Sara Louise lost the 2009 Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) by a head to Indian Blessing in heartbreaking fashion. The 4-year-old filly will try to avenge that defeat Sept. 25 at Belmont Park, but will have to do it after being on the sidelines for more than nine months.
The daughter of Malibu Moon will carry top weight of 119 pounds when facing eight rivals in the 6 1/2-furlong, $150,000 contest. The winner will receive an automatic berth in the $1 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.
When last seen, Sara Louise was winning the Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) in her 3-year-old finale last November at Aqueduct. The third graded win of her career came one race after finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita. The bay filly is probably best known for defeating Rachel Alexandra as a juvenile in the 2008 Pocahontas (gr. III), the last defeat for Rachel before going on to win nine in a row.
A series of minor issues delayed Sara Louise's return to the races in 2010. She trained up to the Gallant Bloom at Greentree Training Center in Saratoga but had her final tune-up on Sept. 21 at Belmont, a bullet four-furlong move in :47.55.
“We hoped to get her to race at Saratoga,” said Rick Mettee, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor. “We hoped that this would be her second race of the year, and we could go into the Breeders’ Cup as her third of the year. She had some real good works up at Saratoga on the synthetic track and yesterday she worked really well here.
“I think it’s a good field but I think the best of her form would hold up. She’d have to run really well to justify her second start of the year running in the Breeders’ Cup. It should be an interesting race.”
Edgar Prado, aboard for last year’s Gallant Bloom effort, retains the mount on the 2-1 favorite. They will break from post 2. Owned by Godolphin, Sara Louise has produced a 4-2-0 record from eight starts with earnings of $380,935.
The top challengers for Sara Louise include grade III winner First Passage, a Florida-based filly entering off a fifth-place finish in the Ballerina (gr. I) on Aug. 28 at Saratoga; Pretty Prolific, who was taken out of the Ballerina after being bumped hard at the break en route to a seventh-place finish; and 3-year-old Rapport, a wire-to-wire winner of the Victory Ride (gr. III) on Aug. 28 for her first stakes triumph.
Owned by Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable, the improving Rapport has won three of four starts this year.
“She’s a really nice filly and she worked well the other day, and we’re very happy with where she’s at,” said Rapport's trainer, Bob Baffert. “You just never know when you’re going up against older mares. It’s a step up in grade, too, but I think she’s up to it.”
Martin Garcia will fly in from California to ride Rapport, 3-1 on the morning line.
Trainer Bobby Ribaudo will saddle Qualia to her third straight graded start. Second by a head in the Bed o’ Roses (gr. III) in July at Belmont, she was never a factor after having the saddle slip in the Ballerina when eighth.
“This will clear everybody’s mind if we get back on track,” said Ribaudo of the 5-1 third choice. “We went into the Ballerina with the Breeders’ Cup in mind, and hopefully, this race will put it back in our minds.”
$150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II, Race 9, 5:15 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 6 1/2 Furlongs (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Lovely Lil (NY), M J Luzzi, 113, M E Hushion
2. Sara Louise (KY), E S Prado, 119, S bin Suroor
3. First Passage (KY), J Lezcano, 116, M D Wolfson
4. Qualia (KY), R Maragh, 115, R Ribaudo
5. My Jen (KY), J R Leparoux, 115, E Kenneally
6. Devil by Design (KY), D Cohen, 115, W I Mott
7. Moontune Missy (KY), A Garcia, 115, E G Harty
8. Rapport (KY), M Garcia, 115, B Baffert
9. Pretty Prolific (KY), C H Borel, 116, K G McPeek