03/19/2006 12:00AM

Aunt Henny wins Herecomesthebride Stakes

Ryan McAlinden/EQUI-PHOTO
Aunt Henny, and jockey Javier Castellano, race to victory ahead of Diamond Spirit and Mark Guidry in the Grade III $100,000 The Herecomesthebride Stakes on Sunday at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The late defection of division leader J'ray turned what looked to be a one sided into a much more competitive event. And sure enough the race lived up to those expectations after Aunt Henny outlasted Diamond Spirit to post a half-length victory in the Grade 3 turf event.

Aunt Henny raced rankly under jockey Javier Castellano during the early stages of the one mile and one eighth Herecomesthebride while stalking the pace of Lake Alice. Aunt Henny settled into a more relaxed stride once entering the backstretch, took the lead midway around the second turn then after drawing clear was fully extended to withstand Diamond Spirit.

Diamond Spirit, one of two members of the Herecomesthebride field along with Miss Shop, made a strong move while racing widest into the stretch, appeared to flatten out slightly near midstretch then came again in the late stages to narrowly fail. Miss Shop finished another 3 3/4 lengths further back in third followed by Musical Charm and a tiring Lake Alice.

Aunt Henny, a daughter of Hennessy trained by Michael Matz, covered the distance in 1:46.88 over a firm course and paid $4.60 as the favorite in the field of only five 3-year-old fillies. The win was the second in three starts since she was switched to the turf at the beginning of her 3-year-old campaign.

"We had worked this filly on turf before she broke her maiden and she worked great," said Matz who trains Aunt Henny for the Erdenheim Farm. "We thought she might be just a sprinter but now it looks like we can get some distance with her on turf."

State steward Kevin Scheen said J'ray was scratched because he did not arrive at the track in time to receive his Lasix injection within the four hour limit prescribed by state statutes.