04/09/2013 12:31PM

Oaklawn Park: Beat the Blues seeks repeat in Carousel Stakes

Renee Torbit/Coady Photography
Beat the Blues on Thursday will try to become the fourth two-time winner of the Carousel Stakes, joining Nurse Dopey, Southern Tour, and Palanka City.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – There is no bad pick Thursday in the $100,000 Carousel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. A case can be made for each of the nine fillies and mares in the six-furlong sprint that continues the Racing Festival of the South.

The Carousel has drawn a mix of proven stakes horses and runners in career form. Beat the Blues is the race’s defending champ, while Good Deed has invaded from Fair Grounds off a win in the Mardi Gras Handicap.

Lady Diva Ga Ga and Vuitton are two-time winners at the Oaklawn meet, and Awesome Symmetry is riding a two-race win streak built at Hawthorne.

Bryan’s Jewel, meanwhile, won the allowance prep for the Carousel with a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 91 but is more likely to run in the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap here Friday, according to trainer Mac Robertson.

Beat the Blues is seeking to become the fourth two-time winner of the Carousel, joining Nurse Dopey, Southern Tour, and Palanka City. She comes into this year’s renewal off a second-place finish in the Mardi Gras, in which she rallied from last to finish a length behind wire-to-wire winner Good Deed.

“It was her first race off a long layoff, and she just didn’t break,” said Bret Calhoun, who trains Beat the Blues for Martin Racing Stable and Deb and Dan Morgan. “It looked like she was playing catch-up the whole way. She had to chase a little bit. Off a layoff, I thought she ran a very good race.”

The Mardi Gras was Beat the Blues’s first start since last August, when she ran a close third in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss at Saratoga.

“Second race off a layoff, I look for a big race,” said Calhoun, who has given the mount to Miguel Mena.

Beat the Blues stalked and rolled when winning last year’s Carousel, and she could get a similar trip if Good Deed and her fellow front-runners, Awesome Symmetry and Mysterious Chimes, make for some strong fractions up front Thursday.

An honest pace also would serve Lady Diva Ga Ga well, as her two allowance wins at the meet have come from off the pace. But in her most recent start March 15, she was overtaken late after dueling for much of the six-furlong allowance won by Bryan’s Jewel.

“She broke on top, of all things,” said Phil Sims, who trains Lady Diva Ga Ga. “She usually breaks a little slow. But she was right there with another horse, and they were going 22 [seconds for the opening quarter] and 45 [for the half-mile], and [Bryan’s Jewel] came from the middle of the track.”

Lady Diva Ga Ga will break from post 9 under jockey Jon Court.