Updated on 09/18/2011 12:16AM

High Cotton keeps getting better

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Tony Terry / Churchill Downs
High Cotton wins the $220,400 Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup Stakes at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - If the results of the $220,400 are conclusive, then High Cotton has made commendable strides in the last half-year or so, while Private Vow has not.

Last fall, Private Vow won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, with High Cotton second by 2 1/4 lengths. But in their first meeting since that Nov. 26 encounter, High Cotton turned the tables in decisive fashion Saturday at Churchill, winning the Grade 3 Northern Dancer while Private Vow labored home last.

High Cotton now has won three stakes since the KJC, adding the Northern Dancer to triumphs in the March 25 Rushaway and May 20 Sir Barton. A ninth-place finish in the April 15 Arkansas Derby was sandwiched between those two previous stakes wins, prompting trainer Todd Pletcher to take High Cotton off the Kentucky Derby trail.

High Cotton, owned by Peachtree Stable, paid $5 as a very slight favorite in a field of six 3-year-olds. He won the 1 1/16-mile Northern Dancer in 1:43.33 over a fast track. A total of $79,980 was bet to win on High Cotton, while $79,883 came in on Private Vow.

Ridden by Garrett Gomez, High Cotton raced closest to the pacesetting Private Vow before asserting his superiority down the stretch.

"His heart really blew up," said Gomez. "He really went to running the last eighth of a mile for me."

Simon Pure finished second, 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner, while Sayhellotolarry was third.

Pletcher said the July 15 Ohio Derby is the likely next start for High Cotton, a Kentucky-bred colt by Dixie Union. For Private Vow, the defeat was his fourth straight since the KJC.

Jefferson Cup: Brilliant!

Getting a patient ride from Robby Albarado and an ideal trip from just off the pace, Brilliant proved punctual as an odds-on favorite and captured his stakes debut in the Grade 2, $219,200 .

Bred and owned by the Mill House of James Brady, Brilliant ($3.80) saved ground before angling out to prevail by a half-length over a stubborn Tahoe Warrior, who led for all but the final 70 yards under Garrett Gomez.

"The best way to describe his performance is that he ran to his name - Brilliant," said Albarado.

Neil Howard is the trainer of Brilliant, a 3-year-old War Chant colt who began his career with 1 win from 5 starts, all on dirt, before Howard switched him to turf when the Churchill Downs meet began April 29. The colt is now 3 for 3 on grass, with two allowance wins before the Jefferson Cup.

Brilliant finished 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.47 over a firm course. Storm Treasure finished a late-running third, another half-length behind Tahoe Warrior, in a field of six. Yate's Black Cat was an early scratch.

Regret: Lady of Venice flies home

In her first start in America, in the April 23 Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland, Lady of Venice won with a quick closing fraction. Saturday in the Grade 3, $229,000 , more than her final split was quick.

Rallying behind a fast early pace, Lady of Venice rolled to a four-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile turf race, racing the distance in 1:47.31 - the fastest time in the Regret since the race was expanded from 1 1/16 miles in 2003.

Confidently ridden by jockey Julien Leparoux, Lady of Venice ($3.80) settled in ninth, far off the pace of Beau Dare, and quickly advanced into contention on the final turn. Once in the stretch, she bulled her way between horses, and after exchanging bumps with runner-up Magnificent Song found clear sailing and blew past her opponents.

Magnificent Song finished a neck in front of Precious Kitten in third.

Lady of Venice, a 3-year-old daughter of Loup Solitaire trained by Patrick Biancone, pushed her record to 4 for 5 in winning the Regret.

* My Typhoon ($6.80) got a sensational ride from Robby Albarado when they drove clear to win the nightcap, the Grade 3 . Bill Mott trains My Typhoon, a 4-year-old Giant's Causeway filly.

Rich in Spirit finished second, with Louve Royale third in a field of 11 filly-mare turf runners.

- additional reporting by Byron King