Bien Nicole Takes on California Invaders

(from track notes)
Bien Nicole, the locally-based winner of the Oaklawn Breeders' Cup, will defend the home turf in the $200,000 WinStar Distaff (gr. IIIT) at one mile on the Lone Star Park grass course.

The 5-year-old mare, 10 for 19 lifetime, is the 3-1 morning line favorite and breaks from the outside post in the field of nine.

Though she already won two races on the dirt this year, including her only graded stakes event, Bien Nicole is even better on the turf. The 5-year-old mare won five in a row over the sod in 2002, including four six-digit stakes races.

"I think she's going to show us that she's happy to be back on the turf," trainer Donnie Von Hemel said.

A strong California contingent will challenge Bien Nicole. The four Golden State-based fillies and mares entered for the WinStar are of a variety of backgrounds, but all boast credentials suggesting the ability to win the first graded renewal of this race.

Magic Mission (7-2 morning line) was third in the Matriarch (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park in December for trainer Neil Drysdale. That effort was followed by a pair of strong showings in grade II races at Santa Anita and a closing second in the Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland. The 5-year-old English-bred mare, easily identifiable by her huge white blaze, has not won since last year's Del Mar meeting, but has run consistently well in very tough company.

"Neil seems really happy with her and he wouldn't send her if she wasn't ready," said Bubba Guest, assistant to Drysdale.

Garden in the Rain (4-1) finished ahead of Magic Mission when they met two starts back in the Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT). Her last win came in a $65,000 allowance in January at Santa Anita. Mark Guidry will travel to Lone Star Park to ride for trainer Jeff Mullins, who is winning at 36% this year.

Little Treasure (9-2) is the winner of a pair of graded stakes in her first two North American starts. The 4-year-old attempts to recapture her 2002 form following disappointing efforts in stakes at Bay Meadows and Hollywood Park for trainer Laura de Seroux.
The French-bred filly also won four turf stakes in her native land.

Adalgisa (6-1) won two rich one-mile turf races in Southern California over the winter for trainer Julio Canani. She is owned by Coast to Coast Racing, tied for second in the local owner's standings with 11 wins.

$200,000 WinStar Distaff Handicap (gr. IIIT), fillies and mares 3 & up, 1 mile on turf
PP. Horse (jockeys, weights, morning line odds)
1. Adalgisa (Calvin Borel, 113, 6-1)
2. Strawbailey (Cliff Berry, 113, 20-1)
3. Eagle Lake (Gerard Melancon, 114, 12-1)
4. Magic Mission (Pat Day, 116, 7-2)
5. Academic Angel (Corey Lanerie, 113, 20-1)
6. Little Treasure (Shane Sellers, 117, 9-2)
7. Cherylville Slew (E.J. Perrodin, 115, 15-1)
8. Garden In The Rain (Mark Guidry, 116, 4-1)
9. Bien Nicole (Don Pettinger, 118, 3-1)