07/06/2009 11:00PM

Ava Mae, Pathway strongest on the turf

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The 3-year-old Illinois-bred filly Ava Mae showed turf ability from her first start, finishing second in an open maiden race last fall at Hawthorne. But Pathway showed even more. Pathway's grass debut came in the third start of her career, and in it she won an open entry-level allowance race with a $50,000 claiming option. Ava Mae comes off a win; Pathway off a loss. But Pathway may have an edge in the featured seventh race on Thursday at Arlington Park.

The race, the seventh of eight, is for second-level Illinois-bred allowance horses and is carded for about 1 1/16 miles on grass. Race 6, a first-level Polytrack route allowance, lends co-feature support.

Although Pathway won second time out over Illinois-bred foes this past April at Hawthorne, she looked like nothing special after dirt sprint races to start her career. That is probably why trainer Christine Janks could get away with running Pathway under the $50,000 claiming option in the filly's turf debut here May 10. Pathway won by a neck, and while the two behind her that day, Pari and Lake Cook, have not come back to distinguish themselves, Pathway looked at least as good in her next race, circling the field in an Illinois-bred entry-level turf allowance victory on May 24.

Then came the Purple Violet Stakes on June 20, a different ballgame at a one-turn mile on Polytrack. Only mildly favored at 2-1, Pathway made a sustained outside move on a track that seemed to favor inside paths. She took the lead in midstretch but was nipped by Bow Tie Pasta, who raced near the front and along the inside. There was not much luster lost there, at least in terms of the turf side of her career, and Pathway stands an excellent chance of getting back on track Thursday.

Ava Mae's first win came on dirt, when she beat eight in the $107,650 Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante, but she is probably a better horse on grass. Primed to win on May 20 at Arlington, Ava Mae had a difficult trip, but she cleared her first Illinois-bred allowance condition on June 14, altering her typical closing tactics to lead all the way through a slow pace.

Janks also entered front-running My Cousin Pepi (watch out, she may be the lone speed) in Thursday's race, and Ava Mae can expect to be coming from at least a little off the pace this time. Whether she can hold clear Pathway is another question.