06/28/2008 12:00AM

Garden District grabs Debutante


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The only one of the 10 fillies in the Debutante Stakes coming off a loss turned the tables on the entire field Saturday at Churchill Downs, where Garden District, getting a hurried but otherwise unobstructed trip under Robby Albarado, posted a gutsy victory as the favorite.

Always close to the lead, and always nearest the rail, Garden District took the lead after turning for home, then shook off two strong challenges to win the 108th running of the Grade 3 Debutante, the first graded stakes for 2-year-old fillies in North America this year. While her nine opponents all were coming off victories in maiden special weight races, Garden District was coming off a runner-up finish against male rivals in the May 1 Kentucky Stakes.

Garden District chased Cameron Crazies to the quarter pole, where several others began their charges. Simplify moved up with a menacing move, and Rachel Alexandra closed steadily from the outside, but Garden District persisted. She won by a half-length, with Rachel Alexandra finishing a head before Simplify.

Garden District, owned by the Twin Creeks Racing Stable, returned $4.20 after finishing six furlongs in 1:11.07 over a fast track.

"They forced Robby's hand around the turn," said Michael McCarthy, the assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "But she dug in and had enough to finish them off."

Garden District earned $66,263 from the total purse of $112,500. McCarthy said Garden District, a Dixie Union filly who won her career debut in April at Keeneland, would soon be reunited with Pletcher when shipping to Saratoga, where he said she could be a possibility for the opening-day stakes, the July 23 Schuylerville.

An objection by jockey Jamie Theriot, who rode fourth-place finisher Corlett, against Rachel Alexandra for alleged stretch interference was dismissed by the stewards.

Simplify and Songtress, who wound up seventh, represented trainer Steve Asmussen, who had won the previous three runnings of the Debutante.