International racing star Ipi Tombe is scheduled to make her American racing debut on Saturday in the $150,000-added Locust Grove Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs.A champion in South Africa, the Zimbabwe-bred daughter of Manshood is owned by a partnership that includes Team Valor, WinStar Farm and Sunmark Partners and is trained by Elliott Walden. She defeated males in her most recent start in the $2 million Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba on the Dubai World Cup undercard on March 29. It was her seventh consecutive victory and the 11th of her 13-race career. "It looks like we'll go in the Locust Grove," said Walden, "As long as this week goes well."
Ipi Tombe was assigned highweight of 123 pounds for the 1 1/8-mile Locust Grove. Walden said the 5-year-old mare has trained well at Churchill Downs since her arrival in early April and the Locust Grove seemed to be a good spot to start her U.S. campaign. If all goes well on Saturday, Ipi Tombe could run in such races as the $500,000 Diana (gr. I) at Saratoga on July 26 and the $700,000 Beverly D. (gr. I) at Arlington Park on August 16. "The timing of it is good, too, because you've got four weeks back to the Diana and then three weeks back to the Beverly D.," said Walden. "We're kind of looking at it as a three-race series. It allows me the chance to be flexible. If they put too much weight on her or something in the Diana, then we could just wait for the Beverly D."Walden said Ipi Tombe would have an easy breeze over the Churchill Downs turf course on Tuesday. Pat Day is scheduled to ride the South African star in the Locust Grove, but Louise Hatfield will be in the saddle for Tuesday's breeze.