Last year, Heavenly Landing made a triumphant 2012 debut by rallying from ninth place early on to stun the field and win the Grade 3 Marshua's River by a nose at 19-1 odds.
Unfortunately, that auspicious season start didn't translate into a successful year for the then five-year-old mare, who didn't win again until her last race last year at Keeneland, on October 5th, against allowance-level competition.
Trainer Eddie Kenneally and jockey Corey Lanerie are looking to start this year with Heavenly Landing and a repeat win at this race.
Her last two workouts for the race here at Gulfstream have been excellent—going 1:00.1 and 1:00.4 for five furlongs over the turf, suggesting she is primed to defend her title.
She probably won't be the favorite, once again this year, but if she wins, it will not be a long shot like she was last year.
Heavenly Landing will share the top weight assignment of 121 pounds with likely favorite Leading Astray, who will be making her Gulfstream Park debut.
Leading Astray, who is trained by Chris Block and will be ridden by Jose Lezcano for the first time, has never finished worse than third in eight career starts, while winning five.
On her last race, she was a very game second to Centre Court—who would be favored here. She was in tight quarters at the rail by the seven-eights pole and had to manage some running room, which could have cost her a better placement.
She has been working great for this race the past month over the Gulfstream's turf course, and her consistency makes her the top betting choice.
Channel Lady is the representative with the top connection of trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Javier Castellano, who rode her to victory three starts ago over allowance company at Saratoga, last September.
This is a lightly raced mare. Three-time winner in five career starts. She will step up to graded stakes competition, but so far her races show she can handle the move up.
The 90 Beyer figure on her last race over the Aqueduct turf at this distance is the best of the group for the most recent starts, and she has experience winning at this distance here last January.
Chokurei (IRE) goes for her fifth start in America and has been inching closer to a win with every start.
She is a four-time winner in Europe, and in her last race, she rallied from being 12th, and 13 lengths behind with 3.5 furlongs to go, and finished second by a neck to Romacaca at the South Beach Stakes last December 9.
Jockey Joe Bravo repeats the mount and should be a factor in the home stretch.
Frontside and Fantasy of Flight should provide plenty pace-setting speed. Both will be ridden by big-time jockeys, Joel Rosario and John Velazquez respectively.
Frontside's wins have all been gate-to-wire affairs, and has yet to win from stalking the leader. She will likely have the lead early going thanks to being on the inside of Fantasy of Flight, but will not have an easy lead.
Her last race at the South Beach Stakes, she set the pace but tired badly in the stretch finishing eighth.
Fantasy of Flight has been able to settle behind the pace-setter twice and win. This will be her debut over the turf surface and needs to rebound from a very disappointing effort at the Go for Wand Handicap, where she finished last by almost 13 lengths.
Hard Not to Like will make her first start since the Kentucky Oaks last year. She underwent surgery last summer to remove a chip from her knee and was transferred to Michael Matz's barn.
Because of this, she only ran twice last year, although both Grade 1 races running against top competition. The concern with her going into the race is her form, as her recent works don't show she is primed yet.
Frolic's Revenge, Affair Dabbler and Filare l'Oro complete the field.
Gulfstream Park | 10th Race | Post Time: 5:05 p.m. ET
Marshua's River Stakes | Grade 3 | Purse: $100,000
Distance: 8.5 furlongs on Turf
|1||Leading Astray ||4/F ||Jose Lezcano ||Chris M. Block ||3/1|
|2||Chokurei (IRE) ||5/M ||Joe Bravo ||Mark Frostad ||6/1|
|3||Frolic's Revenge ||4/F ||Luis Saez ||Milton W. Wolfson ||12/1|
|4 ||Affair Dabbler ||5/M ||Jozbin Z. Santana ||David C. Kassen ||12/1|
|5 ||Heavenly Landing ||6/M ||Corey j. Lanerie ||Eddie Kenneally ||5/1|
|6 ||Channel Lady ||4/F ||Javier J. Castellano ||Todd A. Pletcher ||4/1|
|7 ||Frontside ||5/M ||Joel Rosario ||Eduardo Caramori ||8/1|
|8 ||Filare l'Oro ||4/F ||Alan Garcia ||Michael V. Pino ||20/1|
|9 ||Hard Not to Like ||4/F ||Joseph S. Rocco Jr ||Michael R. Matz ||8/1|
|10 ||Fantasy of Flight ||5/M ||John R. Velazquez ||Richard E. Dutrow Jr ||8/1|
Morning Line odds by drf.com.