GULFSTREAM PARK PRESS OFFICE
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Rodney Lundock’s homebred filly Maryquitecontrary, who earned graded credentials last winter during a five-race win streak, seeks a return to her winning form as she chases a second straight victory in the $125,000 Rampart Saturday at Gulfstream Park. The 45th running of the one-mile Rampart for fillies and mares 3 and up.
Now in the barn of trainer Eddie Plesa Jr., 4-year-old Maryquitecontrary has breezed six times over Gulfstream’s main track in preparation for her first start since running second as the favorite, beaten a half-length, by Three Witches in the Oct. 7 Grade 3 Princess Rooney.
The seven-furlong Princess Rooney, a ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, was a strong bounce back effort for Maryquitecontrary after finishing last of seven at odds of 30-1 in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga Race Course, her third and final start since joining Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.
Jockey Luca Panici, aboard for all but one of Maryquitecontrary’s 11 starts including nine in a row, felt the performance marked a turnaround for the daughter of Florida champion stallion First Dude standing at Double Diamond Farm. Panici will ride back from Post 3 in a field of six.
“She’s feeling good. She’s in good shape. I’m pretty confident in her,” Panici said. “Hopefully we can do like last year, when she won.”
Maryquitecontrary was already a stakes winner heading into last year’s Rampart, courtesy of her dramatic neck triumph in the seven-furlong Sheer Drama two starts earlier. Her popular and decisive 3 ¾-length score in the Rampart marks the only time Maryquitecontrary has raced as far as one mile.
“I think the mile is good. I don’t see why she can’t do it like last year,” Panici said. “I don’t worry about the distance.”
Following the Rampart Maryquitecontrary went on to win the Grade 2 Inside Information Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park after again encountering trouble and ran second by length behind champion Goodnight Olive in the April 8 Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland. She faced another champion in Echo Zulu in successive races at Saratoga, running fourth in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss prior to the Ballerina.
“I think when she’s doing good, she’s a pretty easy horse to ride,” Panici said.
Two-time defending championship meet leading trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. entered the pair of Imonra and Florida-bred Rosie’s Halo. Sean Defreitas’ Rosie’s Halo has raced exclusively at Gulfstream, finishing third or better in nine of 12 starts with three wins, including a six-length triumph going one mile April 23. After finishing fourth in the Sheer Drama and sixth in the Princess Rooney, she came back to be second in a one-mile optional claiming allowance Dec. 3.
Vegso Racing Stable’s Imonra made each of her first five starts at Gulfstream, breaking her maiden fourth time out by 11 ¾ lengths April 27 and beating winners next time out on a muddy track May 26, both at the Rampart distance. Since then, she was second as the favorite in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks and sixth in the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks before getting a break after being well-beaten in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 1 Cotillion Sept. 23 at Parx.
Imonra drew post 4 with Edgard Zayas while Rosie’s Halo will break alongside from post 5 with Jose Ortiz.
Sheri Greenberg, Staghawk Stables, Tom Reiman and Ronald Johnson’s Unifying is entered in the Rampart after originally being pointed to make her return in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Sugar Swirl Dec. 23. The 3-year-old daughter of Grade 1 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags has not been out since extending her win streak to two in the June 11 Leslie’s Lady at Ellis Park.
“She’s doing really well,” trainer Riley Mott said. “We gave her some time off after her win at Ellis a few months back and she came back in good form. She deserved the time off. She had run probably seven times in seven months or so, so it was nice to give her a little freshening. She hasn’t missed a beat in her training. Gulfstream has a really attractive one-turn stakes schedule for fillies and mares, so it was always the plan to bring her down here and try to compete in those types of races.”
Unifying is a special horse for Mott, the son of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, representing the first horse purchased for the stable, first winner Nov. 10, 2022 at Churchill Downs, first stakes starter in the Year’s End on New Year’s Eve 2022 at Oaklawn and first stakes winner.
“Since she was like the first filly we bought, technically they are the first owners to back me and support me,” Mott said. “She’s always been a bit of an overachiever. She broke her maiden in one of the maiden auction races at Churchill and those races can produce good horses even though it’s restricted company. She’s kind of run through a few of her conditions and gotten a little better each time so, she’s one that continues with age to improve.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. has the riding assignment from post 2.
Rounding out the field are Team Equistaff and Winning Stables, Inc.’s Florida-bred Dreaming of Snow, winner of the one-mile, 70-yard Suncoast Feb. 23 at Tampa Bay Downs; and Bill Mott-trained Godolphin homebred Nostalgic, winner of the 2022 Grade 3 Gazelle at Aqueduct that has placed in four other graded-stakes including the 2022 Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.
Editor’s Note: Tammy A. Gantt contributed to this article.
Return to the Dec. 28 issue of Wire to Wire