05/02/2013 1:56PM

Churchill Downs: Hungry Island out to defend in Distaff Turf Mile


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - One of the reasons Hungry Island has been brought back for her 5-year-old season is to try to win a Grade 1 race.

Technically, Saturday's $250,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile doesn't qualify. But it should."We're trying to win a Grade 1," Shug McGaughey, the trainer of Hungry Island said Thursday. "We're in a Grade 2 that should be a Grade 1."

Four of the 10 horses entered in Saturday's Distaff Turf Mile are Grade 1 winners, including Marketing Mix and Stephanie's Kitten - who both are making their seasonal debuts - as well as Daisy Devine and Karlovy Vary.

Hungry Island, however, is the defending champion in this race, having defeated a quality field last year after finishing third behind Marketing Mix in a Keeneland allowance race.

This year, Hungry Island beat Karlovy Vary by a length in a Keeneland allowance race.

"She ran great over at Keeneland - this is a little bit different story," McGaughey said. "I thought Javier [Castellano] rode her really well the other day, so I think he knows her; there's a little bit of a trick to her."

A likely contested pace and the possibility of less-than-firm turf - if the forecast bears out - would only further enhance Hungry Island's chances.

The only race Marketing Mix did not finish first or second in from seven outs last year was this one. She was fourth, over a course labeled "good" that her trainer, Tom Proctor, called heavy.

Proctor said he is using this race as a starting point for Marketing Mix, the runner-up in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, but noted, "When I lead this mare over there, they got to outrun her."

Garrett Gomez rides Marketing Mix, the 123-pound highweight, from post 8.

Stephanie's Kitten is 2 for 2 over the Churchill turf course, including a win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2011 and a victory in the Edgewood during Derby week last year. She has not run since finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth at Keeneland last October.

"This the first race that we could have her ready for," trainer Wayne Catalano said. "We're happy with everything. It's a flat mile, she's fit enough to go a mile. We all know she's good enough."

Daisy Devine, who won the Grade 3 Cardinal here last fall, finished second behind Center Court in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley last month at Keeneland. She won the Jenny Wiley in 2012.

Karlovy Vary, who won the Grade 1 Ashland in 2012, finished nearly four lengths clear for the rest of the field when second to Hungry Island last month at Keeneland.
Drama Drama, Channel Lady, Frontside, Class Included, and Stopshoppingmaria complete the field.