races, and Robertson put her away for the year.

Amy’s Challenge returned to action January 20 in the six-furlong Dixie Belle against fellow sophomore fillies and got up late to record a neck win. Jareth Loveberry has been aboard for all three of the Kentucky-bred’s starts and holds the reins as she returns to take on two turns for the first time in the Honeybee.

Red Ruby began her career at Churchill Downs last fall, finishing second in a one-mile affair in late October before breaking her maiden by 3 1/2 lengths under the Twin Spires on November 25 while going the Honeybee distance of 1 1/16 miles.

Trainer Kellyn Gorder gave the Tiznow miss a couple months off and she returned February 10 to take her stakes debut in the Martha Washington by 2 1/2 lengths. The gray lass reunites with regular rider Robby Albarado on Saturday.

Another contender on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks is also entered in the Honeybee. Trainer Kenny McPeek has shipped Stronger Than Ever from Fair Grounds, where the gray lass posted a neck victory in the January 13 Silverbulletday Stakes, to Oaklawn for this one. She upset the Silverbulletday at 33-1 with a last-to-first move.

The Congrats miss finished third in the Trapeze Stakes at Remington Park to close out her juvenile campaign in mid-December, one race after suffering her first loss when seventh in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. The Kentucky-bred captured her initial two starts under the Twin Spires and at Keeneland. On Saturday she receives the services of jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. for the first time.

Sassy Sienna and Cosmic Burst are both returning in this spot after finishing second and third, respectively, in the Martha Washington last out.

Sassy Sienna was a 9 1/2-length allowance/optional claiming winner going a mile at Oaklawn one race before the Martha Washington and was also fourth in last year’s Alcibiades. Gary Stevens retains the mount for trainer Brad Cox.

Cosmic Burst got the best of both Sassy Sienna and Stronger Than Ever when winning the Trapeze Stakes in December by 5 1/4 lengths. That capped off a three-race win streak broken when the Donnie Von Hemel pupil ran third in the Martha Washington. Richard Eramia has been aboard for the Violence filly’s past two starts and holds the reins again here.

The Honeybee field is completed by Bo Peep, a 3 1/4-length allowance/optional claiming winner going six furlongs at Oaklawn on February 19, and Rahway, a six-length maiden-claiming victress on February 10 at Fair Grounds.

A couple races earlier on Oaklawn’s Saturday card, six older runners will line up in the $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes. The six-furlong contest drew Grade 2 hero and defending champion Whitmore from the barn of Ron Moquett as well as Grade 3-scoring veteran and last year’s runner-up Ivan Fallunovalot.

Facing off against those two Oaklawn lovers is Wilbo, who held Ivan Fallunovalot to second in both the King Cotton Stakes and an allowance/optional claimer in his past pair.