Trainer Bill Mott, the all-time leader in victories and stakes wins at Churchill Downs, hopes to wrap up the Louisville track’s spring meet on Sunday by adding a victory in each column when he saddles favored Quite a Bride in a field of six older fillies and mares in Sunday’s $150,000-added Locust Grove Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the turf.
The 1 1/8-mile test is the featured event on a 10-race program that brings down the curtain on the 52-day spring racing session.
Quite a Bride, a 4-year-old daughter of Stormy Atlantic owned by Julio Bozano’s Haras Santa Maria de Araras, comes into the Locust Grove off a front-running victory in the $150,000-added Early Times Mint Julep (gr. IIIT) in which she completed 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in a course and stakes record 1:40.70. It was her second victory in three starts in 2007 and her second graded stakes triumph. The win extended Mott’s record for stakes victories under the historic Twin Spires to 71 -- two more than the stakes total compiled to date by runner-up D. Wayne Lukas.
Jockey Robby Albarado, who was aboard for her 2 1/4-length win in the Early Times Mint Julep, gets a return call aboard Quite a Bride, who will carry high weight of 123 pounds and concede from five to 15 pounds to her five rivals. Mott’s filly is the 8-5 favorite in his morning line choice.
Quite a Bride brings a career record of 7-1-2 in 13 races and earnings of $442,754 into the Locust Grove, which will mark just her second attempt at the 1 1/8-mile distance. She finished seventh to Magnificent Song in the 2006 Garden City Breeders’ Cup (gr. IT) at Belmont Park in her lone previous try at nine furlongs.
The Patrick Biancone-trained Mauralakana could be the most dangerous of Quite a Bride's rivals. The French-bred daughter of Muhtathir finished fourth to the Mott-trained My Typhoon in the Just A Game (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park last time out. She romped to an impressive four-length victory in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race on the Churchill Downs turf prior to that. Her most impressive performance to date was a runner-up finish to Vacare in last fall’s Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland.
Mauralakana does her best running from off the pace and could be helped by stablemate Countess Scala, a 30-1shot trained by Biancone and owned by Richard Giacopelli, who is a partner in the ownership of her stablemate. Countess Scala has shown early speed in all of her races and is expected to push Quite a Bride in the early stages.
Julien Leparoux, who will secure his second straight title as the spring meet's leading jockey, will ride Mauralakana. She is the 2-1 second choice.
Also hoping for a brisk pace are Wertheimer and Frere’s Quiet Royal, winner of the Reluctant Guest over “yielding” turf last time out at Arlington Park, and Horton Stable Inc. and Dallas Stewart’s Lemons Forever, upset winner of the 2006 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) now making strides on the turf.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Quiet Royal is a French import who finished a good third behind Vacare and Mauralakana in last year’s Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup. She followed that outing with a ninth-place finish behind champion Ouija Board in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs. She has two wins in five races this year and Chris DeCarlo travels to Churchill Downs to ride the daughter of Royal Academy who is the 5-2 third choice.
Lemons Forever steps into stakes company for her new turf career. She snapped an eight-race losing streak and won for the first time since her 47-1 upset in the Kentucky Oaks when she cruised to an impressive 3 1/4-length victory in a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance at Churchill Downs on June 15. Leparoux rode Lemons Forever that day, but Mark Guidry – who was aboard for her Oaks win – returns to the saddle for Sunday’s race. The Dallas Stewart-trained filly is listed at 8-1 in the Locust Grove morning line.
Stronestreet Stable’s Eyes On Eddy was an allowance winner at a mile on dirt last time out. The Steve Asmussen-trained daughter of Touch Gold has a record of 3-2-0 in six races this year. She finished off the board in her only previous turf start, but worked seven furlongs on grass on July 2 in preparation for Sunday’s race.
$150,000 Locust Grove Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 9, 5:29 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. Eyes On Eddy (KY), Shaun Bridgmohan, 113, 8/1
2. Mauralakana (FR), Julien R. Leparoux, 118, 2/1
3. Countess Scala (KY), Alex Estrada, 108, 30/1
4. Lemons Forever (KY), Mark Guidry, 115, 8/1
5. Quite a Bride (FL), Robby Albarado, 123, 8/5
6. Quiet Royal (KY), Christopher P. DeCarlo, 115, 5/2