05/10/2013 12:36PM

Churchill Downs: Itsabeautifulthing looks to pick up where she left off Sunday

Coady Photography/Keeneland
Miz Ida, winning the Grade 3 Valley View at Keeneland last fall, is entered in a non-stakes for the first time since December 2011.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The 5-year-old mare named Itsabeautifulthing is just that, according to trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel, although actions speak louder than looks in the racing game.

“She’s a big, good-lookin’ thing,” said Von Hemel. “She can run a little bit, too.”

Itsabeautifulthing is one of six fillies and mares in the Sunday feature at Churchill Downs, a $61,000 turf race open to fourth-level allowance horses and $100,000 claimers. She has not raced since winning a third-level allowance at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 22, a gap of more than 11 weeks.

“We just haven’t been able to find a race for her,” explained Von Hemel, who has a full barn on the Churchill backstretch for the first time since spending his summers in Texas or Chicago for the last two decades or so. “We didn’t want to run her in some of those really tough stakes, and these high-end allowances hardly ever fill.”

Von Hemel is one of several trainers here this spring with a stable for the first time, or, in his case, for the first time in many years. Mike Stidham also is back after an absence, while Steve Hobby, Tim Ice, Tim Richardson, and Liz Gray also fit the category.

They join a handful of trainers in just their second or third year at Churchill, including Allen Milligan, Dane Kobiskie, Michelle Lovell, and Jack Frost.

Itsabeautifulthing typifies the Von Hemel mode in that she is well-bred and meant for upper-level races. Since that Oaklawn victory, she has had eight workouts and “hasn’t missed a beat” while waiting for a race to go, said Von Hemel.

Joe Rocco Jr. will be aboard Itsabeautifulthing when she breaks from post 4 in the one-mile turf race.

Some of the opposition figures to make this a demanding return, foremost of those being Miz Ida, a multiple stakes winner at 3. Trained by Steve Margolis, Miz Ida will be making her first start in nearly six months after getting time off following a fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes here last fall. She is cross-entered in a similar one-mile turf race Saturday at Arlington Park. Shaun Bridgmohan has the mount from post 2.

Other considerations include Brilliant Future (post 1, Rosie Napravnik), who comes off a wire-to-wire victory in a Keeneland turf allowance for Joan Scott, and Heavenly Landing (post 5, Corey Lanerie), a 6-year-old mare with nearly $300,000 in earnings for trainer Eddie Kenneally.

Rounding out the cast are Exclusive Love and Revelstoke.

With just six entries, the feature is slotted early on an 11-race Sunday card as race 3. One other allowance, a $52,000 first-level turf route, drew a full field of 12 and was saved for later in the afternoon as race 10.

This day is traditionally popular with hundreds of local families who choose to celebrate Mother’s Day at the racetrack. As of mid-week, Churchill reported many of its dining sections already sold out, although there were still some limited options available.