09/19/2013 5:26PM

Parx Racing: Close Hatches regains her health in time for Cotillion

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Michael Amoruso
Close Hatches will make her first start since dominating the June 22 Mother Goose Stakes in Saturday's Cotillion.

Her promising 3-year-old season derailed by a temperature that knocked her out of the division’s premier summer races, Close Hatches gets back to action Saturday in an intriguing renewal of the Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Parx Racing.

Though division leader Princess of Sylmar is skipping this race to take on two-time champion Royal Delta in the Grade 1 Beldame next weekend at Belmont Park, the Cotillion drew Grade 1 Test winner Sweet Lulu, Delaware Oaks winner Dancing Afleet, and Alabama third-place finisher Carnival Court, a half-sister to Royal Delta. My Happy Face, beaten a neck in the Grade 1 Test, is cross-entered in the Cotillion and Saturday night’s Charles Town Oaks. As of Thursday, no decision had been finalized on which race she will run. Flash Forward was expected to scratch from the Cotillion to run in an overnight stakes at Belmont on Friday.

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Close Hatches, a Juddmonte Farms-owned daughter of First Defence, is the only filly to have defeated Princess of Sylmar this year, having done so in the Grade 2 Gazelle at Aqueduct in April. Princess of Sylmar won the Kentucky Oaks, where Close Hatches finished a well-beaten seventh. After running second to Midnight Lucky in the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont, Close Hatches won the Grade 1 Mother Goose by a powerful 7 1/4 lengths at Belmont on June 22.

Close Hatches developed a temperature shortly after the Mother Goose and was forced to miss the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama – both won by Princess of Sylmar – in Saratoga.

“I think she’s doing well,” trainer Bill Mott said. “She’s worked great. She’s done enough in her training where she should be fit.”

Due to the conditions of the race, Close Hatches will carry high weight of 124 pounds, spotting two to seven pounds to the rest of the field. Despite being an undefeated Grade 1 winner, Sweet Lulu gets in with 117 pounds.

“That’s certainly a factor,” Mott said. “When they start putting up that much money in a Grade 1 they shouldn’t have that much separation in the weights. Let the best horse win.”

In last year’s Cotillion, Questing lost a head decision to the 2-year-old filly champion of 2011, My Miss Aurelia, to whom she was conceding seven pounds.

Sweet Lulu is 4 for 4, winning the Grade 1 Test at seven furlongs at Saratoga after winning a two-turn, one-mile allowance race at Del Mar in July. The 1 1/16 miles of the Cotillion will be the longest distance Sweet Lulu has run.

“She’s done everything we’ve asked her to do and she’s done it with enthusiasm,” said Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains Sweet Lulu for owner Steve Beneto. “I think she was as game as a horse can be in the Test.”

Kiaran McLaughlin, who lost last year’s Cotillion with Questing, sends out the uncoupled entry of Asiya and Carnival Court. Asiya came off the bench following surgery to remove an ankle chip with an 8 1/4-length allowance win at Saratoga.

“We know she wants further. Off so much time we ran her 6 1/2, she won easy,” McLaughlin said. “She’s training great. We think she’s a top filly; great chance to get Grade 1-placed or win one.”

Carnival Court went from a first-level allowance win to the Alabama, where she finished third, 6 1/4 lengths behind Princess of Sylmar.

“She ran very well. We think she wants the distance for sure, being a half to Royal Delta,” McLaughlin said. “She’s done very well since the Alabama. We’re in there with a chance to win a Grade 1.”

Seaneen Girl has spotty form, but her best races have come on dry dirt, including a six-length victory in the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks in her last start.

Promise Me More, second to Unlimited Budget in the Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds earlier in the year, and Street Girl, fourth in the Ballerina, complete the field.