The 28th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss Handicap drew a formidable field of ultra-consistent contenders, including Lael Stables' Chalon and Mia Mischief, in the six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares 3-year-old and up at Saratoga Race Course.
Chalon has earned Beyer Speed Figures in excess of 90 in each of her last five starts, including a 92 after running second to Separationofpowers in the Grade 3 Bed o' Roses Invitational on June 7 at Belmont.
||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
||Ricardo Santana, Jr.
||Minit to Stardom
||Ours to Run
The Dialed In mare is 6-6-1 in 15 career starts, including four stakes wins. After capping her 4-year-old year with a second-place finish by a head to Shamrock Rose in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs, the Arnaud Delacour trainee started the current campaign with a two-length win in the six-furlong Skipat on May 17 at Pimlico. Overall, Chalon is 4-2-1 in seven starts at the Honorable Miss distance.
"She came back from her last race in good shape and we've been aiming for this one," Delacour said. "I like this spot better because it fits better than seven [furlongs]. She's been training well heading in and I'm excited to see her back. It looks like she' back in good form and ready to try again this year."
Chalon will be making her second start at Saratoga and first since running fourth in the 2017 Grade 1 Test. She has won at five different tracks, including Belmont, Santa Anita, Monmouth Park, Laurel Park and Pimlico.
"Now that she's an older mare, she's a pro at it," Delacour said. "Wherever we run her, her [mindset is], 'OK, now we have work to do.' Hopefully, we run on a good track. The last time, she broke a bit slow and that's usually not her running style. She's usually right there and just off the speed. I hope we can have a better trip this time."
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who has been aboard for her last four starts, including a runner-up by a head to Golden Mischief in the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America in October at Keeneland, will have the return engagement from post 2 carrying 120 pounds.
"Javier knows her very well," Delacour said. "It's going to be a pretty tough race and pretty competitive. But we'll take them on and see what happens."
Two-time graded stakes winner Mia Mischief will be looking for her third consecutive victory following a three-quarter length score in the Roxelana Overnight on June 22 at Churchill. Conditioned by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Mia Mischief will be returning to graded stakes company for the first time since besting a seven-horse Grade 1 Humana Distaff field by 1 ¾ lengths on May 4 at Churchill, earning a 99 Beyer.
The 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief is 7-6-0 in 15 career starts. She has finished first or second in six of her last seven races, with her only off-the-board effort coming in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare sprint, where she ran ninth.
Following a four-month freshening, Mia Mischief, owned by William and Corinne Heiligbrodt, Heider Family Stables and Madaket Stables, bested optional claimers at six furlongs on March 3 at Oaklawn Park and returned to stakes action by finishing second to fellow Honorable Miss contender Ours to Run in the Carousel on April 6 at the same track before her recent winning streak.
Ricardo Santana, Jr. will have the call for the 15th straight time on Mia Mischief, breaking from post 4 carrying the 123-pound highweight.
Tobey Morton's Pacific Gale, fourth last out in the Bed o' Roses, has been close to earning her first graded stakes win, recording a pair of runner-up efforts in graded stakes in her four starts this year. The 4-year-old Flat Out mare ran second to Come Dancing in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Distaff on April 5 at Aqueduct Racetrack and was second, by a neck, to Heavenhasmynikki in the 6 ½-furlong Grade 3 Vagrancy on May 11 at Belmont.
All three of Pacific Gale's three career wins have come at six furlongs or shorter. She will also pick up jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.'s services for the first time, breaking from post 1 carrying 116 pounds.
"This filly has good, tactical speed," trainer John Kimmel said. "I'm almost sure that a little shorter is better than seven-eighths. Three-quarters is probably her optimal distance. I don't think the filly could be doing any better."
Honey Bunny is the field's most experienced entrant, with 32 career starts and a 14-5-4 ledger to her credit entering Wednesday. The veteran horse has teamed with a young trainer, 33-year-old John Ortiz, who assisted trainers such as Hall of Famer Bill Mott as well as Graham Motion and Barclay Tagg before going out on his own in 2016.
After winning his first graded stakes in 2018 with Zulu Alpha in the Grade 3 Sycamore, Honey Bunny gave Ortiz his second, capturing the Winning Colors on May 25 at Churchill. The horse-trainer duo will now look for their first respective wins at Saratoga.
