The 6-year-old homebred by Limit Out is a two-time stakes winner at Gulfstream, but enters this campaign after two sixth-place finishes last fall.
The winner of the 2007 First Lady as well as the Hurricane Bertie Handicap (G3) that year worked a half-mile in 48 3/5 under jockey Cornelio Velasquez. "She felt great this morning, really smooth,” said Velasquez. “We had a lot of horse out there.”
Velasquez was aboard when Any Limit faded in the one-mile Top Flight Handicap (G2) on Nov. 28 at Aqueduct as well has her wide trip in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G3) on Keeneland’s Polytrack surface in October.
Those efforts were in marked contrast to a pair of graded-stakes sprint wins over the summer in New York in the First Flight Handicap (G3) at Belmont Park and the Honorable Miss Handicap (G2) at Saratoga.
“I don't think she got used to the distance,” said Velasquez of the Top Flight trip. “It was a little long. Then, she didn't like Polytrack all that much and you have to also consider she was going up against some tough competition. She felt really confident and strong going a half -mile today, so I expect some good things to happen."
Any Limit will try to join Eugene Melnyk’s Harmony Lodge in 2002-03 as the only multiple winner of the First Lady in 27 years. Other prominent previous winners include Island Charm, Chaposa Springs, Hurricane Bertie and Sugar Swirl, who last year became the first to sweep Gulfstream’s female-sprint series, which consists of the First Lady, Hurricane Bertie and Inside Information (nee Shirley Jones).
Pletcher Pair Posts Powerful Works
Reigning five-time leading trainer Todd Pletcher drilled his contenders for Gulfstream Park’s most lucrative races for older horses Sunday at Palm Meadows with Dogwood Stable’s Atoned and Stronach Stables’ Harlem Rocker working in company.
“They both worked very well. They were head-and-head,” said Pletcher after both went six furlongs in a handy 1:14 4/5. “It was the solid work we were looking for and they both appear to be in good form.”
Atoned will be up first as the 5-year-old Florida-bred starts in the $1 million OBS Sunshine Millions Classic on Sat., Jan. 24 – the headliner on the annual clash of California and Florida-breds at Gulfstream and Santa Anita Park. The son of Repent is coming off a win in the Pegasus Stakes (G3) at the Meadowlands on Oct. 24.
“Atoned showed last year that on his best day he can compete at the highest levels,” said Pletcher. “We were glad with the Pegasus win. It was the elusive graded stakes. He had been knocking on the door and finally got it.”
Jockey Chris DeCarlo, who rode Atoned to victory in the Pegasus, will be back aboard in the Sunshine Millions. It will be one of his final rides before undergoing shoulder surgery.
“The horse seems to have matured well from his sophomore year,” said Dogwood Stable’s Cot Campbell. “If that is so, he will be dangerous.”
Harlem Rocker, a 4-year-old son of Macho Uno, will be heading into the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) on Jan. 31 where he seeks a Grade 1 victory that he can keep: He was disqualified from an apparent win in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct on Nov. 29. Pletcher is still smarting over the interference call that gave the race to Tale of Ekati.
“The sting is still there,” he said. “Anytime you get DQ’d from a Grade 1 race on something that I consider a borderline call, the sting is going to linger a while, but we were certainly proud of the way he ran.”
Pletcher also worked First Klass Stable’s Leah’s Secret five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 Sunday morning at Palm Meadows ahead of a start in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff at Santa Anita.
The 6-year-old mare by Tiger Ridge won the Top Flight Handicap (G2) at Aqueduct and the Chilukki Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs in her last two starts. She was ninth in the Sunshine Millions Distaff last year at Gulfstream after a slow start.
“She’s always been an energetic workhorse and she showed that once more,” said Pletcher. “One more work for her and she should be headed to California ready to go.”
Stronach-Frankel Entry Likely Choice in Friday Feature
Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel has a small but select division stabled at Gulfstream Park this winter, and has Stronach Stable’s pair of 4-year-old Fidelio and 6-year-old On Board Again among the seven older horses entered in Friday’s optional/allowance feature, each with solid credentials to win.
Frankel named jockey Julien Leparoux on both homebreds by Awesome Again in the seven-furlong test. Fidelio was impressive winning a pair of allowance races at Belmont Park in the spring, but was obviously not on his game when sixth in the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) at Saratoga in late July.
After a break of 2½ months, Fidelio came back in the Perryville Stakes (G3) on Polytrack at Keeneland in October, but tired to sixth after pressing the pace to the far turn. He bounced back with a strong performance last out on Nov. 22 at Churchill Downs when he finished second by a half-length going 6½ furlongs.
On Board Again is very good when on his game with three victories and four seconds from just nine career starts, most recently winning a ‘two other than’ allowance going one mile on a ‘muddy’ track at Aqueduct on Oct. 29.
On Board Again won his career debut here as a 3-year-old early in 2006 for trainer Brian Lynch before being sent to Frankel, and was runner-up in the Pegasus Stakes (G3) at Meadowlands and the Discovery Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct later that year. He did not race again for nearly 15 months until last summer at Saratoga.
The biggest threat to either of the Stronach contenders in Friday’s race should be Lansdon Robbins III’s 4-year-old Ling Ling Qi with jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard for trainer Ken McPeek.. A son of Yonaguska, Ling Ling Qi finished third last out in the Churchill allowance on Nov. 22 when Fidelio was second. He races with ‘blinkers off’ Friday.
Completing the field were Edwin Broome’s Lucky James, C.H. Marquez, Jr.; Two Tone Farms’ Dragon Fi, Jose Lezcano; Luis Olivares’ Green Vegas, Carlos Olivero; and Rose Family Stable’s Rexson’s Rose, Wesley Henry.