07/27/2012 2:02PM

Monmouth Park: Afleeting Lady top contender in Grade 2 Molly Pitcher

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
R Gypsy Gold wins the Endear Stakes at Belmont Park on July 4. She will face Afleeting Lady in Sunday's Molly Pitcher.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – Afleeting Lady was no match for Royal Delta in her most recent effort, the Grade 2 Fleur De Lis at Churchill Downs.

No shame in that. After all, Royal Delta is the top-ranked older female runner on Daily Racing Form ’s national handicapper Mike Watchmaker’s weekly divisional ratings.

Afleeting Lady, a distant second to Royal Delta, was clearly the best of the rest. She now comes east for the Grade 2, $200,000 Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park, the main attraction on Sunday’s Haskell Invitational undercard.

While the Molly Pitcher lacks Royal Delta’s star power, the race is a competitive, well-balanced contest.

Afleeting Lady, a 5-year-old still looking for her first stakes win, has the rail against eight rivals in the 1 1/16-mile race. Rafael Bejarano is set to ride for trainer Dale Romans.

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“She’s a half-sister to Shackleford, she just needs the opportunity to win a graded stakes,” Romans said. “She’s run some big races. She was a little overmatched last time but it looks like she fits real well with this field.”

R Gypsy Gold steps up from an overnight stakes victory at Belmont Park for the Todd Pletcher barn, which has already won seven stakes at the meet. Her biggest moment to date was a third last year in the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont.

“This seemed to work well timing-wise for her, coming back with a stakes win and being Grade 1 stakes-placed,” Pletcher said. “We’re just trying to build on that. It fit well into the calendar for her.”

Derwin’s Star and Catch a Thief, the one-two finishers in the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses at Belmont Park, square off again in the Molly Pitcher.

Trainer Tim Hills was impressed last time by Catch a Thief’s competitive fire despite a bad stumble at the break.

“She had a real good race,” Hills said. “She bent her shoe badly at the start and still rallied to finish second. The shoe was still on. She would have been better off if she lost the shoe. She’s had a couple of good, solid works since then.”

The race also includes a pair of stakes winners at the meet: Nefertini (Monmouth Beach) and Successful Song (Lighthouse).

Brushed By a Star, Withgreatpleasure, and Absinthe Minded, third in last year’s Molly Pitcher for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, complete the field.

– additional reporting by David Grening