"This filly, she's proven herself that she can be up here and can compete with the best fillies in the country," Ortiz said. "She was just a length short of winner her last start in the Roxelana so we're going to give her a shot here. It's a Grade 2, and nowhere better to do it than here."
Honey Bunny has already made eight starts in her 5-year-old year. The Tapizar mare has made a habit of tracking the speed, which her conditioner said is her preferred trip.
"She has become adaptable," Ortiz said. "She has always been kind of a funny filly to ride. She wouldn't pass horses. We finally got her going once we put her in the starters. We like her to go out of the gate, but she usually just settles behind the speed and that's what we're going to do. There's going to be more speed in this race again so just break with intent and settle and pick up the pieces at the end."
Carrying 118 pounds, Honey Bunny will break from post 3 with Joel Rosario.
Colonel Thoroughbreds' Ours to Run has won six in a row, all in listed stakes, and will step up to graded stakes company for the first time. The 5-year-old daughter of Half Ours, trained by Larry Jones, bested Mia Mischief in the Carousel and extended her winning streak when heading a seven-horse field in the Louisiana Legends Mademoiselle on May 25 at Evangeline.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will be the irons from post 6 with Ours to Run carrying 119 pounds.
Rounding out the field is Brittlyn Stable's Minit to Stardom, who last ran at Saratoga in her previous graded stakes appearance, running sixth in the Grade 1 Test last August. Trained by Jose Camejo, the 4-year-old Star Guitar filly enters off two consecutive wins and will again have the services of jockey Alex Cintron, drawing post 5 carrying 114 pounds.
Pacific Gale looking strong for G2 Honorable Miss
Pacific Gale is training well heading into the Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss Handicap for Wednesday, July 24, trainer John Kimmel said.
Pacific Gale, fourth last out in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Bed o' Roses Invitational on June 7 at Belmont Park, will be cutting back to the Honorable Miss's distance of six furlongs and will pick up the services of jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. for the first time.
"Right now, she's sitting on go," Kimmel said. "She'll have a new pilot with Irad. I just think she didn't run her A race the last time. But I think coming into this race, she's doing really well."
On Wednesday, Pacific Gale recorded her second four-furlong breeze on Saratoga's Oklahoma training track since shipping from Belmont Park earlier this month, stopping the clock in 50.94 seconds.
"She's doing really well. It's looking like six or seven horses now and I guess Mia Mischief will be the probable," Kimmel said. "I think it's time. She's been knocking on the door."
The 4-year-old Flat Out mare has registered a pair of runner-up efforts in graded stakes in her four starts this year, including a second to Come Dancing in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Distaff on April 5 at Aqueduct Racetrack, earning a personal-best 98 Beyer Speed Figure. She earned a 94 for her hard-closing second, by a neck, to Heavenhasmynikki in the 6 ½-furlong Grade 3 Vagrancy on May 11 at Belmont.
Among the listed probables for the Honorable Miss are Mia Mischief, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen; Chalon; Dawn the Destroyer; Honey Bunny; and Ours to Run.
Chester and Mary Broman's Mr. Buff will make his next start in a stakes at Saratoga, with Kimmel saying the $100,000 Evan Shipman for New York-breds on August 7 remaining the targeted spot as a pathway to the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on August 31.
Kimmel said the 5-year-old three-time stakes winner could possibly run in the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on August 3 under the right circumstances.
"We'll nominate him for the Whitney, but it's either the Evan Shipman to the Woodward or the Whitney, if it all falls apart," Kimmel said. "But he's doing excellent."
The Evan Shipman is contested at 1 1/8 miles, will be the same distance as the Jazil, which he won by 5 ¼ lengths on January 26 at the Big A. Since winning the Alex M. Robb in his return to stakes company in December, Mr. Buff has won three times in five starts and finished third once, where he ran behind Giant Expectations and Pat on the Back in the Commentator on May 27 at Belmont, following a ninth-place effort in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on March 23 at Fair Grounds.
The Friend or Foe gelding is coming off a 6 ¼-length score in the Saginaw on June 30 at Belmont, earning a 100 Beyer in drawing away for the 1 1/6-mile route on Big Sandy.