A bang-up edition of the Barbara Fritchie Handicap (gr. II) has attracted eight fillies and mares led by New York shipper Seventh Street, grade I winner Dream Rush, and By the Light from the powerful Richard Dutrow stable. All three will vie for favoritism in the seven-furlong main track test Feb. 14 at Laurel Park.
Seventh Street (5-2) has raced as the odds-on favorite in all four of her starts, breaking slowly and finishing third in a maiden race at Gulfstream Park, then reeling off three consecutive wins by open lengths over off tracks at Aqueduct. The daughter of Street Cry is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. Rajiv Maragh will accompany the filly from New York.
“She’s acting like a top notch filly,” said Art Magnusson, assistant to McLaughlin. “We’ve sort of babied her in her preparation through her career, but it’s time for her to step up and face some nice fillies. She’s ready.”
Dream Rush (3-1) was a dominant player in 2007, winning the Prioress (gr. I) and Test (gr. I). She followed those wins with two appearances in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, finishing fifth in 2007 and thirteenth in 2008. She regrouped in Florida this winter, reeling off an allowance win and a stakes victory, both at Tampa Downs. Will Phipps trains the daughter of Wild Rush, who will arrive in Maryland from Florida the day before the race. Veteran Jean Luc Samyn has the riding assignment.
“She came into our barn in September and it took us a while to figure her out,” said Phipps. “We took her to Presque Isle to see if she would like the synthetic track and she liked it as a fast track. Then we decided to try the Pro Ride track at Santa Anita, but it rained out there for about three days and it wasn’t to her liking. Then we came to Florida and worked on changing her running style.
“She’s an older horse with different issues and we wanted to use some of that natural speed of hers, to get her to relax and come from off it and she loved it.”
Dutrow is represented by the Malibu Moon filly By the Light (4-1), a New York-bred filly who has won seven stakes, her most recent over state-breds in the Soft Morning at Aqueduct. Following that, she turned in a bullet workout at Aqueduct on Feb. 9. Luis Garcia picks up the mount.
“She has been beating up on the New York-breds,” said Dutrow, who won the Barbara Fritchie with Cativa in 2005 and Oprah Winney in 2007. “She has a lot of versatility. She can go to the lead, she can come from behind and she’s won going two turns. She is very determined and a nice filly to be around. She has all the qualities you’d want in a racehorse.”
Local chance Access Fee (9-2) prepped for the Fritchie with an impressive victory in Laurel’s What A Summer Stakes, which brought her record to four wins in six starts. The daughter of Menifee has posted two terrific works on her home track, including a bullet half-mile work on Jan. 30. Jose Caraballo rides for trainer Larry Murray.
“She is doing great,” Murray said. “This race is pretty salty with Dream Rush and the horse of McLaughlin’s but it is hard to pass up a grade two in your backyard. She has a lot of raw speed but unfortunately you cannot harness it-she wants to go-and you can’t fight her. It should be a heck of a race.”
Royale Michele (8-1) merits attention, with four wins in seven starts, the last three all in a row at Mountaineer Park, including the New Year’s Eve Stakes. All were in sprints and she won each race by open lengths. Royale Michele and trainer Matt Kintz arrived in central Maryland last week and she worked six furlongs at Laurel on Feb. 6. Geovany Garcia will be aboard the daughter of Elusive Quality.
“We were having difficulty training at home with the weather there and I’m glad we came down early,” Kintz said. “I’m very pleased with the way she worked, very pleased with the condition of the racetrack.”
Second in Mountaineer’s New Year’s Eve Stakes was A Rose for You (6-1) from the Mike Trombetta barn. She won the Lady Ann Stakes in November and ran a troubled fourth in the Correction Handicap at Aqueduct on Jan. 31 before and after her start at Mountaineer. Jeremy Rose has the mount on the daughter of Orientate.
“She came to us in November and has gotten pretty good for us,” Trombetta said. “We started out at the first level allowance condition and is now a stakes winner so you have to be pretty proud of those kind.”