The Locust Grove, which was previously run at 1 1/8 miles, also drew a pair of Irish-bred fillies looking to take the next step in their careers: James Barry’s Genuine Devotion and Godolphin Racing’s Say You Will.
Pin Oak Stable’s Brownie Points will carry top weight of 120 pounds, in part because of her 1 3/4-length victory in the May 26 Ouija Board Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Lone Star Park. It was the first score in nearly a year for the 5-year-old daughter of Forest Wildcat, who is trained by Donnie Von Hemel. In her 22 career starts Brownie Points has produced a solid record of 8-7-3 and earnings of more than $800,000. In her only start on the Matt Winn Turf Course she finished fifth in the 2006 Mrs. Revere (gr. IIT). Luis Quinonez will ride the 5-1 co-fourth choice.
After finishing well back in the Sunshine Millions Distaff, her 2008 debut, Jacks or Better Farm’s Bayou’s Lassie has returned to top form in her last three races. The 5-year-old Outflanker mare won the April 5 Turf Distaff at Tampa Bay Downs, picked up her third graded victory May 3 in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (gr. IIIT), and then finished fourth, but only 1 3/4 lengths back, in the Just a Game Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont. Trained by Dale Romans, Bayou’s Lassie has won nine of 17 lifetime starts. Robby Albarado gets the return call on the 5-2 morning-line favorite.
Meribel recorded her lone graded stakes win in the 2006 edition of the Valley View Stakes (gr. III) on the Keeneland Polytrack. But the 5-year-old Peaks and Valleys mare has done no better than third in her last eight starts and has not hit the winner’s circle since June of last year. Previously owned by Arthur Hancock III and Catesby Clay, and trained by Christophe Clement, Meribel is now owned by Runnymede Farm. She is in the barn of Helen Pitts and 9-2 on the morning line.
A winner of three straight six-furlong sprints on the Belmont turf, Genuine Devotion stretches out to a mile for the first time in her career. The 4-year-old Rock of Gibraltar filly was off for more than seven months when she came back to take the May 17 Upper Noosh Stakes May 17. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee should be on or close to the lead in the Locust Grove. As the early 7-2 second choice, she will break from the rail with Alan Garcia aboard.
Julien Leparoux won the 2007 Locust Grove under Mauralakana and will try for the repeat this year with Say You Will. The good-looking daughter of A.P. Indy has done no worse than second in all but one of her eight lifetime starts, and has won two of three turf starts in her career. Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, she was second in both the Feb. 10 La Canada Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita and April 18 Doubledogdare (gr. III) at Keeneland, both of them on synthetic surfaces. Most recently, Say You Will won a seven-furlong optional claiming event on the Belmont grass, coming from well off the pace to score by a half-length June 6.