03/25/2006 12:00AM

High Cotton proves his last wasn't true

Pat Lang
High Cotton wins his second start of the year in the Rushaway Stakes on Saturday at Turfway Park.

FLORENCE, Ky. - High Cotton atoned for a nightmarish 3-year-old debut when pulling clear to win his second start of the year, the $100,000 on Saturday at Turfway Park.

With Chris DeCarlo riding for trainer Todd Pletcher, High Cotton broke a tad slowly but still was able to scurry up the rail to get a short lead into the first turn of the 1 1/16-mile Rushaway. After that, it was smooth sailing for High Cotton, a Dixie Union colt who had finished second in two key stakes last fall at Churchill Downs but had been trounced nearly 40 lengths when returning to action in a Feb. 22 allowance at Gulfstream Park.

High Cotton, owned by Peachtree Stable, returned $8.80 as the second choice in a field of 12 3-year-olds. Special Interest, dismissed at 39-1, overcame a troubled start to rally for second, while Bear Character, a 31-1 shot, was third.

High Cotton was chased early by Warrior Within before steadily edging clear in the far turn. He was not seriously threatened thereafter, finishing 2 1/4 lengths ahead of the late-closing Special Interest, a D. Wayne Lukas-trained maiden colt making his eighth start.

"We were a little surprised there wasn't more pace in the race," said Pletcher assistant Mike Dilger, adding the colt will resume training at Keeneland this week.

New Character, a 31-1 shot, completed a superfecta on which no winning $1 tickets were sold. Three 10-cent supers were sold, each returning $26,858.79.

Besides High Cotton, the favorites fared poorly, including Fabled (seventh at 5-2), In a Flash (ninth, 6-1), and Mark of Success (11th, 4-1).

Top Notch Lady takes Bourbonette

Top Notch Lady, making her first start in more than four months, wore down front-running Coronado's Vision to capture the $150,000 by a neck.

Despite starting from the outside post in a field of nine 3-year-old fillies, Robby Albarado worked out a terrific trip on Top Notch Lady, a Sultry Song filly trained by Mark Casse. Albarado kept the filly in striking position and in the clear before she finally got to Coronado's Vision in the desperate final yards of the one-mile Bourbonette. The winner returned $16.80 as fourth choice.

Lemons Forever finished another three-quarters of a length back in third, while Sabatini, the 6-5 favorite, was fourth.

Top Notch Lady, a Kentucky-bred owned by Robert J. Wilson, won 3 of 6 starts at 2, all at Woodbine, before being sent to Ocala, Fla., to train this winter. Casse sent the filly to Turfway about a week early to breeze her over Polytrack.

"I wasn't too concerned about her running off the layoff," said Casse. "I told Mr. Wilson that she likes the Polytrack and if she gets beat it's not because she's short."

Coronado's Vision overtook longshot Morethanawhisper, and after Capozzene made a failed run at her, she was unable to withstand Top Notch Lady.

This was the first year the previously ungraded Bourbonette carried a Grade 3 ranking. The Bourbonette occasionally produces a starter for the Ashland Stakes or Kentucky Oaks, but Casse said Top Notch Lady likely will make her next start at Woodbine.

Skeleton Crew upsets Final Copy

Skeleton Crew ($16.20) gamely held off favored Final Copy to score his first stakes victory in the $49,000 , the first stakes on the card. Ridden by Phil Teator, Skeleton Crew was prominent throughout the six-furlong race before edging clear in midstretch to prevail by a neck in 1:10.77.

Cognac Kisses, a first-time starter at 48-1, ran third, while second-choice Urban Guy faded to fifth in a field of nine 3-year-olds.

Skeleton Crew has won 3 of 5 starts, all of them at Turfway. A gelding by Elusive Quality, he is owned by Ed Anthony and trained by Pat Huffman

* Very Vegas ($7), ridden by Jesus Castanon, gamely held off sustained stretch runs by Eastern Lily and previously unbeaten Listen to post a narrow victory in the final stakes of the day, the $50,000 . Nick Canani trains Very Vegas, an Everest Stables homebred, who now has won 10 of 33 career starts.