A field of eight has been drawn for Friday's feature at Saratoga Race Course. Molto Vita looks to add to her fine resume in the six-furlong Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II) for older fillies and mares with $150,000 on the line, but highweight Bank Audit and multiple grade III winner Ebony Breeze may have their say.
Bred in Kentucky by TAC Holding, the John Gunther-owned Molto Vita notched her sole graded stakes win last October at Keeneland's fall meet with a driving three-quarter-length win over My Trusty Cat in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. III).
The daughter of Carson City out of the Danzig mare Princess Polonia was just bested by My Trusty Cat in the Humana Distaff Handicap (gr. I) on Derby day before taking top check in the Winning Colors Stakes over the Churchill strip three weeks later.
Purchased by Gunther as a weanling at the 2000 Keeneland November mixed sale for $24,000, 5-year-old Molto Vita finished a tiring fourth in the Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. II) at Calder in her last start, but posted a sharp five-furlong work (1:01.26) for trainer Dallas Stewart over the Saratoga main track July 28.
Her regular rider, Rafael Bejarano, recently fractured an ankle and he'll be replaced for the Honorable Miss by Javier Castellano for a ride from the rail under 118 pounds.
She's been out front early in all her wins.
Ebony Breeze enters the race with the most earnings, having amassed $784,067 in the Kinsman Farm colors of George Steinbrenner.
The homebred 5-year-old daughter of Belong to Me
out of the Valid Appeal mare Valid Carnauba has three graded stakes wins to her credit, though none more recent than last September's Endine Handicap (gr. III) at Delaware Park.
Ebony Breeze failed to rally in a fourth-place effort in the Winning Colors, but came back June 25 to take the her second straight My Juliet Stakes at Philadelphia Park over Honorable Miss entrants Storm Minstrel and Umpateedle.
The legendary Spa connections of trainer Bill Mott and jockey Jerry Bailey will give the Kinsman outfit confidence in the bay mare's chances. A nice four-furlong work (:50.81) over the main track Monday should have the veteran ready to spar. She and Bailey will break from the four-hole under 116.
The contest highweight, Robert Amendola's Bank Audit will shoulder Ramon Dominguez and an impost of 120. Bred in Virginia by Morgan's Ford Farm, the 4-year-old daughter of Wild Rush won the Genuine Risk Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont May 14 before finishing second to Sensibly Chic in the June 12 Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II)also at Belmont.
Trained by Frank LaBoccetta Jr., the 4-year-old dark bay or brown filly was claimed last July but quickly found her stride in stakes company in her first start in 2005 with a win in the Interborough Handicap at Aqueduct Jan. 1.
Bank Audit has compiled $474,261 in earnings.
Umpateedle, Fortress Hill, Storm Minstrel, High Peaks, and Forest Music make up the field.Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II), Friday, Aug. 5, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, six furlongs, $150,000. Appx. post time 4:47 p.m. EDT.
PP--Horse, Weight, Jockey
1 -- Molto Vita, 118, Javier Castellano
2 -- Bank Audit, 120, Ramon Dominguez
3 -- Umpateedle, 115, Clinton Potts
4 -- Ebony Breeze, 116, Jerry Bailey
5 -- Fortress Hill, 113, Gary Stevens
6 -- Storm Minstrel, 114, Edgar Prado
7 -- High Peaks, 114, Norberto Arroyo
8 -- Forest Music, 114, John Velazquez