HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- R Heat Lightning is a Grade 1 winner and was runner-up to Eclipse Award winner Awesome Feather in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. But it may be the undefeated and as of yet untested Dancinginherdreams who will draw the most support when a field of seven 3-year-old fillies gathers for Sunday's extremely attractive, Grade 2, $200,000 Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Dancinginherdreams won her only two starts at 2 by a combined 10 1/4 lengths, rallying from near the rear of the pack on both occasions to dominate her competition with a breathtaking burst of late speed. Trained by John Ward Jr. for his principal owner John Oxley, Dancinginherdreams has been training forwardly at Palm Meadows for her much-anticipated 3-year-old debut.
"It's a quality field of horses, and if she's going to be vulnerable it's going to be at seven-eighths of a mile against this type of speed," Ward said. "But she's doing good and she'll run her race. I think there should be an honest early pace and it will strictly be up to her rider to figure out how the track is playing and where to place her. He'll have to make his own judgment calls, but I think she'll be rolling at the end and that's what I'm always looking for -- for them to be rolling at the end."
Dancinginherdreams will be ridden by her regular jockey, Julien Leparoux, in the Forward Gal.
Ward said, if all goes well in the Forward Gal, that Dancinginherdreams would likely return here at a mile in the Grade 2 Davona Dale on Feb. 26.
R Heat Lightning rallied to a four-length victory in the Grade 1 Spinaway this summer at Saratoga after which she concluded her juvenile campaign with second-place finishes in both the Frizette and BC Juvenile Fillies. R Heat Lightning disputed all the pace in the Breeders' Cup before succumbing to Awesome Feather in late stretch.
"Obviously, it's a tough race with some high-quality fillies in there," said Todd Pletcher, who trains R Heat Lightning for her breeder the E. Paul Robsham Stable. "John Ward's filly was most impressive in her two starts, but our filly has done extremely well since the Breeders' Cup, she's filled out, gained weight, and her works have been exceptional. Her natural style should have her involved in the race early, which should be helpful, although hopefully she won't get involved in a speed duel."
Devilish Lady will get a class check in the Forward Gal, while bringing a four-race win streak into the race. She has gone virtually unchallenged during a streak that began with a 7 3/4-length victory in Calder's Jack O'Farrell Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 13 and continued with eight- and 6 3/4-length tallies in the Sandpiper and Gasparilla stakes at Tampa.
Alexandra Rylee has won three of her four career starts, including the restricted Brandywine Stakes at Parx Racing in her 2-year-old finale. But, like Devilish Lady, she, too, faces her toughest test to date.
Pomeroys Pistol, runner-up in the Grade 3 Old Hat earlier this month; stakes winner Third Chance, and Evil Queen complete the field.
* The Forward Gal is first leg of the Black-Eyed Susan 2.2, a series which offers a $2.2 million bonus for winning three qualifying races at MID tracks and the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico on May 20. The other local races are the Davona Dale (Feb. 26) and Gulfstream Park Oaks (April 2).