BY BROCK SHERIDAN
Although Averill Racing LLC and Two Eight Racing LLC’s R Harper Rose was a dominant winner of the $200,000 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes Susan’s Girl on Oct. 21, she was a late scratch in the $100,000 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes Desert Vixen on Sept. 9, costing the bay filly an opportunity to become the fifth filly to sweep the three-race series.
However, if her 4-5 morning line odds hold up, a victory Saturday in the $300,000 Florida Sire Stakes My Dear Girl at Gulfstream Park would place her in elite company as one of eight fillies to win the race at less than even odds. The seven popular fillies who have won the mile-and-a-sixteenth My Dear Girl as the heavily presumed winner are Three Rings (3-5 in 1998), Ivanavinalot (2-5 in 2002), Aclassysassylassy (4-5 in 2004), Adhrhythm (4-5 in 2006), Awesome Feather (2-5 in 2010), Scandalous Act (1-2 in 2013) and Outfoxed (1-5 in 2021).
In order to make the exclusive club, the Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained daughter of Journeyman Stud’s Khozan will have to get by seven other 2-year-old fillies, all sired by registered Florida stallions, and negotiate two turns for the first time—something Joseph is not taking for granted.
“She’s never done it. She’ll have to do it first,” Joseph said of R Harper Rose. “I think she has enough class. I was more afraid of the seven furlongs than the mile-and-a-sixteenth, but [she] still [has] go out and do it. It’s a different kind of tempo. Seven-eighths is harder. The two turns are kinder. I think she’ll get it.”
With three wins in three starts, R Harper Rose has met every challenge thus far including with a six-and-a-quarter-length romp against maiden special weight fillies going five-and-a-half furlongs on a sloppy track at Gulfstream in her first start on Aug. 5. She then dominated a field of non-winners of two, $75,000 optional claiming fillies at five-and-a-half furlongs on Sept. 22 in her second start, winning by nearly six lengths.
“We haven’t thought beyond this race,” Joseph said. “This race is important for her, so let’s get through this one. I think she’s a filly that could become a graded-stakes type.”
R Harper Rose is out of True Bliss and was bred in Florida by Sally J. Andersen. She has earned $197,300 in her three previous races, providing a good return on her $60,000 purchase price by Rich Averill’s Averill Racing at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales March Sale where she was consigned by GOP Racing. She also sold for $16,000 to ProRacing Stable out of Richard Kent’s Kaizen Sales consignment as a yearling at the OBS October Sale.
Edgard Zayas has ridden her in all three starts and gets the return mount Saturday when R Harper Rose breaks from post five.
Set at 9-2 as the second choice in the program is Brad Grady’s Honey Dijon, who finished second in the Susan’s Girl for trainer Joe Sharp.
“I think two turns will be the difference maker one way or the other,” Sharp said. “[Honey Dijon] is a filly that every time we’ve raised the bar, she’s stepped forward. Everything about her, says she will stretch out. I’m looking forward to seeing what she has going two turns.”
Honey Dijon won her first race in her second start over a sloppy five-and-a-half furlongs in a maiden special weight for fillies taken off the turf at Saratoga on Aug. 10. She was then sixth, beaten less than three lengths by winner Crown Imperial after being steadied in the $499,000 Pepsi Untapable going six-and-a-half furlongs on the turf at Kentucky Downs before shipping to Gulfstream for the Susan’s Girl.
Sharp believes the extra distance in the My Dear Girl will work in Honey Dijon’s favor.
“It seemed last time sprinting, she was wanting a little more ground,” Sharp said. “She was well in front of the rest of the field.
“Saffie’s horse, obviously, is super talented.”
Honey Dijon was bred by Brad and Misty Grady and is by their stallion Girvin out of Archangelus, by Empire Maker. She has a win and a second in four starts with earnings of $104,450.
Paco Lopez has been given the riding assignment and Honey Dijon has post one.
Others set for the Susan’s Girl are Fields of Green, who will be ridden by Leonel Reyes; Unrelentless and jockey Joe Bravo, Haunted with Emisael Jaramillo up, Rocco Bowen rides Pardy Pleaser, Dancing N Dixie with jockey Miguel Vasquez and Reina Mar with rider Angel Morales.
Return to Dec. 1 issue of Wire to Wire