English-bred April Pride, fresh off her victory in last month’s China Doll Stakes on the Santa Anita turf, ships in from California and was installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite in a wide-open edition of $100,000 Appalachian (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland April 16.
Among those April Pride must conquer in the Appalachian, a one-mile journey for 3-year-old fillies on the turf, are graded stakes winners Habaya and Hot Cha Cha, as well as Obsequious and Our Dahlia, who were both graded stakes-placed last out and will cut back in distance. The Appalachian is the feature on the nine-race Keeneland program.
Owned by Forging Oaks Farm and trained by Jim Cassidy, April Pride has made four starts in the U.S. since shipping in from England – all of them at one mile over the Santa Anita grass. The daughter of Falbrav—Hasta, by Theatrical made her North American debut in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and ran 11th, but has fared much better since then. She was runner-up in the Blue Norther Stakes in December to close out her 2-year-old campaign and was second again in an allowance contest Feb. 4.
In the China Doll, April Pride took over midway on the turn under David Flores and went on to win by a couple of lengths. Flores will ride again in the Appalachian and they will break from post 10.
Shadwell Stables’ Habaya (3-1) has the benefit of a start over the Keeneland turf. The Storm Cat filly finished second, beaten nearly five lengths by Laragh, in last fall’s Jessamine Stakes. She then closed out her juvenile campaign with a victory in the Miesque Stakes (gr. IIIT) over Hollywood Park’s turf course.
Habaya, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, should improve off her 2009 debut, an eighth-place finish in the Feb. 15 Coconut Grove Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Alan Garcia will ride.
The other graded stakes winner is Nelson McMakin’s Hot Cha Cha (8-1), who took the Bourbonette Oaks (gr. IIIT) by six lengths on Turfway Park’s Polytrack March 21. This will be the first turf start for the Philip Sims trainee, who has made all four of her career starts on Turfway’s Polytrack. Orlando Mojica gets the return mount.
Also worth considering is Obsequious, who ran third in the Coconut Grove, and then improved to finish runner-up, beaten just a half-length, in last month’s 1 1/8-mile Herecomesthebride Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park. Elizabeth Gray trains the daughter of Fusaichi Pegasus.
Our Dahlia won the first two starts of her 3-year-old season – a maiden on the dirt and first-level allowance on Gulfstream’s turf – before finishing a distant third to Rachel Alexandra in the March 14 Fair Ground Oaks (gr. II). This will be the sixth career start, but just the second on the turf for the Ken McPeek trainee.
The following day, older fillies and mares will do battle on the Polytrack for Keeneland’s April 17 feature, the $100,000 Doubledogdare Stakes (gr. III). A field of eight was entered for the 1 1/16-mile route.
Domino Stud’s Miss Isella should draw much of the betting attention based on her victory in the Falls City Handicap (gr. II) last November at Churchill Downs, making her one of only two graded stakes winners in the field. The daughter of Silver Charm came from off the pace to take the main track event, which was her fourth win in 11 starts.
Fourth in the Feb. 20 Sabin Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream to start her 4-year-old season, Miss Isella has won once in four synthetic starts. She ran third in an optional claimer last fall in her only start at Keeneland. Regular rider Calvin Borel has the call on the 123-pound high weight.
The other graded stakes winner in the Doubledogdare is Courtlandt Farm’s homebred Indescribable. The 5-year-old Bill Mott trainee won a pair of black-type events in 2008, beginning with the Arlington Matron Handicap (gr. III) in May. She closed out her season with a win in the Cardinal Handicap (gr. IIIT) in November on Churchill’s turf and will be making her 2009 debut after five months off.
Indescribable was third, beaten just 1 3/4 lengths for it all in last year’s Doubledogdare, which was won by Carriage Trail. Ironically, Kent Desormeaux, aboard Carriage Trail in 2008, will have the mount on Indescribable this time around.
Graham Motion will saddle a pair of contenders in Sefroua and Drop a Line. Nelson Radwan’s Sefroua will be making her 4-year-old debut and her third North American start. The Kingmambo filly was a three-time winner in France before finishing third in the Noble Damsel (gr. IIIT) at Belmont last fall in her first start on American soil. She then finished seventh in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) on the Keeneland turf in October. This will be her first start off turf since she began her racing career in March of 2008.
J. Mack Robinson’s Drop a Line has scored three of her four lifetime wins on synthetics, including an allowance triumph at Keeneland a year ago. The 5-year-old Lemon Drop Kid filly was third in the Suwannee River Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Gulfstream turf in March.