Heiligbrodt Racing Stable's Lady Tak, winner of Saratoga's prestigious Test (gr. I), looms as the heavy favorite as she faces six rivals in Saturday's first running of the $100,000-added Winning Colors Handicap at Churchill Downs.
The 4-year-old daughter of Mutakddim has been installed as the even-money favorite in the six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares ages 3 and up. Lady Tak, looking for her second win at the meeting, will be saddled by trainer Steve Asmussen, who leads U.S. trainers in total victories in 2004. Lady Tak will carry high weight of 122 pounds and jockey Shane Sellers and will concede from five to nine pounds to her rivals.
The Florida-bred Lady Tak brings a record of 7-3-0 in 13 races and earnings of $747,270 into the contest. The seven-furlong Test stands as her greatest victory, but she also won the Silverbulletday (gr. II) at the Fair Grounds and finished a close second in both the Acorn and Gazelle (both gr. I) before she finished her year with a disappointing seventh-place finish behind Adoration in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I).
She started her 4-year-old campaign with a sixth-place run in the Madison at Keeneland, but both Asmussen and assistant trainer Scott Blasi believe the speedy filly was under-trained for that race. She rebounded with an easy two-length allowance victory at Churchill Downs on April 24 and worked a sharp half-mile in :47 on Monday in preparation for Saturday's race.
"I feel great about where she's at physically," said Blasi. "I don't have any question in my mind that she's physically ready to go into this race and run one of her best efforts. You can tell in her attitude and her looks that she's back where she used to be." Stakes winners Put Me In and Surf N Sand figure to present the biggest obstacles.
Robert Heleringer's Put Me In was a two-time stakes winner over the winter at the Fair Grounds for trainer Merrill Scherer. She will carry 117 pounds and jockey Robby Albarado.
The Bob Baffert-trained Surf N Sand is coming off a win in the Prairie Rose at Iowa's Prairie Meadows and is unbeaten in two races at Churchill Downs. She will also tote 117 and jockey John McKee.
The Bill Mott-trained Ebony Breeze, winner of the 2003 Florida Oaks (gr. III), is also in the Winning Colors field along with My Trusty Cat, Vicky Vallencourt and Halory Leigh.
$100,000-added Winning Colors Handicap, fillies & mares 3 & up, 6 furlongs
PP. Horse (Weight) Jockey ML Odds
1. Put Me In (117) Robby Albarado 20-1
2. Surf N Sand (117) John McKee 4-1
3. Lady Tak (122) Shane Sellers EVEN
4. Halory Leigh (113) Pat Day 4-1
5. Ebony Breeze (116) Cornelio Velasquez 7-2
6. My Trusty Cat (115) Justin Shepherd 15-1
7. Vicki Vallencourt (115) Rafael Bejarano 15-1