Among the chief contenders in Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks is House Rules, who will be making her fifth start of the Champions Meet for owner Joseph V. Shields Jr. and trainer Allen Jerkens.
The daughter of Distorted Humor has progressed strongly since arriving in South Florida, finishing second to subsequent stakes winner Please Explain in an 8 1/2-furlong maiden on December 19 before trumping another talented filly in Lucky for You, a dead-heat second last out in the Sunland Park Oaks, by 5 3/4 lengths in a one-mile maiden at Gulfstream on January 17.
"She's improved steadily and we're hoping she can keep it up on Saturday," Jerkens said.
House Rules stepped up in company for the February 22 Davona Dale and chased home the brilliant Onlyforyou on her way to a runner-up finish. The Davona Dale was run at 8 1/2 furlongs, and Jerkens has sent his charge out for a pair of stamina-building breezes in anticipation of the nine-furlong Gulfstream Park Oaks. House Rules worked six furlongs in 1:13 3/5 on March 16 and came back to go seven panels on March 24 in 1:28 1/5.
"She ran a mile-and-a-sixteenth pretty well last time," Jerkens confirmed. "I think with that race behind her and (the fact that) we worked her long a few times, she should be able to go the distance."
Jerkens and Shields have teamed up with several successful runners in the past, including 1998 Jockey Club Gold Cup hero Wagon Limit and 2003 Personal Ensign Handicap winner Passing Shot. The New York natives also fielded Any Limit, a two-time winner of the Hurricane Bertie (2007-09) at Gulfstream Park.
Jerkens became involved with Shields, an investment banker, while participating in another equine activity.
"We were playing polo together at the time at Meadowbrook Club (on Long Island)," Jerkens recalled. "He had horses with other people before. I've been training for him for about 25 years."
Shields purchased House Rules through his friend and advisor Leverett Miller for $90,000 as a yearling at Keeneland. The three-year-old filly is the first registered foal from Teamgeist, who won several Group races in her native Argentina before finishing third in the 2009 Spinster.
Jockey Alex Solis has ridden House Rules in each of her last three outings and will be aboard once more in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.