ARCADIA, Calif. (April 30, 2015)–Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella sends out Spirit of Xian in Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 Honeymoon Stakes for 3-year-old fillies with a field of 10 set to go 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
Spirit of Xian will seek her second graded stakes win in a row as she comes off an impressive neck victory after leading throughout in the Grade III Providencia April 4. In her first stateside start for Mandella on Feb. 14, she ran a game third after steadying off heels in a hillside turf sprint, the Sweet Life Stakes.
Spirit of Xian had previously raced in the UK, Ireland and France in only turf sprits prior to the Sweet Life, and after the Providencia Mandella was candid about having had concerns about her distance limitations. “You could see, she meant to be on the lead, and Joe (Talamo) did a great job. I was lacking confidence, and I told Joe, ‘If you’re not sure she can get the last quarter, get off and run yourself.’ He didn’t have to.”
A filly by Kodiac out of the Touch Gold dam Gold Again, Spirit of Xian is owned by Ben Keswick. She is 10-3-0-2 overall with $134,068 in earnings.
Trainer Matt Chew will return his Singing Kitty to turf after a fifth place run in the Grade I, 1 1/16 mile Santa Anita Oaks in which she lost to current Kentucky Oaks favorite, Stellar Wind.
A winner of both the one mile turf Cal Cup Oaks Jan. 24 and the China Doll on March 7, she will be vying for her first graded stakes victory in the Honeymoon.
With two wins from four starts in 2105, Singing Kitty is by Ministers Wild Cat and owned by Chris Aulds and Peter Jeong. She is 9-4-0-0- overall with $243,378 in earnings.
The Jerry Hollendorfer trained Lutine Belle will attempt to return to her Blue Norther Stakes form, a mile turf race in which she won Jan. 1. Fifth in the Grade I Las Virgenes Jan. 31 two starts back and eighth in the April 4 Providencia, her most recent start, Lutine Belle returns to turf for only the third time in an nine race career.
She is owned by KMN Racing, LLC with earnings of $98,950. Jockey Corey Nakatani gains the mount for the first time Sunday.
With all fillies assigned 117 pounds, the Honeymoon Stakes will be run as the eighth race on an eight-race card. Here’s the field, with jockeys in post position order: Screaming Skylar, Victor Espinoza; Spanish Queen, Brice Blanc; Havanna Belle, Rafael Bejarano; Lutine Belle, Corey Nakatani; Sharla Rae, Drayden Van Dyke; Prize Exhibit, Mike Smith; Star Via Strada, Tiago Pereira; Entrechat, Flavien Prat; Spirit of Xian, Joseph Talamo; Singing Kitty, Tyler Baze.
First post time on Sunday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.