01/12/2012 5:06PM

Fair Grounds: Cherokee Queen continues fight in Marie Krantz Memorial Handicap

Louis Hodges Jr.
Cherokee Queeen wins the Blushing K.D. Handicap on Dec. 17 at Fair Grounds.

When Clark Brewster purchased Cherokee Queen last fall it was, as much as anything, as a broodmare prospect. The mare was 6 then and coming off a non-competitive eighth-place finish in the First Lady Stakes at Keeneland. But Cherokee Queen showed in her first start for Brewster and trainer Steve Margolis that she was not quite ready for pasture life just yet, winning the Blushing K.D. Handicap on Dec. 17 with a good late rally.

And so it is back into battle for now 7-year-old Cherokee Queen, one of nine fillies and mares entered in the $75,000 Marie Krantz Memorial Handicap, the Saturday feature at Fair Grounds. But if Cherokee Queen bounced back into better form last month, she hardly seemed superior while scoring by a neck, and the Marie Krantz has the look of a race that could fall any number of ways.

On paper, the race should be run at a decent tempo. Weekend Party made a clear lead before fading slightly to finish a close fourth in the Blushing K.D., and she is back for another try Saturday. But joining the fray this time are Juanita, a confirmed front-runner in from Gulfstream for trainer Mike Maker, and Skipping Town, who likes to lead or press.

“We’re hoping our horse can sit right off the lead,” said Weekend Party’s trainer, Mike Stidham. “She’s run that way before.”

Stidham also fervently hopes that his other Marie Krantz entrant, A She’s Adorable, can work out a different kind of journey than the one she had in the Blushing K.D. That day, she dropped back to 10th in the early going, much farther behind the pace than has been her typical running style, and did well to rally for fifth, beaten just more than two lengths by Cherokee Queen.

“That definitely was not the plan,” Stidham said. “We have no idea why she was back that far. It had to compromise her chances. We’re going to try and remedy that this time.”

With a better trip, A She’s Adorable fits the spot as well as anyone. She’s a multiple winner of listed-class turf stakes and had gone 2-1-0 from three previous Fair Grounds grass starts.

Pleasantly Blessed was the horse who checked in just behind Cherokee Queen last month, and she is back for another try, but horses like those two have nothing like the upside of Poof Too. Poof Too, from the barn of Mark Frostad, just turned 4 and has made only seven starts, and her closing third in the Nov. 26 Pago Hop was good enough to suggest that she could contend Saturday with a decent step forward.