07/19/2008 12:00AM

Julia Tuttle defends home turf in Virginia Oaks


At age 57, Ferris Allen still plays competitive baseball in age-restricted leagues in Maryland, so he knows all about the concept of home field. And Allen, the all-time leading trainer in Colonial Downs history, would love to see one of his rising stars, Julia Tuttle, use the home field to full advantage when she goes for her third straight victory in the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks.

Julia Tuttle has won her last two races, both run over the Colonial turf, by a combined 14 1/2 lengths, and Allen is hoping the filly has the capability to outrun a handful of New York invaders in the $200,000 Virginia Oaks at the New Kent, Va., track.

"We've always thought a whole lot of this filly," said Allen, who trains Julia Tuttle for breeder-owner Marion Montanari. "She had the worst darn luck you've ever seen in her first four races. Even when she broke her maiden," on June 11 at Colonial, "she still had some trouble."

In her last start, Julia Tuttle dominated an entry-level allowance on June 30.

"She walked to the front and kept going," said Allen. "She's a nice, big, long-striding Giant's Causeway filly, and I don't think she'll have any trouble with the distance Saturday."

Julia Tuttle will be ridden by Horacio Karamanos, the leading jockey in track history, when she breaks from post 2 in a field of 10

3-year-old fillies.

The 1 1/8-mile Virginia Oaks figures to have a pair of New York fillies for favorites. Namaste's Wish, winner of the Miss Grillo Stakes last fall at Belmont, will have Kent Desormeaux riding from post 7, while I Lost My Choo will be ridden by Edgar Prado from post 10.

Another New York filly, Cherokee Queen, figures to draw considerable play. She will start from post 9 with John Velazquez aboard.

The Virginia Oaks, graded for the first time this year, was won last year by Dreaming of Anna. It is carded as the eighth of 10 races and as the second of three straight stakes.

* One race earlier, the $60,000 Kitten's Joy (race 7) will kick off the stakes action when eight older horses clash at 1 1/16 miles. Midwatch, with Prado to ride, will try to follow up a recent victory in an overnight handicap over the Colonial turf with another big effort. Mint Slewlep and Ballast appear to be his strongest challengers.