HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – He trained her mother to be a Grade 1 winner, and Barclay Tagg feels Caroline Thomas can be the same kind of filly. The first step in finding out comes on Saturday, when she kicks off her 4-year-old campaign in the $150,000 Suwannee River (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
“She’s been training very well and we’re very pleased with her progress,” Tagg said. “We gave her a little time off after her campaign last year and freshened her up a little bit. She’s been coming around very nicely, and this race kind of fits into how we want to get her started.”
A daughter of Giant’s Causeway, Caroline Thomas is bred and owned by Joyce Young, who also co-owned and bred Bit of Whimsy, the dam of Caroline Thomas who was a multiple graded stakes winner including the QE II in 2007.
“She comes from a very good family,” Tagg said. “Her owner has been with us for a very, very long time and we’ve had a lot of success together. She’s a small breeder, but she knows how to do it. She’s a very nice filly, so we expect a lot from her. Her owner likes to race, so we’ll be able to keep her racing as long as she’s sound. Hopefully, she’ll get better and better.”
Caroline Thomas had one win and three thirds from eight starts in 2013, beaten a nose in the Lake Placid (G2) at Saratoga Race Course last August but elevated to first on the disqualification of Nellie Cashman. From there she was seventh, four lengths behind Alterite, in the Garden City (G1) prior to the QE II.
“We’ve been pretty high on her,” Tagg said. “The racing is so tough that you can get beaten five times in a row and still run brilliant races. She’s been holding her own and she’s put in some really nice races for us. One of them she backed into was a Grade 2 and that was nice, but she still ran a winning race that day I thought. She’s got a lot of quality.”
Another closer in the field is Phipps Stable homebred Abaco, trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey. Now 6, she opened the year rallying to be fourth as a favorite, beaten 1 ½ lengths, in the Marshua’s River (G3) at Gulfstream on Jan. 4.
“She’s doing fine. She came out of the race good and she’s training good,” McGaughey said. “I think she’ll make a good account of herself.”
Abaco ended her 2013 campaign by winning the Cardinal Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs at the Suwannee River distance. To make her late run, she had come wide in the Marshua’s River which is run at 1 1/16 miles.
“She had an outside post and was wide the whole way,” McGaughey said. “The little extra distance will help her, so hopefully we’ll get a little bit better trip.”
Making her North American debut in the Suwannee River is Riposte, the English-bred daughter of Dansili who won a Group 2 stakes at Ascot last summer and was fifth in a pair of Group 1 races, all at 1 ½ miles. She cuts back to nine furlongs for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
“She has been here since November,” said Mott, who is based at Payson Park. “If she likes firm ground, she’d be more likely to get it here than in Europe. Most of her works here have been on the dirt, and I would say they’ve been good since she’s had to work on the main track.”
Also entered are Parranda, hero of the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf at Gulfstream on Jan. 18; multiple stakes winner Nicki Starshine, third behind Parranda in the FM Turf; Ainsley, who has captured two straight off-the-turf races at Calder; Abbey Street, a late-running fifth in a one-mile optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream on Jan. 12; and the Niall Seville-trained Malibu Yankee.