05/28/2011 1:02PM

Churchill Downs: Sassy Image shortening up


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Six furlongs probably isn’t an ideal distance for Sassy Image, but it’s sure not the only variable to consider when the 4-year-old filly starts Monday as the favorite in the Grade 3, $100,000 Winning Colors Stakes at Churchill Downs.

“She’s got the class,” said Dale Romans, who trains Sassy Image for his older brother, Jerry Romans Jr. “And she sure does love this racetrack.”

Indeed, as the winner of the Grade 1 Humana Distaff in her last start, Sassy Image would seem to bring a substantial class edge to the Winning Colors, which drew nine other fillies and mares for its eighth running. Perhaps more significantly, Sassy Image has 4 wins and a third from just 5 career starts over the Churchill main track.

“I just felt like it’d be good to run her over this track again before we take her somewhere else for the rest of the summer,” said Romans. “Ideally, I’d love to have her back here in perfect shape for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on Nov. 4.

The last time Sassy Image raced as short as six furlongs was in a 5 3/4-length maiden victory at 5 1/2 furlongs nearly two years ago at Churchill. Her subsequent triumphs over this track all came in graded stakes: the Pocahontas and Golden Rod at 2, and the Humana Distaff on the May 7 Kentucky Derby undercard.

Corey Lanerie, in contention for leading rider at the Churchill spring meet, picks up the mount on Sassy Image in place of Robby Albarado, who rode her to victory in the Humana Distaff. Both Albarado and Julien Leparoux will miss the Churchill card Monday to ride instead at Lone Star Park.

Albarado, by the way, was held blameless by the Churchill stewards and will serve no penalty for his role in the disqualification of his mount, Stinking Creek, from first to fourth in the fifth race here Thursday.

After Sassy Image, favoritism for the Winning Colors is less easily defined. Among those bidding for what would amount to mild upsets include south Florida shipper Stephanie Got Even; Wind Caper, making her first start for Ronan Cunningham after showing great consistency in New York; and Starlite Starbrite, a dangerously speedy filly from the red-hot (8 for 20) barn of trainer Tom Amoss.

Fringe players in this race named for the 1988 Kentucky Derby winner include Beat the Blues, Bell’s Shoes, and Jocata. The outsiders figure to be Indian Ink, Fortune Play, and My New Lady.

There is precedent for the Winning Colors to produce a major contender for the Breeders’ Cup: Dubai Majesty won this race in 2009 and 2010 before earning a divisional championship by capturing the BC Filly and Mare Sprint here last fall.

The Winning Colors goes as the ninth of 10 Monday races. First post is 12:45 p.m. Eastern, with the feature set for 4:59.

In an earlier allowance (race 7), the uncoupled Paul McGee duo of Demarcation and Dubious Miss, both graded stakes winners, are part of a stakes-caliber field of older horses scheduled to clash at 1 1/16 miles on turf for a $59,800 purse. One other allowance (race 8) also is on the card.

Because Monday is normally a dark day, there will be no racing here Thursday. The next live date will be the twilight card of Friday, June 3.