11/30/2011 5:07PM

Fair Grounds: Applauding looks for repeat of record-setting debut

Coady Photography/Keeneland
Applauding runs six furlongs in 1:07.76 in her debut, setting a track record at Keeneland.

NEW ORLEANS – Okay, so the Keeneland Polytrack played sizzlingly fast many October afternoons during the fall meet this year. Still, what Applauding pulled off Oct. 14 was amazing.

A 2-year-old filly making her career debut, Applauding raced six furlongs in 1:07.76, the fastest three-quarter mile time by .54 of a second recorded during Keeneland’s synthetic-surface era. What does Applauding do for an encore? We will see in race 6 on Friday at Fair Grounds, an entry-level allowance race also open to $50,000 claimers that attracted six entrants.

Applauding, a Congrats filly owned by Ramona Bass, drew the rail and will be ridden by Shane Sellers. She has worked five times since her debut win, including two breezes since shipping into Fair Grounds, where she makes her first start on dirt.

“She’s worked fine,” said trainer Al Stall, who didn’t point Applauding to a Churchill race in part to give her more time following her brilliant debut. “She’s done everything properly down here.”

As for the surface switch, Stall pointed out that Applauding was purchased for $370,000 at a 2-year-old in training sale based on a fast eighth-mile work on dirt.

“I’d hate to think she was just a synthetic horse,” he said.

Applauding figures to be a short-priced favorite, and bettors seeking an alternative might look to Lulu Wong, who won a maiden race Sept. 24 at Delaware Park by more than 10 lengths while making her second start.

“She’s a nice filly, but it looks like I hooked a monster,” trainer Steve Hobby said.

Lulu Wong stepped on herself and tore off part of her foot leaving the gate during her career debut in June, Hobby said. That incident accounts for her fifth-place finish that day and the break of two months until her next race. Hobby shipped from Delaware to Oaklawn last month, and since Oaklawn does not yet have a clocker timing works, Lulu Wong’s recent breeze there went unrecorded.

Tom Amoss-trained Little Miss Muffet, a debut winner at Churchill in May, might have enough speed to stick with Applauding for a few furlongs, at least. But if Applauding runs like she did in her first start, no one is going to stay with her to the finish of Friday’s race.

The Friday card also includes a second-level, turf-sprint allowance (race 9) that’s also open to $40,000 claimers. Flash Mash and Notassharpasuthink, two-three in a similar race during the Keeneland meet, look like the main contenders.