Multiple Grade 3 winner Rose to Gold, three-year-old winner of the Fantasy and Honeybee at Oaklawn earlier this year, returns to action on Saturday in the $100,000 My Charmer Handicap, one of a trio of Grade 3 events highlighting a nine-race program at Calder.
Sidelined since early May after having surgery to remove bone chips, the connections of Rose to Gold have selected a difficult spot for her return. The My Charmer is scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on turf, a surface she has never run over before. It's also attracted a very deep group that includes graded stakes winners Strathnaver and Somali Lemonade.
Last seen finishing eighth of 10 in the Kentucky Oaks, Rose to Gold has some things going for her. A descendant of Grade 1 turf winner Antespend on her sire's side, she has thrived in previous outings over sloppy surfaces which is often an indicator of potentially liking grass. Rose to Gold romped by 13 lengths in her debut at Calder last summer in the slop, and zipped to a 4 1/2-length victory in the Fantasy in her penultimate start.
The versatile Strathnaver figures to be a prominent contender. Winner of the 1 1/2-mile Bewitch in her second U.S. start, the Graham Motion trainee successfully shortened up to 1 1/16 miles when taking the $100,000 Lady Baltimore at Laurel two starts back. She exits a fourth in the 12-furlong Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct where she chased a tepid pace set by longshot winner Inimitable Romanee.
Multiple Grade 3 winner Somali Lemonade has not been particularly consistent over the past couple of years, but did earn her first stakes win since 2011 when taking the July 2 Dr. James Penny Memorial at Parx. However, the Michael Matz was subsequently unplaced three times in the Ballston Spa, Flower Bowl Invitational and Cardinal Handicap.
Coup, who took the $100,000 Hilltop at Pimlico in 2012 before going to the sidelines for 16 months, made a successful return to the track when taking a second-level allowance at Keeneland in October. Also trained by Motion, the four-year-old daughter of Empire Maker races in the familiar green and white silks of breeder George Strawbridge.
Another Grade 3 winner in the field is Naples Bay. Though winless since taking the Noble Damsel at Belmont in September 2012, the Christophe Clement trainee was a close fifth in the same race last time after stumbling at the start, and was previously a solid second in the Matchmaker at Monmouth Park.
Entering the My Charmer on winning streaks are Parranda, who landed the Millions Filly & Mare Turf Preview and Our Dear Peg at Gulfstream in her last two, and Angelica Zapata, who's won the Capano Handicap, Wasted Tears and Nancy's Glitter Handicap in her last three.
Awesome Flower, a stakes winner at Canterbury and Presque Isle Downs earlier this year, returns to the turf after finishing a belated third in the Chilukki at Churchill Downs.
Older males will also have a chance to travel nine furlongs on the Calder turf Saturday in the Grade 3, $100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap.
Philly Ace, sidelined since taking the 2012 Tropical Turf by a half-length, will square off against Bad Debt, who exits a romping 6 1/2-length win in the Millions Turf Preview at Gulfstream and who is undefeated in two starts on the Calder turf.
Others likely to attract support are Heiko, who captured the $100,000 The Vid at Gulfstream in early September; Paris Vegas and Tetradrachm, second and third, respectively, in the Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga in August; and Clement's Group 3 winner Speaking of Which.
Entered for the main track only in the Tropical Turf are Grade 3 winners Csaba and Ducduc, who also hold entries in the Grade 3, $100,000 Fred W. Hooper Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. The pair dead-heated for the win in the 2012 Hooper, but have gone their separate ways since then. Csaba has won three stakes and a recent Calder allowance by 7 1/4 lengths in the interim, while Ducduc has seen his form decline since a turf allowance win in June.
Other potential contenders in the Hooper are the three-year-olds Sr. Quisqueyano, who beat Csaba by more than two lengths in the $100,000 Quality Road at Gulfstream in early October, and Valid, who coasted by more than 23 lengths in the slop in a Gulfstream allowance two weeks ago.