11/19/2012 1:50PM

Churchill Downs: Applauding making long-delayed return

Coady Photography/Keeneland
Applauding has gone unraced all year after suffering from what trainer Al Stall Jr. described as a “systemic” illness.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The turn of the calendar from 2011 to 2012 brought misfortune to a filly named Applauding. A phenom from her very first start last fall, when she broke the Polytrack record for 6 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland, Applauding has gone unraced all year after suffering from what trainer Al Stall Jr. described as a “systemic” illness.

“She got sick on Jan. 1, like the stroke of a clock,” said Stall. “She had stomach ulcers and lost weight and we just couldn’t get her system right. We trained her for a while down at Fair Grounds and treated her with GastroGard and all that before I finally had to shut her down and send her back to Claiborne Farm to give her 90 days. She took every bit of that time to start looking good, and then finally, boom, she just turned the corner. I’ll go to my grave not knowing what set her back so long.”

With all that behind her, Applauding will make her long-awaited return to the races Wednesday in the nominal feature, a $54,000, second-level allowance at six furlongs. Applauding, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Ramona Bass, will have Joe Rocco Jr. aboard when she breaks from post 6 in a field of 10. This actually will be her third start, as she followed her nine-length, record-setting debut victory at Keeneland with a six-length romp in a first-level allowance at Fair Grounds last December. She has had 14 recorded workouts in preparation for her return.

“I just want her to go out there and show up,” said Stall. “I think I’ve got her plenty fit, and I think she’s mentally ready. If she just shows up, everything should take care of itself.”

This has been a sensational fall for Stall, best known as the trainer of 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame. He won with 3 of his last 4 starters at the Keeneland meet, and after winning the last race here Sunday, he has a gaudy 10-for-20 record with 5 days left at the 21-day Churchill meet.

The comeback spot doesn’t necessarily look like a slam dunk for Applauding, although she clearly boasts superior Beyer Speed Figures. Perhaps chief among the opposition is Georgie’s Angel, who drew the favorable outside post with David Cohen riding for trainer Dale Romans. Georgie’s Angel, now 3, won her first two starts when trained by Todd Pletcher at 2, including the Grade 3 Schuylerville.

The feature is the eighth of nine Wednesday races and the first of two allowances. The second, worth $52,000, directly follows as race 9 and drew an oversubscribed field of first-level fillies and mares going a mile on turf.

Wednesday is the last card of the meet without a stakes race. First post the rest of the way is the usual 12:40 p.m. Eastern, with the exception of Thursday (11:30 a.m.).