Updated on 09/15/2011 1:24PM

Fleur de Lis tops Foster undercard


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Carl Bowman would just love to return to Delaware Park with a top contender after winning the Delaware Handicap last year with Lu Ravi. But first, Bowman needs a horse to take him there.

On Saturday, when he saddles the enigmatic filly Maltese Superb in a tough renewal of the $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap, Bowman probably will be able to determine whether a return trip is in store. "It might be a good spot," he said.

The Fleur de Lis field is a virtual rematch of the May 4 Louisville Breeders' Cup, in which longshots Saudi Poetry and Royal Fair finished one-two while the odds-on favorite, Secret Status, labored home sixth.

Also returning from the Louisville BC are Bordelaise, Dreams Gallore and Asher.

While the connections of Saudi Poetry and Royal Fair said earlier this week they are confident of good showings again, and trainer Neil Howard said he is optimistic Secret Status can reverse her disappointing performance, it is the presence of the newcomer, Maltese Superb, that gives the Grade 3 Fleur de Lis the most intriguing new element.

Maltese Superb is owned by Yoshio Fujita, who also owns the retired mare, Lu Ravi. Maltese Superb, a 4-year-old gray filly by With Approval, won a third-level allowance race so easily here May 12 that Bowman believes a return to the $600,000 Delaware 'Cap on July 22 is highly plausible. The front-running allowance victory came in just her second dirt start in a 14-race campaign that otherwise has been dominated by turf attempts, primarily in Japan.

"She always has trained extraordinarily well on the dirt," said Bowman. "I've pretty much been begging Mr. Fujita to let me run her on dirt, and he was amenable. When I had her in New Orleans this winter, I worked her behind horses, around horses, every which way, just seeing if she could handle everything with the dirt, and she did. Every work has been sterling."

In all, the Fleur de Lis drew nine fillies and mares for its 27th running. The 1 1/8-mile race formerly served as a stand-alone highlight during the latter part of the Churchill spring meet but is being run on the Stephen Foster undercard fo the first time Saturday. Stars such as Serena's Song (1996), Escena (1998), Banshee Breeze (1999) and Heritage of Gold (2000) have won the Fleur de Lis in recent years.

* Trainer Ken McPeek didn't quite know what to make of a runaway victory here May 16 by Amaretta, the Dogwood Stables color-bearer who is one of eight 3-year-old fillies entered in the $150,000 Regret Stakes on the Foster undercard. "I thought maybe she had everything her own way that day," said McPeek. But when Amaretta returned to defeat second-level allowance fillies in equally impressive fashion 12 days later, McPeek could come to only one conclusion. "She just flat whupped 'em," he said.

With those back-to-back wins, Amaretta has a well-earned berth in the Grade 3 Regret, a 1 1/16-mile turf race that should have La Vida Loca as a clear-cut favorite. La Vida Loca, trained by Bill Mott and to be ridden by Jerry Bailey, won the May 12 Edgewood Stakes over some of the same fillies who return in the Regret.

Other logical contenders include the Regret runner-up, Bold Answer, who adds Pat Day, and Nasty Storm, who switches to turf after having won the Dogwood Stakes on dirt in her latest start.

* While the $100,000 Northern Dancer Handicap carries the smallest purse of the four Saturday stakes, it is perhaps the deepest. Ten 3-year-olds, all with respectable chances, will clash in the one-mile race.

Meetyouathebrig, whose two best career races have come in one-mile races at Churchill, "loves this racetrack and the mile out of the chute," noted trainer Elliott Walden. As the 122-pound highweight, Meetyouathebrig will concede two to 10 pounds to the field. "I'm not happy about giving away all that weight, but that's the way it goes," said Walden.

Percy Hope, winner of the Lone Star Derby, and Son of Rocket, third in the Arkansas Derby, are other top threats.