05/05/2012 2:22PM

Churchill Downs: Hungry Island rallies to win Distaff Turf Mile

Barbara D. Livingston
Hungry Island, ridden by John Velazquez, goes past Tapitsfly to win the Distaff Turf Mile.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Shug McGaughey was quietly confident about the chances of his Hungry Island as the field neared the starting gate for Saturday's $200,000 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs.

"She moved a little too soon in her last start, and the pace sets up well for her today," McGaughey said while moving closer to the rail for a better view of the race.

A couple of minutes later, McGaughey had the best view of all, from the winner's circle, after Hungry Island rallied to a one-length victory over Tapitsfly in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile.

Hungry Island, a homebred daughter of More Than Ready, returned from a five-month layoff to finish third behind Marketing Mix, the 3-2 favorite in the Distaff Turf Mile, when she launched her 4-year-old campaign just 24 days ago under allowance conditions at Keeneland.  She was ridden for the first time in her 2012 debut by John Velazquez, who was back aboard again on Saturday.

Hungry Island settled nicely, about five lengths off the pace of Daisy Devine, during the early stages of the Distaff Turf Mile. She angled four wide to commence her rally leaving the final bend, ran down Tapitsfly near the sixteenth pole, and gradually edged clear.

Tapitsfly stalked the early pace, readily overtook the tiring Daisy Devine in early stretch, and briefly shook free before ultimately proving no match for the winner. La Reine Lionne rallied mildly to finish third following a slow start.

Hungry Island completed the distance in 1:36.20 over a good course and paid $13.80.

"John had never ridden her prior to her last start and had to move her a little soon to avoid some traffic and getting carried wide on the final turn," said McGaughey, who trains Hungry Island for owner-breeder Emory Hamilton. "He knew her better after that race, waited a little longer today, and when she moved it was over with. I won't say she needed her last race, but it did set her up nicely for this one. "

McGaughey said he would likely point Hungry Island for Belmont's Just A Game, with the Grade 1 Diane at Saratoga his major goal this summer.