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Inaugural likely coronation for Ladyledue
AUBURN, Wash. - It's still early at Emerald Downs - 27 races down and about 800 to go. But already the 3-year-old filly division is looking like Ladyledue's personal playground.
Undefeated in two starts at 2, Ladyledue is scheduled to make her 2009 debut Saturday in the $30,000 Inaugural Stakes at six furlongs. Only seven other horses were nominated. Either the division is short in numbers or they're already ducking Ladyledue.
Bonnie Jenne, who trains the front-running filly for owner Jon Sather, figures it's a numbers game more than anything else.
"I don't think she is scaring horses away," Jenne said Monday. "I think the problem is there's not a lot of horses, and the purse is only $30,000. It used to be $50,000. If you're coming from California, you can run for [$30,000] down there all the time."
Jenne is quick to acknowledge Ladyledue could be a special talent. But did Ladyledue beat anyone of consequence in 2008?
"I don't know," Jenne said. "Only a couple of the others ran in other stakes. It's just the way she did it - she did it pretty easily. She impressed a lot of people, including me. She's probably the best horse I've had."
Those are big words. Jenne, 49, is a self-described racing lifer whose father trained horses and passed along his wisdom to his daughter, who got her trainer's license in the early 1970s. Jenne has 134 victories at Emerald Downs, which opened in 1996, and her Mr. Makah captured the 2005 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic.
With Jenne's husband, Wally, providing sage counsel, Sather purchased Ladyledue out the 2007 Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association summer yearling sale. By Slewdledo out of the Exploded mare Exploded's Girl, Ladyledue needed only one race to recoup her purchase price.
"Wally fell in love with this filly," Bonnie Jenne said. "She's so well put together. She had a wound on her front leg when we bought her, and I think that's the reason we got her for $15,500. She's got a blemish on there; it's nothing."
Ladyledue made her debut last August, winning the 6 1/2-furlong Knights Choice Stakes by eight lengths. A step slow to begin, she prompted a slow pace, responded when roused for the stretch, and drew off. In the six furlong Diane Kem Stakes five weeks later, Ladyledue flashed sharper speed, cleared the field on the turn, and won by 4 1/2 lengths.
Jenne also has a 2-year-old half-brother to Ladyledue by Cascadian.
"You'll see him a ways down the road," Jenne said. "I'm not going to get in a hurry with him. I basically just want to keep him sound."
Ricky Frazier, aboard for both of her victories, will be up on Ladyledue again Saturday.
With the Inaugural coming up light, Ladyledue figures to be an overwhelming betting favorite. She was 2-5 in her 2008 finale.
Two of the eight Inaugural nominees are maidens. Two others have never won outside of the claiming ranks. Other than Laydyledue, only one nominee has won a stakes races; Broadway Hennessey captured the $54,000 Wine Country Juvenile Fillies Stakes at Santa Rosa last July. But Broadway Hennessey will not run Saturday, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. His summer plans for the filly have not been determined.
Trainer Dan Markle, who nominated two horses to the Inaugural, said it's Ladyledue's race to lose.
"She's fast, I know that," Markle said. "Going short, it seems like that filly is the cat's meow."
Harwood loaded for weekend
Trainer Doris Harwood enjoyed a prosperous opening weekend - three wins and three seconds - and she'll have runners in both of the season's first stakes races this weekend, the Inaugural on Saturday and the $30,000 Auburn Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings on Sunday.
The leading money-winning trainer at Emerald last summer, when her starters won $700,974, Harwood has more than 60 horses in training. Her roster of 3-year-olds looks particularly strong. Likely to run in the Inaugural are Seeking Ema, a $90,000 yearling purchase out of former Washington champion mare Ema Bovary, and Where I Belong, a Kentucky-bred by Solo out of the Sunny's Halo mare Annie's Halo.
But Harwood's best chance for a weekend stakes victory probably lies with either Noosa Beach or Enumerator in the six-furlong Auburn.
Noosa Beach was 2 for 2 sprinting last summer and finished second to Emerald Downs 2-year-old champion Gallant Son in the $90,000 Gottstein Futurity at 1 1/16 miles in his 2008 finale. Noosa Beach has been working steadily for his return. A physical presence as a juvenile and even more imposing now, Noosa Beach looks like a burgeoning star.
"He was a little over 16 hands as a 2-year-old and he's 17 hands now," Harwood said. "He has gotten huge, absolutely huge, and he's been training unbelievably. I couldn't ask for more out of a young 3-year-old."
Enumerator, trained by Harwood for owner Herman Sarkowsky, captured the six-furlong Strong Ruler Stakes last August and then was turned out after developing an abscess. Enumerator and Noosa Beach will meet for the first time Sunday. They've never even crossed paths in the morning.
"I have deliberately not worked these two together," Harwood said. "I don't even want to know who's faster until race day."
Taking a shot with Shamus
Trainer David Bennett has a dark horse in the Inaugural. Shamus on Me won twice at Turf Paradise over the winter but is likely to be a healthy price Saturday when she makes her 11th career start.
Shamus on Me failed to make an impression in two stakes races at Emerald Downs last summer but blossomed in Phoenix, winning a first-level allowance race and a $20,000 optional claimer before running a distant second to unbeaten sensation Carlsbad in the $50,000 Arizona Juvenile Filly Stakes in late December. Shamus on Me then missed some training and came up short in two subsequent races, leaving Bennett in a tough spot Saturday.
"She's out of conditions, so I'm really in a bad way in terms of where I'm going to run," Bennett said. "I'm probably going to try her here and then decide what to do. We know Ladyledue is the big, tough thing here. If we try Ladyledue, I don't know if we can outrun her."
* Rendezvous is nominated for the Auburn Stakes, but will run in the Grade 3, $100,000 Derby Trial on Saturday at Churchill Downs, said his trainer, Hollendorfer.