02/28/2012 4:44PM

Fair Grounds: Summer Applause puts it all together in Rachel Alexandra

Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges Jr.
Summer Applause (center) runs by Avie's Sense (right) to win the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes.

For most early season 3-year-olds, races offer an opportunity to learn something. That’s what happened with Summer Applause, who had raced on the lead when she impressively won a first-level allowance race Dec. 31 at Fair Grounds.

In the Jan. 21 Silverbulletday Stakes, trainer Bret Calhoun asked jockey Robby Albarado to hold Summer Applause off the pace, hoping that racing from behind would teach the filly something. And it did. At the top of the stretch, Inny Minnie rushed up alongside Summer Applause and put her in tight quarters. Experiencing something new and intimidating, Summer Applause switched leads and drifted down to the inside before collecting herself and running on for second.

“I think the surprise effect that had on her, it did knock her off stride,” Calhoun said.

But the experience also moved Summer Applause forward. Calhoun said the filly behaved in a more composed fashion in the weeks between the Silverbulletday and the Rachel Alexandra Stakes this past Saturday, and this time, Summer Applause turned in a complete performance. She rated comfortably behind pacesetter Avie’s Sense, then went and ran down that talented opponent in the stretch, winning the Rachel Alexandra by one length. The performance looked good and produced a fast raw time, and Summer Applause was given a 96 Beyer Speed Figure. In total, the Harlan’s Holiday filly has the look of a major early contender for the Kentucky Oaks.

Calhoun said Summer Applause had taken her race well.

“She’s stayed on her feed tub ever since, and that’s key, because it looked like a pretty hard race,” he said.

The March 31 Fair Grounds Oaks is Summer Applause’s next target, and Calhoun said he planned to give Summer Applause three works between starts.

The Fair Grounds Oaks should feature a rematch between Summer Applause and Avie’s Sense. Josie Carroll, who trained Summer Applause until a 75 percent interest in the filly was sold after her Dec. 31 win, said Avie’s Sense also had come out of Saturday’s race in good shape. Avie’s Sense set a good pace for the first half-mile, never appearing to fully relax on the backstretch, and was making her first start after a maiden win.

“She’s pretty inexperienced, and she’ll get a lot out of that as far as seasoning goes,” Carroll said.

Good and Lucky retired from racing

Nine-year-old Good and Lucky, a longtime Fair Grounds favorite, has been retired from racing, trainer Josie Carroll said. Good and Lucky was a 13-time winner, and seven of those victories came in New Orleans. In his most recent start, on Dec. 24, Good and Lucky finished last of seven while racing for a $17,500 claiming price.

“He retired sound, but he just didn’t seem to be putting much into his races anymore,” Carroll said.