When Spanish Loveaffair makes her 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream Park, there are two tangibles that play in her favor. First, she is returning to a course over which she went 2 for 2 last summer. Second, she is getting away from Aunt Pearl, the undefeated filly who defeated Spanish Loveaffair in two graded stakes last fall at Keeneland.
The Herecomesthebride, at 1 1/16 miles, is the first of eight stakes on a 14-race card that begins at 11:30 a.m. and concludes nearly seven hours later with the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth for 3-year-olds.
Last summer, Spanish Loveaffair won a maiden race and the Sharp Susan Stakes in a five-week span at Gulfstream. She finished a closing second to the speedy Aunt Pearl in the Grade 2 Jessamine, then finished a wide sixth to that same rival in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Trainer Mark Casse loves the way Spanish Loveaffair has been training for her return, and more so loves the rail draw for his filly, who was parked outside for her two graded stakes tries last fall.
“I like her post,” Casse said. “She’s been training as good, if not better, than ever. I would expect a pretty good effort.”
Spanish Loveaffair, ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, will likely have to run down Con Lima, who is making her fourth start of the winter meet, all for trainer Todd Pletcher. After an allowance win and a victory in the Ginger Brew, Con Lima was run down by White Frost when running second in the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant on Jan. 30.
“She’s in good form and seems to run well every time, so we’re back for another try,” Pletcher said.
The Herecomesthebride also marks the return to the races for Tobys Heart. A daughter of Jack Milton, Tobys Heart won twice sprinting last year, including a victory in the Bolton Landing at Saratoga, a race that produced three next-out winners. Following the Bolton Landing, Tobys Heart needed a few flakes taken out of an ankle, trainer Bryan Lynch said. Lynch believes Tobys Heart will be able to stretch out in distance.
“I’ve tested with her a couple of fillies that I thought would look good in this spot that are two-turn fillies, and she’s worked well with them,” Lynch said.
Lijana, a maiden winner for Cherie DeVaux in her second start, and Designer Ready, third in the Ginger Brew for trainer Barbara Minshall, are other contenders.