A pair of fillies that have spent time chasing the likes of 2-year-old filly champion Indian Blessing and Fair Grounds Oaks (Grade II) winner Proud Spell have the opportunity in Saturday’s $150,000 Bonnie Miss at Gulfstream Park to stamp themselves as major contenders for the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks (GI).

Briarwood Stable’s Highest Class, third to that pair in the Silverbulletday (GIII), and Paul Pompa Jr.’s Backseat Rhythm, also third to that duo in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), head a field of seven 3-year-old fillies entered in the 1 1/8-mile Bonnie Miss, one of the highlights on the undercard of the $1 million Florida Derby (GI) at Gulfstream.

Highest Class is a daughter of Mineshaft trained by Neil Howard.  Her most recent win was an allowance victory at Fair Grounds in which she defeated Eight Belles, the Honeybee (GIII) winner who is now one of the favorites for the Kentucky Oaks.  She finished third to Jolie the Cat in the one-mile Tiffany Lass and then ran third in the 1 1/16-mile Silverbulletday.

“Obviously we’d love to go the Kentucky Oaks and, if she’s Oaks material, this race will give us the answer we’re looking for,” said Howard.  “We’re extremely happy with her.”

Backseat Rhythm finished a troubled third in an allowance on grass in her 2008 debut for trainer Patrick Reynolds.  Along with her run in the Breeders’ Cup, the daughter of El Corredor finished second to Indian Blessing in the Frizette at Belmont Park.

The Bonnie Miss field includes (from the rail with jockey): Overandabeauty (Kent Desormeaux), Backseat Rhythm (Javier Castellano), Shes All Eltish (Eddie Castro), Halo Hollie (Cornelio Velasquez), Classy Concern (Ariel Smith), Robbie’s Gal (Jose Lezcano), and Highest Class (John Velazquez).

PROUD SPELL A LATE NOMINEE TO TRIPLE CROWN – Former Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones has shelled out $6,000 to make 3-year-old filly Proud Spell a late nominee to face males the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and Triple Crown.

The daughter of Proud Citizen, who won the Fair Grounds Oaks and handed champion Indian Blessing her first career loss, is one of the favorites for the Kentucky Oaks and is scheduled to start in the Ashland (GI) at Keeneland on April 5 for trainer J. Larry Jones.

“We have so much respect for (Kentucky Derby favorite) Pyro, and the fact that she ran a better Beyer and Sheet number than he did at the same distance on Louisiana Derby (GII) day speaks very highly of her,” said Brereton Jones.  “We just want to keep all avenues open if she runs a big race in the Ashland.”

Late nominations to the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown close on Saturday, March 29.

IRISH SMOKE BACK IN TRAINING – Spinaway (GI) winner Irish Smoke, away from racing since the fall, is back in training for a new stable – but she is not a candidate for the Kentucky Oaks.

Now trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., Irish Smoke has worked twice at Aqueduct and Dutrow said the long-term goal for the filly is the Test (GI) at seven furlongs at Saratoga.

Irish Smoke was previously trained by Patrick Biancone.

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