On July 15, the Jonathan Thomas-trained 3-year-old filly Empress Tigress won the Coronation Cup, a turf sprint at Saratoga, and the next afternoon, Benbang, another Thomas-trained 3-year-old filly, won the Blue Sparkler, a turf sprint at Monmouth. Empress Tigress, who is working steadily, took a slight step back about a month later finishing second in the Galway at Saratoga, and Benbang makes her first start since the Blue Sparkler when she races Friday night at The Meadowlands in the $75,000 Honey Bee Stakes.
The Honey Bee, carded for five furlongs on grass, drew 11 entrants, and Benbang likely will be favored under Isaac Castillo. Benbang, a Shanghai Bobby filly campaigned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, has other form to back up her Blue Sparkler score. She showed ability last year in three starts at age 2, when Thomas raced her in blinkers. With blinkers removed this season, Benbang was second in a Monmouth dirt sprint in her 2022 debut and won an off-turf Monmouth allowance race before going wire to wire in the Blue Sparkler. She posted four works during September after not working for about seven weeks following her most recent race and will have to break well from an inside draw if she is to deploy her typical front-running style.
The other plausible favorite is Makin My Move, whose most recent start came Aug. 11 at Saratoga, where she was fourth in the Galway, about two lengths behind Empress Tigress. Makin My Move beat older New York-bred second-level allowance rivals before the solid Galway run and with an outside draw and a stalking-pressing style, she’s in line for a better trip than Benbang might get. Trainer John Kimmel has gotten steady Saratoga turf work into Makin My Move for this start, and the filly, by Carpe Diem, could offer a hint of value as the second choice.
Tasweya is drawn on the far outside but has some upset potential. She was a course-and-distance debut winner a year ago at The Meadowlands, the only turf sprint of her career, and a pair of commendable grass runs earlier this year came over two-turn trips possibly a little farther than ideal for this filly. Tasweya has been freshened by trainer Michael Pino and would need plenty of luck to overcome post 11 and win.
Ulikeapples and Rambert are pace players who could make things tough on Benbang, while Kodama figures to garner some betting support. Kodama has faced older horses her last four starts and beat them in her last two, climbing the class ladder with first- and second-level allowance-race scores at Delaware Park.
The Honey Bee is carded as race 5 of 6 on Friday night, post time set for 8:52 p.m. Eastern.