A son of Spanish Steps trained by Dale Romans, Little Mike has come back this winter meeting to add two more victories over the Gulfstream course, beginning with a game allowance score on Dec. 22 in his first start since capturing the Appleton Stakes (G3) late in the meet last year on Apr. 3. He ran his record over the course to five wins in six starts going wire-to-wire in the $150,000 Florida Sunshine Million Turf last out on Jan. 28.
Another nominee that would add considerable interest to this 48th running of the Canadian Turf is Harvey Clarke and partners’ 4-year-old Soldat as he prepares for his first start since finishing 11th of 19 behind Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May. 7.
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Soldat also is by War Front and made three starts on turf as a 2-year-old, winning the With Anticipation at Saratoga and finishing second by a length behind Pluck in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs. Soldat emerged as a Kentucky Derby hopeful after winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) by two lengths late last February.
The feature on Sun., Mar. 4 will be the $60,000 Ladies Turf Sprint for fillies and mares at five furlongs on turf and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s 4-year-old Kentucky homebred Holiday for Kitten could be the be the one to beat after a sharp 1 ¾ lengths in an allowance race over the course and distance on Dec. 24.
Trained by Wesley Ward, Holiday for Kitten is by the Ramseys’ champion turf runner and sire Kitten’s Joy and was bouncing back from a very rough trip in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G2) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5 against colts when she was away 12th of 14 and finished ninth with traffic trouble on the short trip. Holiday for Kitten won the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2) at Keeneland in here previous start.
Finishing a close-up fourth behind Holiday for Kitten in the Dec. 24 allowance was Peter Blum Thoroughbreds’ 5-year-old Kentucky homebred mare Inspired. Trained by Allen Iwinski, the chestnut daughter of Unbridled’s Song shipped to New Orleans last month and went wire-to-wire to capture the five-furlong Pan Zareta Stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 21.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will have a solid contender for the Ladies Turf Sprint if he sends out Gainesway Thoroughbreds’ 5-year-old Afleet Lass, a relative newcomer to the barn after being purchased privately before her last start, a wire-to-wire allowance score on the main track on Jan. 25. The daughter of Northern Afleet had won nine of 23 previous starts, including four on turf, for former owner-trainer Jose Pinchin.