Will the Florida Sire Stakes produce another champion?
It’s that time again. The time when Florida-bred two-year-olds line up to take part in the Florida Sire Stakes (FSS).
Formerly known as the Florida Stallion Stakes, the summer series of six races took place at Calder for 32 years before being moved to Gulfstream Park, and undergoing a name change, in 2014.
Prior to the changes, the Florida Stallion Stakes had produced six Eclipse Award winners, among them Holy Bull (1994 Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old colt) and Brave Raj (1986 juvenile filly champion).
Most recently, we’ve seen Big Drama (2010 male sprinter champion) and Awesome Feather (2010 juvenile filly champion) go on to bigger and better things after competing in divisions of the series.
Now a new crop of youngsters will try their luck in the FSS, which has been expanded to include divisions for three-year-olds as well.
However, the main focus remains on the original six races: the $200,000 Dr. Fager and Desert Vixen (August 8), $300,000 Affirmed and Susan’s Girl (September 5) and $500,000 In Reality and My Dear Girl (October 3).
All but one already owns at least a maiden win in the Dr. Fager, with Fellowship installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite. The chestnut colt is trained by Stanley Gold and campaigned by Jacks or Better Farm, stalwarts in the FSS for years, and is the only one in the field with prior stakes experience.
That came via a runner-up effort in the July 5 Birdonthewire S. going 5 1/2 furlongs. Fellowship took his debut by four lengths prior to that on May 7, and will be ridden Saturday by Jesus Rios, aboard for those other efforts.
Li’l Meatball drew just inside of Fellowship and is the 3-1 second choice on the morning-line. The David Braddy pupil romped by nine lengths in his career debut on June 21.
Earlier on the program, Ballet Diva is the prohibitive 3-5 choice for the Desert Vixen. Unlike the Dr. Fager, there are four entered who have yet to score, including one who is making her career bow in the six-furlong contest.
Ballet Diva, on the other hand, drew off to a 12-length debut victory on May 28 and followed up July 5 with a 4 1/2-length triumph in the Cassidy S. The Gold/Jacks or Better Farm filly could easily go off at or near her morning-line as the next lowest price is It’s High Time at 5-1.
That Jose Pinchin trainee took her initial start by 7 1/4 lengths but was no match for Ballet Diva when third by eight lengths in the Cassidy last out.
There are 12 total races on Gulfstream’s Saturday program and seven are stakes contests. Kicking off the stakes action will be the $75,000 Jackson Bend H., named for the chestnut who swept the boys division of the FSS in 2009 and would go on to become a multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire.
Next up will be the $75,000 Eight Miles East S., followed by the Desert Vixen, $150,000 Three Ring FSS division for three-year-old fillies, $150,000 Unbridled FSS division for three-year-old colts and geldings, $75,000 Soaring Softly S. and, finally, the Dr. Fager division.