Stormy Embrace Prepping For Filly & Mare Sprint In Gulfstream’s Sheer Drama Stakes

Matalona Thoroughbreds’ Stormy Embrace, who earned a fees-paid berth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Churchill Downs Nov. 3 in her most recent start, is scheduled to seek her fourth straight triumph in Saturday’s $100,000 Sheer Drama Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Trained by Kathleen O’Connell, the 4-year-old daughter of Circular Quay set a contested early pace before drawing off to score by six lengths in the Princess Rooney (G2), a seven-furlong ‘Win & You’re In’ sprint for fillies and mares on the June 30 Summit of Speed program at Gulfstream.

O’Connell is also scheduled to saddle Bella Vincenza for a start in Saturday’s seven-furlong stakes for Florida-bred fillies and mares. Pinnacle Racing Stable and Stein Racing’s 4-year-old daughter of Biondetti is also slated to seek her fourth straight victory after winning her first stakes race last time out.

“Both of them have been training super,” said O’Connell, who was two wins away from the 2000-win milestone entering Friday’s program.

O’Connell has opted to take the conservative route to the Breeders’ Cup, staying close to home with the homebred filly, rather than shipping out of town for graded stakes.

“There’s no sense shipping around all over the place, especially with this race coming up at the distance, and she likes the track here,” O’Connell said.

Stormy Embrace finished in the money in nine of her first 14 career starts, including three victories, heading into the 2018 racing season. She won a Jan.21 allowance and finished third in the Feb. 17 Minaret at Tampa Bay Downs, before dominating multiple-stakes winner R Angel Katelyn by nearly five lengths in a March 10 seven-furlong handicap at Tampa. She won her first stakes May 19 in the $100,000 Musical Romance at Gulfstream Park, followed by her stunning Princess Rooney score.

“She’s matured into a better horse than and I thought she’d be. She’d always shown signs of being a nice horse, but she’s had baby issues and growth issues along the way,” O’Connell said. “Thank God, the owners gave me the time to give her. It’s really paid off.”

Antonio Gallardo, who rode her in her March 10 triumph, has been named to replace regular rider Wilmer Garcia, who is out of action with an injury sustained at Monmouth Park.

Bella Vincenza’s emergence as a stakes-winning sprinter coincided with the surface switch from turf to dirt. A daughter of Biondetti, out of a Dixie Union mare, the 4-year-old filly had won twice and finished in the money in seven of 13 starts on turf and one start on a synthetic surface before debuting on dirt with a 4 ½-length triumph in a $16,000 claiming race Jan. 14 at Tampa. She has finished no worse than second in eight starts while ascending the class ladder.

“Part of these fillies is getting to know them and getting to know what they like,” O’Connell said. “Although Bella’s has been good on the turf, she’s a little hard to deal with and maneuver and she doesn’t like to be fought. The distance seven-eighths on the dirt fits her better.”

Bella Vincenza captured the seven-furlong Added Elegance in her most recent start, rating off the pace before kicking in through the stretch to win by 1 ½ lengths. She previously won a state-bred allowance and an optional claiming allowance with the same running style. Luca Panici has ridden her in her last two starts and will be aboard Saturday.

“It takes kind hands, and Luca has faith in her,” O’Connell said.

Starship Bonita, who captured two legs of the FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes series last year, is slated to seek her first victory of the year in the Sheer Drama. Trained by Steve Dwoskin for the Starship Stables, the 3-year-old daughter of Gone Astray, has been stakes-place in all four of her 2018 starts.

Carlos Montalvo has the return mount.

William Rainbow’s Surprise Wedding will seek to rebound from a subpar showing over a sloppy track in the Musical Romance. The David Fawkes-trained 4-year-old daughter of High Cotton has been winless in five starts since nothing a victory over Stormy Embrace in a seven-furlong Florida-bred stakes at Tampa in December.

Yes I’ll Go, Ms Meshak, Oola Gal, Reagan’s Rose, Luna Lunita and Money Or Love round out the field.

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