06/15/2006 12:00AM

Mint Julep: Contention runs deep


With a $100,000 purse, the Grade 3 Mint Julep offers the least in monetary worth among the six graded stakes Saturday at Churchill. But Tom Proctor, who trains a primary contender, Rich in Spirit, in the 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares, said he believes there might be a little something extra awaiting the winner.

"This race came up absolutely huge, I thought," said Proctor. "There are maybe three or four of us in the same boat. By that I mean that if they step up and beat this kind of field, they might be able to go pretty far up the ladder. They might be able to go somewhere else and take on some real nice mares."

Rich in Spirit is among the core of favorites in the full field of 12 in the Mint Julep, along with My Typhoon, Louve Royale, and Sky High Flyer. Mark Guidry has the mount on Rich in Spirit, a Glen Hill Farm homebred who won the Regret on the Foster undercard last year and, more recently, tuned up with a dominating victory in the May 27 Mint Julep prep.

"She's doing good, and hopefully with a little racing luck we'll step up Saturday," said Proctor.

As the 11th and last race on the Saturday card, the results of the Mint Julep will carry considerable weight for horseplayers: It is the final leg of both the all-graded-stakes pick six and the $250,000-guaranteed late pick four at Churchill.