BY BROCK SHERIDAN
Averill Racing and Two Eight Racing LLC’s R Harper Rose, who dominated special weight maidens in her career debut, will make her second start Saturday at Gulfstream Park in the $100,000 Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Florida Sire Stakes Desert Vixen. The six-furlong Desert Vixen has eight 2-year-old fillies by FTBOA registered stallions and eligible for the lucrative Florida Sire Stakes program and is the co-feature with $100,000 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes Dr. Fager for colts and gelding at the same distance.
The Dr. Fager and Desert Vixen are the first of three legs in their respective divisions in the Florida Sire Stakes series for juveniles that will resume Oct. 21 at Gulfstream with the $200,000 Affirmed for colts and gelding and the $200,000 Susan’s Girl for fillies, both at seven furlongs. Also on Oct. 21 is the $100,000 Gil Campbell Memorial Handicap for Florida-bred 3-year-olds and older at one mile. The Gil Campbell also offers a $50,000 bonus to be paid on a 60%-30%-10% basis to the top three finishers eligible for the Florida Sire Stakes.
The series for 2-year-olds concludes on Dec. 2 at Gulfstream with the $300,000 In Reality for colts and geldings and the $300,000 My Dear Girl for fillies, both at a mile-and-a-sixteenth.
“The FTBOA’s Florida Sire Stakes program is by far our most popular and highest-profile stakes offering,” FTBOA CEO Lonny Powell said. “The Florida Sire Stakes 2-year-old series is the highlight of the year for Florida breeders, owners and trainers.
“Though it was not our priority to move these races from the traditional dates, the horsemen were confident that later developing juveniles will enhance competitive fields and carry that momentum into their 3-year-old campaigns. To us, this was worth the dates shift experiment.”
Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., R Harper Rose had a clear lead at every point of call against maiden special weight fillies going five-and-a-half furlongs on a muddy track at Gulfstream on Aug. 5 and easily won by six-and-a-quarter lengths with Edgard Zayas aboard.
“She trained like a good horse, but obviously they have to show it on race day,” Joseph said. “She ran even better than she trained. We never let her run in the morning. We worked her with nice horses before she ran. Each time, she was well in hand.
“She’s come back with two easy works. She makes everything easy. She’s fast and she’s talented. She’s in good order,” Joseph said. “She’s uncomplicated. She’ll work however you want to work her, as fast as you want, as slow as you want. She has a good mind.”
The daughter of Journeyman Stud’s leading Florida Sire Khozan is out of True Bliss, by Yes It’s True and was bred in Florida by Sally J. Andersen. R Harper Rose will try to become the second winner of the Desert Vixen for Khozan, who sired Go Jo Jo Go, winner of the 2020 edition.
Averill Racing purchased R Harper Rose out of the 2023 Ocala Breeders’ Sale March Sale earlier this year where she was consigned by GOP Racing Stable. She also passed through the OBS auction ring as a yearling in October of 2022 when Pro Racing selected her out of the Kaizen Sales consignment for $16,000.
She has earned $46,000 in her lone start.
Zayas gets the return mount on R Harper Rose and they will break from post three.
Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. also brings a promising filly to the Desert Vixen in Epona’s Hope, a daughter of Ocala Stud stallion Adios Charlie, who will be making her third career start.
Epona’s Hope won her first career start by a half-length against Florida-bred maiden special weight fillies over a sloppy four-and-a-half furlongs at Gulfstream in early June before stepping up against stakes company for her next start.
Despite an eventful trip that started with being bumped at the start of the $90,000 Sharp Susan going six furlongs at Gulfstream on Aug. 13, Epona’s Hope raced well to finish third behind winner Let Them Watch.
Epona’s Hope is out of the Florida-bred Trippi mare Alotofappeal, who has also produced stakes-winners B C’s Train and King Cab; graded stakes-placed Schivarelli and Talk Logistics; and stakes-placed Sonoma Crush and Big Rings.
Epona’s Hope was bred in Florida by Ocala Stud, Edward Weist and William J. Terrill and was consigned by Ocala Stud to the OBS March Sale where current owners Laurie Plesa, Leon Ellman and Glassman Racing took her for $295,000. She has earned $43,644 in her two starts.
Epona’s Hope has drawn the outside post eight and Edgar Perez gets the return mount.
Soldi Stable LLC’s homebred Welcome Back comes into the Desert Vixen after taking her lone start against winners on the Gulfstream Park synthetic course. The daughter of Adios Charlie won by a length-and-three-quarters in a non-winners of two, $75,000 optional claiming for fillies going five furlongs on July 29 after rallying from last of six with Edwin Gonzalez aboard, earning $31,200.
Welcome Back is trained by Jose D’Angelo and Gonzalez again as the riding assignment. Welcome Back will depart from post four.
The remainder of the field for the Desert Vixen includes Fields of Green with Hector Diaz named to ride, Kitty’s Pretty with Leonel Reyes up, Mist and jockey Emisael Jaramillo, Samy Leon rides Florindia and She Has Class with Miguel Vasquez in the irons.