All Eyes on Lilac Queen in Sheepshead Bay

(from Belmont Park release)
Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, often paired with some of racing's leading female turf horses in recent years, finds himself aboard another immensely talented grass runner in Lilac Queen for Saturday's $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Handicap (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park.

A German-bred, Lilac Queen can keep her undefeated U.S. record intact with a win in the Sheepshead Bay. Run at 11 furlongs on the turf, the race may have as many as eight starters. As of Monday morning, the connections of six horses had committed to the race. Two were undecided.

Mariensky, New Economy, Peanut Gallery and Snow Dance are expected to oppose co 119-pound top weights Lilac Queen and Owsley. Party Queen and Primetimevalentine are possible starters.

Owned by Gary Tanaka and trained by Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, Lilac Queen was beaten a neck in Germany's Group I Mulheim in June of 2001. It remains her only defeat in six career starts.

Since shipping to Frankel's barn last fall, Lilac Queen has won three straight. She recently notched the first graded stakes win of her career when a convincing winner of Keeneland's Bewitch (gr. IIIT). Sizing up the competition in Saturday's Sheepshead Bay, she'll be odds-on to win again.

"She's one of my favorites," Bailey said. "She's got a great personality; she's easy to ride. She's a little different than horses like Tates Creek and Voodoo Dancer because she runs in longer races, but I think she's got a lot of quality to her. As the season goes on, I'll have a better feel of what she's capable of."

Bailey was aboard Lilac Queen on Sunday morning when the mare breezed five furlongs over Belmont's yielding inner turf course in 1:02 1/5. It was the fastest of six other works at the distance, which included moves by Empire Maker, Midas Eyes and Wonder Again.

While Lilac Queen progresses towards the top of this country's turf ranks, Arthur Hancock's Owsley will try to stay there. A 5-year-old daughter of Harlan, Owsley went from a consistently good allowance horse to a multiple graded stakes winner last season. After finishing a half length behind Tweedside in last year's Sheepshead Bay, Owsley scored a win in the New York Handicap (gr. II), the Glens Falls (gr. III) and the Win Star Galaxy (gr. II). She ended her 2002 campaign with a last place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT).

Owsley, trained by Randy Schulhofer, kicked off the year with a decent fourth-place finish in Aqueduct's Beaugay (gr. III). Considering the Beaugay's distance of eight and a half furlongs is far short of Owsley's best, it was a credible effort.

John Oxley's Snow Dance, a multiple stakes winner of more than $740,000, has no experience in races as long as the Sheepshead Bay, but judging from what this daughter of Forest Wildcat has accomplished over the last few seasons, she'll likely be a factor.

Trained by John Ward Jr., Snow Dance faced the big girls of the female turf division in all of her seven starts last season. Although she never defeated Tates Creek, Astra, Starine, Voodoo Dancer and Owsley, she only finished worse than third twice in seven starts.

$150,000 Sheepshead Bay Handicap (gr. IIT), fillies & mares 3 & up, 1 3/8 mile on turf>/b>
PP. Horse, Wgt., Jockey
1. Silent Crystal (KY) 4 Filly 112 Michael J. Luzzi
2. Peanut Gallery (KY) 6 Mare 113 Jorge F. Chavez
3. Mariensky (KY) 4 Filly 114 John R. Velazquez
4. Sunstone (GB) 5 Mare 113 Javier Castellano
5. Decencia (ARG) 6 Mare 112 Jean-Luc Samyn
6. Primetimevalentine (KY) 4 Filly 113 Richard Migliore
7. Lilac Queen (GER) 5 Mare 119 Jerry D. Bailey
8. Snow Dance (KY) 5 Mare 116 Jose A. Santos
9. Owsley (KY) 5 Mare 119 Edgar S. Prado
Main track only
10. Message Red (NY) 4 Filly 120 Javier Castellano
11. Call an Audible (KY) 4 Filly 116 (No Rider)