By Anthony Stabile
FILLY & MARE SPRINT
$1 million; 7 furlongs; 3up(f&m)
This race has become famous quite simply because Groupie Doll, the winner of the last pair of runnings and easily one of the more popular horses of this generation. When first contested in 2007 it was run at six furlongs because host track Monmouth Park isn’t configured for its intended distance.
Though Groupie Doll is on to her second career as a broodmare, this year’s edition figures to be action-packed as five of the 11 pre-entries having already won a G1 race. At post time, the New York bred Artemis Agrotera figures to be the favorite as she rides a three race win streak into this for trainer Mike Hushion.
Hushion sent this filly west last year when she was undefeated in two starts and already a G1 winner but she reportedly trained miserably and was off the board in the Juvenile Fillies. This year, she was ambitiously placed in the G1 Acorn for her first start off of a seven month rest and was trounced before winning a confidence building allowance contest at Saratoga against statebreds. A blowout score in the G1 Ballerina at this trip followed before she beat win machine La Verdad on the wire in a workmanlike performance in the G2 Gallant Bloom.
One trainer who doesn’t have to worry about heading out west is Bob Baffert, who’ll send out the highly talented yet delicate Midnight Lucky in here. She’s raced just five times in her career, with her lone defeat coming in the G1 Kentucky Oaks last season when she was embroiled in a pace battle from the start. Her other four efforts have been flawless, with daylight scores in last year’s Acorn and the G1 Humana Distaff at Churchill on Derby Day last out. Her problem has been staying on the racetrack as she won last out off of an 11 month layoff and will be making her first start in nearly six months in this.
Judy the Beauty missed by just a half-length in last year’s renewal and has had a pretty solid season to date for Wesley Ward. She won the G3 Las Flores to start the year, her only other try over this surface before taking the G1 Madison and G3 rancho Bernardo last out over the Polytracks at Keeneland and Del Mar. Her lone defeat this year came in the Humana.
Sweet Reason will cut back to one turn for trainer Leah Gyarmati off of a second place finish to likely three-year-old filly champ Untapable in the G1 Cotillion going 1 1/16 miles last out. In her two starts going this trip, Sweet Reason won the G1 Spinaway as a juvenile and G1 Test two starts back, both at Saratoga. Sweet Reason also won the Acorn going a mile earlier this year.
Better Lucky won both of her G1 races on the turf but does own three wins on the dirt in her career, including a minor stakes at Saratoga three starts back for Tom Albertrani, who also pre-entered her in the Mile (first preference) where she sits seventh on the alternates list. Little Alexis won the first two starts of her career at Gulfstream before missing by just a length when third in the Test after finding some trouble at the start and finishing fourth in the Cotillion for Donna Green.
Leigh Court was able to transfer her impressive synthetic track form to the dirt last out when she rolled home to win the G2 TCA at Keeneland over their new dirt surface. This will be her third start off of a ten month layoff for Josie Carroll. Gary Mandella is hoping Living the Life will follow Leigh Court’s lead as his filly is a perfect two for two over synthetic courses here in the U.S. and will be making her conventional dirt debut.
Rusty Arnold’s Southern Honey was an even second in the TCA last out and won the G3 Winning Colors earlier this year. Stonetastic tired to third in the TCA after getting caught up in a blistering early speed duel. She won the G2 Prioress at Saratoga two back for trainer Kelly Breen. Thank You Marylou was a non-threatening third in the G2 Raven Run at Keeneland and will be coming back off of just two weeks rest for Mike Maker. She won a minor stakes at Gulfstream and the G3 Dogwood earlier this year at this distance.