07/22/2010 2:40PM

Churchill invaders, Danzon and Closeout, loom large in Lady Canterbury


SHAKOPEE, Minn. – But for a fraction of an inch, Danzon would not be here Saturday to compete as the likely favorite in the $100,000 Lady Canterbury Breeders’ Cup Stakes.

“If she hadn’t won her last race, we would’ve been eligible for an allowance race at Saratoga, and that’s where we would’ve run,” said trainer Jimmy Baker.

Instead, Baker has shipped Danzon off her razor-thin triumph in the Grade 3 Locust Grove Handicap at her home base, Churchill Downs, to Canterbury Park, where one of the track’s longest-running and most prestigious stakes will follow the Claiming Crown series as the 10th of 11 Saturday races. A field of 11 fillies and mares has been entered in the Lady Canterbury, a 1 1/16-mile turf race, with Danzon being assigned the far outside post with Julien Leparoux to ride.

Danzon won the July 3 Locust Grove by a fortuitous head-bob in a frantic finish. Baker, understandably, was somewhat leery of running the 7-year-old mare back in three weeks, “but she seemed to come out of that last race just fine,” he said. “I haven’t had her long enough to determine whether we’re coming back too quick. I breezed her once, she went good, and this is what we decided on.”

The main threat to Danzon, who was claimed for $80,000 earlier at the Churchill meet, appears to be another Churchill mare: Closeout, trained by Tom Proctor. A 5-year-old Glen Hill Farm homebred, Closeout clearly has some class, having earned more than $450,000 with 6 wins and 6 seconds from 20 starts.

Closeout drew at the opposite end of the starting gate, with E.T. Baird to ride her from post 1.

Between the two favorites, there are several others who appear capable of upsetting with their best. They include Wine Diva and Mizzcan’tbewrong, who finished a nose apart in a local prep July 3; Never Retreat, from the ever-dangerous Chicago stable of Chris Block; War Tigress, who set a too-fast pace in the Locust Grove; and Louisiana shipper Dancin Perfect.

First run in 1986, the Lady Canterbury has been won a number of standout turf mares, including Fieldy (1990) and K Z Bay (1997). Proctor won the 2009 running with Happiness Is.