Beautiful Pleasure, the champion older mare of 1999, will make her first start of the year in Saturday's grade I Hempstead Handicap at Belmont Park where the 6-year-old mare will face seven rivals in the 1 1/16 mile contest, including stablemate Darling My Darling. Beautiful Pleasure races for John Oxley while Darling My Darling races for his wife, Debby Oxley, both are trained by John and Donna Ward.Beautiful Pleasure has not raced since finishing sixth in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. Last year after winning the Hempstead, Beautiful Pleasure was sent back to her Kentucky base where she suffered a bout with colic and a pulled muscle. She finished second in the Go For Wand (gr. I) and went on to win the Personal Ensign (gr. I) and run second to 2000 champion older mare Riboletta in the Beldame (gr. I) before a tiring finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. While Beautiful Pleasure, the 120-pound highweight, does her running up front; Darling My Darling likes to come from off the pace. Darling My Darling, was at Belmont for the Acorn Stakes (gr. I), when she was beaten 14 1/4 lengths. The 4-year-old Deputy Minister filly did not start again until October when she won the Raven Run at Keeneland before finishing sixth in the Churchill Downs Distaff (gr. II). Darling My Darling has won both her starts this year -- a Gulfstream allowance and the Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland.The two Ward trainees will face tough competition in the likes of Shuvee Handicap (gr. II) winner Apple of Kent and Jostle, winner of the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) last year at Saratoga.
The field for the Hempstead consists of: Darling My Darling (Mike Smith, 114); Critical Eye (Mike Luzzi, 115); Apple of Kent (Richard Migliore, 117); Hemline (Robbie Davis, 112); Crescent Coast (Norberto Arroyo Jr., 112); Serra Lake (Edgar Prado, 114); Beautiful Pleasure (Jorge Chavez, 120); Jostle (Jerry Bailey, 117).