Probably the strongest field of filly and mare sprinters assembled in the country this year will meet in the $500,000 Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. II) at six furlongs Saturday at Calder Race Course in the headline event in the 2004 "Summit of Speed."
Peter Fan and Wesley Ward's 5-year-old California-bred Bear Fan is the probable favorite in a field of six, which also drew Ema Bovary from her California base and grade I winners Lady Tak and Harmony Lodge.
Jockey John R. Velazquez gets a return call on Bear Fan, a daughter of Pine Bluff
trained and bred by co-owner Ward. Bear Fan has won four stakes in a row, including awesome scores in the Genuine Risk Handicap and Vagrancy Handicap (both gr. II) at Belmont Park in her last two starts.
Bear Fan is the 122-pound top weight in the Princess Rooney, spotting her opponents between three and 12 pounds.
Richard T. Beal, Jr.'s Chilean-bred 5-year-old Ema Bovary, with jockey Roberto Gonzalez aboard, had quite a streak of her own going with ten straight victories until finishing second last out in the Desert Stormer Handicap (gr. III) at Hollywood Park on June 6.
Based at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California, Ema Bovary is trained by Larry Ross and shipped east in the spring to capture the Madison Stakes at Keeneland in April over Harmony Lodge, a rival in the Princess Rooney.
Jockey Jerry Bailey will be aboard Eugene and Laura Melnyk's Harmony Lodge for trainer Todd Pletcher. Harmony Lodge finished second to Bear Fan in the Genuine Risk last out on May 9 after her runner-up effort behind Ema Bovary in the Madison.
A 6-year-old daughter of Hennessey, Harmony Lodge finished third in the Princess Rooney last summer behind two-time winner Gold Mover. Harmony Lodge scored the biggest victory of her career in her next start, capturing the Ballerina Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga in her next start.
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable's 4-year-old filly Lady Tak also was a grade 1 winner at the Spa last summer, capturing the Test Stakes for trainer Steve Asmussen. The daughter of Mutakddim
finished sixth behind Ema Bovary in the Madison, but it was her first start since the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Santa Anita in October.
Lady Tak obviously needed a race to get back on track and won a good allowance race at Churchill Downs in her next start. She then took her game up another notch with a sharp victory in the Winning Colors Handicap at Churchill under jockey Shane Sellers, who will be aboard Saturday. Her time in that race was 1:08 4/5.
Completing the field for the Princess Rooney are M375 Thoroughbreds' Mary Murphy, with Rosemary Homeister, Jr. aboard, and Richard Rowan's Puxa Saco, with Eddie Castro. Mary Murphy is the lone local starter in the race.
Trained by Joe Waunsch, Mary Murphy is a homebred daughter of Coronado's Quest and has been impressive winning both of her starts at Calder this year. Puxo Saco ships in from California for trainer Jenine Sahadi, but she is no stranger to Calder, where she raced here as a 2-year-old. $500,000 Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. II), fillies & mares 3 & up, 6 furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Harmony Lodge (KY), 119, Jerry D. Bailey
2. Lady Tak (FL), 119, Shane J. Sellers
3. Mary Murphy (KY), 110, Rosemary B. Homeister, Jr.
4. Puxa Saco (KY), 112, Eddie Castro
5. Bear Fan (CA), 122, John R. Velazquez
6. Ema Bovary (CHI), 119, Roberto M. Gonzalez