Updated on 09/17/2011 9:50PM

Bear Fan to defend Fritchie title


Bear Fan is currently based in south Florida. She has won stakes in California and New York, and next month she is scheduled to run overseas in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen.

Accomplished world traveler that she is, Bear Fan made a side trip this week to Laurel Park in Maryland, where on Saturday she will gun for a repeat victory in the $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap, a Grade 2 race in which she again will be a solid favorite. Beaten as the 2-5 favorite in her 14th and most recent start, the Jan. 29 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint, Bear Fan will be looking to return to top form when facing nine rivals in the seven-furlong Fritchie.

"She came out of the Sunshine Millions great," said trainer Wesley Ward. "That's why I'm willing to run her back so quickly."

Ward, the ex-jockey who not only trains Bear Fan but also bred and co-owns the 6-year-old mare, employed a virtually identical schedule last year. Bear Fan finished third in the Sunshine Millions before wheeling back three weeks later and won the Fritchie by a length as the even-money favorite.

John Velazquez, who rode Bear Fan in each of her last four starts and will ride her in the Golden Shaheen on March 26, will travel up from Florida for the mount her on Saturday.

earned three straight triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures before running a subpar 87 in her Sunshine Millions loss. If she does not return to form, then the Fritchie could go to one of several rivals, notably local standout Sensibly Chic and New York invaders Cativa and Lavender Lass.

Sensibly Chic, a 5-year-old New York-bred, most recently posted a runaway victory in the Jan. 29 What a Summer at Laurel, earning a 108 Beyer. Trainer Chris Grove said he hopes that the mare did not expend her top effort.

"We didn't peak her for that race because we had the Fritchie in mind," said Grove.

The rest of the Fritchie field is Josh's Madelyn, Richetta, Santa Croce, Silmaril, Spectacular Moon, and Wallop.

The Fritchie is part of Laurel's annual Winter Sprintfest. The other Sprintfest races are the John B. Campbell Breeders' Cup, which also will be run Saturday, and the Grade 2 General George, which concludes the Sprintfest on Monday.

The weather forecast Saturday for the Baltimore-Washington area calls for mostly sunny skies and a high temperature of 42.