Grade II winner Valbenny, one of the leading turf fillies on the West Coast last season, returns from an absence of more than eight months while making her first start for trainer Michael Matz in the $100,000 Gallorette Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Pimlico lawn May 17.
Paddy Gallagher trained the Irish-bred filly last year when she won the Senorita (gr. IIIT) and Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park and finished second in both the American Oaks (gr. IT) and Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT). LGL Racing's daughter of Val Royal has not been out since finishing sixth in the Belmont Park's Garden City (gr. IT) in early September, defeated by just over two lengths.
To be ridden for the first time by Edgar Prado, the 4-year-old Valbenny is the 121-pound high weight in a field of seven while listed as the 3-2 favorite. Valbenny owns a 5-3-0 record in 11 lifetime starts and leads the Gallorette field in earnings at $500,453.
If the favorite is vulnerable due to the long layoff, two others, Roshani and Stormy West, should be ready to take advantage in the 1 1/16-mile contest.
Stormy West, listed at 3-1, just missed by a neck at odds of 23-1 when out-finished by the late-running Rutherienne in Keeneland's Jenny Wiley (gr. IIT) April 12. Trained by Bill Mott for Diane and Guy B. Snowden, the 4-year-old Gone West filly would prefer firm going. She won her first start of the year on a hard surface over allowance foes at Gulfstream Park Jan. 28. She will be ridden once again by Kent Desormeaux.
A distinct lack of pace figures to benefit the grade III winner Roshani, 2-1 on the early line, who could dictate the way the race unfolds for jockey John Velazquez. Trained by Todd Pletcher for owner Ben McElroy, the 5-year-old daughter of Fantastic Light had a great year in 2007, winning four of six starts, including Monmouth Park's Matchmaker (gr. IIIT) in August. She appears to be the lone speed this time.
Most recently, Roshani finished fourth in the Jenny Wiley, a half-length behind the winner after getting a narrow lead in the stretch run.
Earle Mack's Lady Digby comes off a head victory in Laurel Park's Dahlia at one mile April 12 for trainer Graham Motion. A month prior to that, she ran second to Dreaming of Anna in the nine-furlong Hillsborough (gr. IIIT) on a yielding Tampa Bay Downs course.
$100,000 Gallorette Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 6, 1:24 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Valbenny (IRE), 121, Edgar S. Prado
2. Stormy West (KY), 116, Kent J. Desormeaux
3. Roshani (KY), 119, John R. Velazquez
4. Lady Digby (KY), 115, Jeremy Rose
5. Debbie Sue (VA), 113, Ramon A. Dominguez
6. Le Cordon Bleu (KY), 113, Garrett K. Gomez
7. Saint Pegasus (KY), 110, Alan Garcia