02/25/2012 5:41PM

Fair Grounds: Summer Applause wears down Avie’s Sense in Rachel Alexandra Stakes

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

NEW ORLEANS – Summer Applause failed to catch Believe You Can in last month’s Silverbulletday Stakes, but when the lead was taken from Believe You Can at the start of Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds, the complexion of the race changed. Believe You Can failed to adjust, and Summer Applause now had to run down the less-regarded Avie’s Sense.

Avie’s Sense, though, proved a formidable foe, but Summer Applause was able to wear her down in the final furlong to score a one-length victory in this key race for 3-year-old fillies. It was another 3 1/2 lengths back to Inny Minnie, with Believe You Can a disappointing fourth in the field of six.

Summer Applause ($8.40) was timed in 1:43.30 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track.

Avie’s Sense got loose on the lead through an opening quarter-mile in 24.16 seconds. Believe You Can, on the inside, and Inny Minnie, to the outside of Believe You Can, were closest, and then Summer Applause launched what proved to be the winning rally.

“I was a little nervous when I saw the other horse out there loping on the lead,” said Bret Calhoun, trainer of Summer Applause. “I got a little nervous down the backstretch.”

Summer Applause collared Avie’s Sense turning into the stretch, but Avie’s Sense did not readily yield until the final yards.

The Fair Grounds Oaks on March 31 is a logical next spot for Summer Applause, but Calhoun stopped short of committing to that race.

“Obviously, the ultimate goal is the Kentucky Oaks,” he said of the May 4 race at Churchill Downs. “We need to figure out the best way to get there.”

Summer Applause has now won three times in five starts. She was making only her second start for Calhoun. She was previously trained by Josie Carroll, who still has Avie’s Sense.

Larry Jones, trainer of Believe You Can, had no immediate theory as to why his filly ran so poorly.

“The horse who won was behind us, and the horse who was second was in front of us, so I don’t know now,” he said.