Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (gr. I) winner Pampered Princess, once-beaten Indian Vale and Chilukki (gr. II) winner Bending Strings head a field of 12 fillies and mares entered for Thursday's 90th running of the $300,000-added Falls City Handicap (gr. II), the main course on the Thanksgiving Day holiday racing menu at Churchill Downs. Thursday's holiday program and the Falls City Handicap kick off Churchill Downs' "Big Four Stakes Weekend," a three-day run that includes four major stakes races with $1.2 million in total purses. The "Big Four" continues on Friday with the 131st running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap (gr. II) and Saturday's meet-closing $200,000-added co-features for 2-year-olds, the 62nd renewal of the Golden Rod (gr. II) for fillies and the 79th running of the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II).
Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia has installed Pampered Princess as the 5-2 morning line favorite for the Falls City. The 5-year-old daughter of Indian Charlie is based at Calder Race Course for trainer Martin Wolfson and will make the final start of her career in the Falls City. She is booked to Unbridled's Song for the 2006 breeding season.The Spinster victory by Pampered Princess looked even more impressive after Pleasant Home, the Spinster runner-up, roared to victory in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Belmont Park in her next start. Pampered Princess was forced to miss the Distaff with a minor ailment. Pampered Princess will be ridden by Calder-based Eddie Castro and brings a career record of 13-7-5 in 31 races and earnings of $718,385 into her swan song. She will break from post nine and carry high weight of 123 pounds. Wolfson's mare will concede from four-to-11 pounds to her Falls City rivals. Melnyk Racing Stable's Indian Vale and John D. Gunther's homebred Bending Strings loom as the major threats to Pampered Princess in the Falls City. Indian Vale, a lightly raced 3-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy trained by Todd Pletcher, notched her first stakes win in her most recent start as she romped home first in the $100,000-added Turnback the Alarm (gr. III) at Aqueduct. The speedy filly has won four of five races, with her only misstep being a troubled fifth-place finish in the Cotillion Handicap (gr. II) at Philadelphia Park.
Jockey John Velazquez will ride Indian Vale, who is listed as the 3-1 second choice in the morning line and will carry 115 pounds. Pletcher, the Eclipse Award winner as America's top trainer in 2004, is closing in on the North American record for earnings by a trainer in a single year and is represented by a horse in each of the "Big Four Stakes Weekend" events. Bending Strings snapped a nine-race losing streak when she won the $150,000-added Chilukki at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6. The daughter of American Chance had battled some of the top fillies and mares in American racing during that streak, including Ashado, Stellar Jayne and Society Selection. She had also finished fourth in the Spinster.Trained by Wally Dollase, Bending Strings has a 6-8-1 record in 24 races and has earned $833,385. She is listed as the 7-2 third choice in the morning line odds and will be ridden by Mark Guidry. She will carry 119 pounds and drew the outside post in the field of 12. Field for the Falls City Handicap (gr. II)
Post position--Horse (weight), Jockey, ML Odds
1--Winning Season (112), John Jacinto, 30-1
2--Miss Fortunate (115), Larry Melancon, 10-1
3--Flying Glitter (117), Robby Albarado, 8-1
4--Indian Vale (115), John Velazquez, 3-1
5--Cotopaxi (112), Mike Smith, 20-1
6--Rahys' Appeal (119), Shaun Bridgmohan, 20-1
7--Journey Fever (114), John McKee, 20-1
8--La Reason (114), Rafael Bejarano, 8-1
9--Pampered Princess (123), Eddie Castro, 5-2
10--Joint Aspiration (112), Brian Hernandez, Jr., 20-1
11--Kristy Beethoven (116), Corey Lanerie, 30-1
12--Bending Strings (119), Mark Guidry, 7-2 Morning Line Odds by Mike Battaglia