Centre Court returned to racing after a four-month layoff Saturday and set a stakes record in winning the $150,000 Honey Fox Stakes (Grade 3) at Gulfstream Park.
In her first race since Nov. 17, the 4-year-old Centre Court beat Samitar by 1 3/4 lengths and ran the one-mile turf race in 1:33.19. Frontside finished third, a neck behind Samitar.
With her regular jockey Julien Leparoux riding, Centre Court broke the stakes record of 1:33.40 that Wasted Tears set in 2010.
The Honey Fox has been run at one mile on turf most years in its 29-year history.
Saturday’s win continued a remarkable record for Centre Court since June 2012. She has raced six times since then, all in graded-turf stakes, with four wins and two second-place finishes.
George “Rusty” Arnold, Centre Court’s trainer said, “She had trained spectacularly up at Palm Meadows [in Boynton Beach]. We were confident that she would run well.
“It was her first trip against 4-year-olds and older fillies, She’s pretty special, I think.”
Centre Court was the 2-1 favorite in the eight-horse Honey Fox field and was one of seven entrants that won at least one stakes race.
Frontside, at 29-1, led through a half mile in 47.25 seconds. Pianist, at 5-2 was 1 1/2 lengths back in second.
Centre Court was fourth, three lengths behind the leader and near the rail.
Leparoux moved Centre Court to the outside coming around the turn. She took the lead about 200 yards from the wire and edged away.
“Last year she was a handful to ride, but [Saturday] she was nice and relaxed,” Leparoux said. “I think she matured and is better from last year.”
Arnold said that Centre Court’s next race will be the Jenny Wiley, a Grade 1 turf stakes at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.
G. Watts Humphrey Jr., her breeder and owner, lives in the Lexington area.
Centre Court is a daughter of Smart Strike, who did most of his racing on turf and is best known as the sire of the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Curlin.
Centre Court’s stakes wins last year established her as a rising star among turf fillies,
She won the Regret (Grade 3) and Mrs. Revere (Grade 2) at Churchill Downs and the Lake George (Grade 2) at Saratoga.
On Sunday, Gulfstream will have the $150,000 Inside Information Stakes (Grade 2) at seven furlongs on dirt for fillies and mares 4 years old and up.
The likely favorite is Golden Mystery, who will be racing for her regular trainer Marty Wolfson and her new owner Regis Farms.
Golden Mystery won the Hurricane Berite (Grade 3) at 6 1/2 furlongs at Gulfstream on Feb. 10.
Before that race, owners Rob and Myron Wilson of Palm Beach decided to sell Golden Mystery at a Fasig-Tipton sale in Lexington.
In the Hurricane Bertie winner’s circle, Wolfson said he hoped that the buyer would continue to race Golden Mystery for the rest of this year and wait a year to retire her for breeding.
Things turned out to his liking.
Regis Farms paid $625,000 for Golden Mystery and put her back in training with Wolfson at Calder Casino & Race Course.
Will Take Charge and Oxbow, both trained by D. Wayne Lukas, finished first and second on Saturday in the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (Grade 2) at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark..
Will Take Charge rallied from fourth place and beat his stablemate by a head in the race that was a point qualifying prep for the Kentucky Derby, which will be run May 4.
Will Take Charge was ridden by Jon Court and won the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:45.18.
The win was worth 50 points in the Kentucky Derby qualifing system. Will Take Charge leads with 60 points, Oxbow earned 20 points and is sixth with 36 points.
Lukas has trained four Kentucky Derby winners, most recently Charismatic in 1999.