HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Normally one would expect that the presence of a Breeders' Cup and Eclipse Award winner like She Be Wild would limit the size of the field in a race such as the $150,000 Forward Gal Stakes. But that will not be the case at Gulfstream on Sunday, when the recently crowned 2-year-old filly champion lines up against a dozen rivals in the Grade 2 Forward Gal at seven furlongs.
She Be Wild won 4 of 5 starts at distances ranging from 4 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles during her championship campaign. Her only loss came in Keeneland's Grade 1 Alcibiades, when she was beaten a half-length by Negligee. She bounced right back from that setback four weeks later to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies by three-quarters of a length over Beautician.
The Forward Gal will be She Be Wild's first start on dirt. She has had four works over the track in preparation for her return. including a five-furlong bullet in 58.91 seconds here on Jan. 21.
"I'm not really surprised the race drew such a large field," said Wayne Catalano, who trains the homebred She Be Wild for owner Nancy Mazzoni. "My filly has only run on Polytrack, and now she's moving to dirt and she's going shorter - seven furlongs - than she ran in her last several starts. It's also a chance for these other fillies to run in a Grade 2 race."
She Be Wild must also carry high weight of 122 pounds under the allowance conditions of the Forward Gal while conceding from four to six pounds to the rest of the field. Julien Leparoux, who was aboard She Be Wild for the first time in the Juvenile Fillies, again has the call.
She Be Wild is one of nine stakes winners and three graded stakes winners in the Forward Gal lineup. The other graded winners are Ailalea, who captured Aqueduct's Grade 3 Tempted in her 2-year-old finale, and Richiegirlgonewild, upset winner of the Grade 3 Old Hat here three weeks earlier.
Ailalea owns the highest Beyer Speed Figure of this group, having earned an 89 for her 1 1/4-length victory over Mambo Fever in the one mile Tempted. She Be Wild paired up Beyer Figures of 88 in the Alcibiades and Juvenile Fillies.
"It's a big field and a competitive field with a lot of nice fillies in there," said Todd Pletcher, who sends out Ailalea for the Starlight Partners. "Normally you wouldn't anticipate having to run against the Breeders' Cup winner and 11 others. Our filly has trained well and improved with each start. My main concern is that this is a little shorter than her ideal distance, but it's also an ideal starting point for a filly we think can be Oaks caliber."
Pletcher also said he wouldn't alter the late-running Ailalea's style despite the racetrack being speed-favoring of late.
"We'll just let her relax and get comfortable," said Pletcher. "There appears to be a lot of pace in there."
The quickest of that pace appears to be the undefeated Richiegirlgonewild, who remained perfect in three starts after leading throughout to post a one-length upset victory in the six-furlong Old Hat.
Bickersons proved no match for She Be Wild following a wide and unlucky trip in the Juvenile Fillies, but bounced back to win the seven-furlong Moccasin in her next start. She has posted several fast works at Palm Meadows in preparation for her return to dirt.