Afleeting Lady, second to Royal Delta in the Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) last month, tops a field of nine entered for the $200,000 Molly Pitcher (gr. II) at Monmouth Park July 29.
The 1 1/16-mile test for fillies and mares is Race 11 on a stakes-packed card that features the $1 million Haskell Invitational (gr. I), with an approximate post of 5:08 p.m. EDT. This year's Molly Pitcher includes Bed o' Roses Handicap (gr. III) winner Derwin's Star and veteran stakes winner Absinthe Minded.
Afleeting Lady, a 5-year-old daughter of Afleet Alex trained by Dale Romans, pressed the pace throughout the 1 1/8-mile Fleur de Lis and actually poked a head in front turning for home at Churchill Downs. But she was no match for last year's 3-year-old champion filly as Royal Delta easily blew by to an eight-length score.
The race was third start of the season for Afleeting Lady, including a May 19 tally in a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer, all made at Churchill. She has won three of five overall at the Molly Pitcher distance for owners Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge, but both losses came in stakes company including a fifth in the May 4 La Troienne (gr. II). Last year she won three times including her maiden score, and ran second in a pair of starts including the Falls City Handicap (gr. II).
Afleeting Lady carries 116 pounds and will break from the rail under Rafael Bejarano.
Derwin's Star, a 5-year-old daughter of Wildcat Heir who races under the colors of Marcia Cohen and trainer Steve Klesaris, took the seven-furlong Bed o' Roses by 3 1/2 lengths July 1 at Belmont Park after rating well in fourth and surging late. It was her second victory in four starts in 2012. She romped by 13 3/4 lengths in a seven-furlong starter handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack April 22 after starting the year a dismal seventh in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint.
In the Molly Pitcher, she'll attempt to lengthen out to a distance she has only tackled once before. In 2010 she ran in the Delaware Oaks (gr. II), weakening to third behind Blind Luck and Havre de Grace after setting a moderate pace.
The 123-pound highweight breaking from post 2 under jockey Joe Rocco Jr., Derwin's Star still seeks her first graded stakes win after a rocky 2011. She won the Charles Town Oaks in September of 2010 but went to the sidelines until June of the following year, when she took an optional claimer at Parx by 6 1/2 lengths. That and an eighth in the July 9 Princess Rooney (gr. I) were her only starts last season. Overall, she has a 8-1-2 record and earnings of $536,570 from 17 starts.
Catch a Thief, second in the Bed o' Roses, is also back with good excuse for her loss last time out - she stumbled badly at the start and made a belated run from sixth. The Timothy Hills trainee didn't have as valid a reason for failure to take the Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes (gr. III) May 19 at Pimlico Race Course; she angled four wide into the stretch and was a non-threatening third.
That was the only start at the Molly Pitcher distance for the 5-year-old daughter of Flatter . Her single win this season was in the Plugged Nickle Stakes at Aqueduct going a mile March 31. Jockey Elvis Trujillo rides from the 4 hole under Charles Dimino's colors as part of a 116-pound impost.
R Gypsy Gold steps up for E. Paul Robsham Stables and trainer Todd Pletcher off a solid 1 3/4-mile win in the 1 1/16-mile Endear Stakes at Belmont July 4. The 4-year-old daughter of Bernardini claimed all but one of four career victories at the Molly Pitcher distance, but has not fared very well in previous attempts against graded company. She was sixth in the Gazelle Stakes (gr. I) at Aqueduct last Nov. 26 and finished third by 4 1/2 lengths in the Mother Goose (gr. I) at Belmont last June.
Successful Song and Nefertini both earned stakes triumphs at Monmouth in their most recent starts. Successful Song was a solid 3 1/4-length winner in the June 30 Lighthouse Stakes going 1 1/16 miles for Live Oak Plantation and trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. Nefertini took the May 27 Monmouth Beach Stakes at a mile and 70 yards for Robert Masterson and conditioner Alan Goldberg. Successful Song is a 5-year-old daughter of Successful Appeal who has 22 starts under her girth and a 6-4-3 record, while Nefertini is a 4-year-old by Empire Maker who has seven starts with four wins and two seconds.
Absinthe Minded, the veteran in the field, has 32 starts for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and Briland Farm. She was third in the 2011 edition of the Molly Pitcher, and last ran eighth in the Allaire DuPont Distaff. The 5-year-old daughter of Quiet American won the Pippin Stakes and Bayakoa Stakes at Oaklawn this winter, then was fourth in the Azeri (gr. III), second in the Apple Blossom (gr. I), and fourth in the La Troienne before running in the DuPont May 19.
Withgreatpleasure seeks to rebound off a 10th-place finish by 12 lengths in the Windward Stakes at Presque Isle Downs July 3. Her other two efforts for owner David Blethen and trainer David Nunn in 2012 were wins at Belmont and Parx Racing, although she was disqualified to second in the Parx event for ducking in and bumping a foe.
Brushed by a Star won the Iowa Distaff by 11 lengths for Team Forester and trainer Grant Forester June 29 at Prairie Meadows; it was her first stakes score. The only attempt in graded company for the 4-year-old Eddington filly resulted in a sixth in the Falls City Handicap (gr. II).
Molly Pitcher Stakes (gr. II, Race 11, 5:08 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Afleeting Lady (KY), R. Bejarano, 116, D L Romans
2. Derwin's Star (FL), J. Rocco, Jr., 123, S Klesaris
3. Nefertini (KY), C.H. Marquez, Jr., 116, A E Goldberg
4. Catch a Thief (MD), E. Trujillo, 116, T A Hills
5. Withgreatpleasure (KY), C.C. Lopez, 118, D Nunn
6. R Gypsy Gold (KY), J. Castellano, 118, T A Pletcher
7. Successful Song (FL), A. Serpa, 118, E Plesa, Jr.
8. Brushed by a Star (KY), C.S. Nakatani, 120, G T Forster
9. Absinthe Minded (KY), T.J. Thompson, 116, D W Lukas