04/05/2013 2:34PM

Keeneland: Hungry Island preps for another crack at Churchill Distaff Turf Mile

Tom Keyser
Hungry Island will try to use Sunday's allowance at Keeneland as a springboard to defense of her title in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – There was a good chance that her loss as the favorite last October in the Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland was going to be the last career start for Hungry Island.

“We waited a while after that race to see if we were going to breed her or keep on running her,” said Shug McGaughey, the Hall of Famer who trains Hungry Island for her breeder, Emory Hamilton. “I took her down to Payson Park for the winter, and honestly I’ve never seen her look better.”

And so follows the logic of putting 5-year-old Hungry Island in the entry box for Sunday’s card at Keeneland. A multiple graded winner of $543,770, Hungry Island will face five other fillies and mares in the richest of four allowances on a stakes-less program.

Last spring, Hungry Island ran third to the highly accomplished Marketing Mix in a key turf allowance at Keeneland before wheeling back to win the Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard.

“With the way I’ve seen her train, I expect her to run real well Sunday,” said McGaughey, who said he expects to spend considerable time in Kentucky this spring while preparing Orb for the May 4 Derby and Point of Entry for the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic the same day. “The main goal obviously is to have her right for Derby Day again. We used an allowance as a springboard last year, and hopefully we’ll do the same this time around.”

Hungry Island, with Javier Castellano to ride, will break from post 2 in the third of nine races, a $68,000 classified allowance scheduled for a mile on turf. Aside from her Churchill win last spring, Hungry Island also captured the Grade 2 Lake Placid at the 2011 Saratoga meet among her 5 wins from 16 career starts.

Perhaps the main threat to Hungry Island is Dream Clover, an Augustin Stable homebred making her first North American start after going 4 for 10 in France. Now trained by Christophe Clement, Dream Clover will be treated with Lasix for the first time and will have Julien Leparoux aboard when she breaks right alongside Hungry Island in post 3.

Other possibilities include Exclusive Love (post 4, Joel Rosario) and the 2012 Ashland Stakes winner Karlovy Vary (post 6, Corey Lanerie).

Rounding out the field are Sisterhood, scratched from a lesser spot on the Friday opener, and Revelstoke.

In the other Sunday allowances:

◗ Villandry (Leparoux), a rousing winner over the Polytrack in the fall for trainer Charlie LoPresti, figures as the one to beat against the uncoupled Mark Casse duo of Patrioticandproud and Lockout in race 5, a $64,000, third-level race at 1 1/16 miles.

◗ An overflow and nearly inscrutable field of first-level turf runners will go 1 1/8 miles in race 6, with Set the Sail a lukewarm 3-1 morning-line favorite for Leparoux and LoPresti.

◗ Adriani, an also-eligible for the Ashland Stakes on Saturday, is among the entries in an oversubscribed field of 3-year-old fillies in race 8, a $60,000 turf race at 1 1/16 miles.