Grade I winner Daisy Devine, seeking to snap a three-race losing skid, is the clear standout among six older fillies and mares entered in the $100,000 Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the turf June 8 at Churchill Downs.
The winner of the 2012 Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland will carry the top weight of 120 pounds, two to six more than her rivals in the 1 1/16-mile turf test. The Early Times Mint Julep is race 9 on Churchill's Belmont Stakes day card with a scheduled post time of 4:59 p.m. EDT.
James Miller's Daisy Devine, 10-for-20 for nearly $1.1 million in earnings, most recently finished third behind Stephanie's Kitten and Hungry Island in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Presented by Longines (gr. IIT) on Kentucky Derby Day over a Matt Winn Turf Course that was rated "good."
The 5-year-old daughter of Kafwain was third in defense of her Jenny Wiley crown over firm going before that.
"She's been doing great," trainer Andrew McKeever said of the 7-5 morning line choice. "In her last race she was a little out of her style and I think she got labored a little going over that ground. I'm not making excuses, though, for losing to Stephanie's Kitten and Hungry Island."
Daisy Devine is likely to set the pace, but McKeever said she doesn't have to be on the lead.
"If there's a lot of pace, then she won't be on the lead, but if there's no pace, then she probably will be," McKeever said. "We'll see what happens, but we're not going to get in a speed duel."
Brian Hernandez Jr. takes the call on Daisy Devine, replacing regular rider James Graham. They break from post 5.
Four of the six career victories for Bert, Elaine, and Richard Klein's homebred Miz Ida have come in stakes events, including the Pin Oak Valley View Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland in 2012. In her 4-year-old debut, the 4-year-old Proud Citizen filly finished second behind Exclusive Love for trainer Steve Margolis in an allowance/optional claiming event on the Churchill turf May 12.
"She ran a good race off the layoff and hopefully she'll move forward," Margolis said. "I love the way she's been training and she couldn't be doing any better. We're looking forward to the race.
"We know Daisy Devine is tough and Colonial Flag is a very good horse," Margolis added. "Daisy Devine is the horse to beat. She's a proven grade I and grade II winner."
Lally Stable's Heavenly Landing exits the same one-mile race at Churchill Downs having finished third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths. Winner of the 2012 Marshua's River Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park, the 6-year-old Pulpit mare finished second by a neck to Bizzy Caroline for trainer Eddie Kenneally after setting the pace in last year's Early Times Mint Julep Handicap.
Skara Glen Stables, W. S. Farish, and George Prussin's Colonial Flag will be making her 4-year-old debut for trainer Michael Matz. Winner of the Ontario Colleen Stakes (Can-IIIT) at Woodbine last August, Colonial Flag has not started since finishing third behind Centre Court and Leading Astray in the Mrs. Revere Stakes (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs in November.
Soft Whisper (6-1), who is coming off a 1 1/4-length allowance victory on the Churchill turf May 3, and Run a Risk (15-1), a two-time winner and runner-up to Miz Ida in last year's Indiana Downs Distaff Stakes, complete the field.
$100,000 Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 9, 4:59 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Colonial Flag (KY), J Rocco Jr., 118, M R Matz, 9/2
2. Run a Risk (KY), V Lebron, 114, G R Arnold II, 15/1
3. Miz Ida (KY), S Bridgmohan, 117, S Margolis, 2/1
4. Heavenly Landing (KY), C J Lanerie, 117, E Kenneally, 5/1
5. Daisy Devine (KY), B J Hernandez Jr., 120, A McKeever, 7/5
6. Soft Whisper (KY), J L Castanon, 115, D R Vance, 6/1