06/13/2009 12:00AM

Miss Isella has home-field advantage


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In describing the action in the Grade 2 Louisville Handicap on the Kentucky Oaks Day May 1, Churchill Downs track announcer Mark Johnson called Miss Isella a winner in a "slugfest."

The comment wasn't mere hyperbole - Miss Isella and runner-up One Caroline dueled for the lead in the stretch, and traded blows when Miss Isella and jockey Calvin Borel surged inside of One Caroline and Edgar Prado coming into the lane.

Entered for the first time since the Louisville Handicap in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap on the Stephen Foster undercard, Miss Isella won't have to deal with the sidelined One Caroline this time - but again, she will likely have to call upon her class and tenacity to prevail.

Miss Isella is matched against eight opponents, led by graded stakes winners Swift Temper and Santa Teresita.

Based at her home track, Churchill Downs, Miss Isella is a deserving favorite. She is 4 for 6 at Churchill, a record that includes a victory in the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap last fall. That race came at 1 1/8 miles, the distance of the Fleur de Lis.

Ian Wilkes, who trains Miss Isella, a 4-year-old daughter of Silver Charm, for owner Elaine Jones, said he could only speculate why she is so fond of racing on the Churchill main track.

"Maybe because she's been here ever since she was a baby," he said.

Swift Temper, a distant third behind Miss Isella and One Caroline in the Louisville Handicap, will need to perform better in the Fleur de Lis to turn the tables on Miss Isella.

Her trainer, Dale Romans, anticipates a better effort from Swift Temper with six weeks since her last start. When she raced in the Louisville Handicap, she competed on two weeks' rest after a hard-fought victory over Santa Teresita in the Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne.

"She's training real good," he said. "She's ready to go."

Garrett Gomez rides.

Another West Coast-based rider, Aaron Gryder, has the mount on Santa Teresita, the second highweight at 121 pounds. Miss Isella will carry 122.

Santa Teresita won the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita earlier this year. Most recently, she had a troubled trip in running second to Swift Temper in the Sixty Sails on April 18.

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