Updated on 04/20/2012 10:57AM

Pimlico: Baltimore Belle faces familiar foes in Dahlia

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Baltimore Belle goes for her second straight stakes win in the Dahlia.

Six months ago, Baltimore Belle, Dream Louise, and In the Rough ran one-two-three going 1 1/16 miles over yielding turf in the Lady Baltimore. The trio of 5-year-old mares could face similar conditions when they renew their rivalry in Saturday’s $75,000 Dahlia Stakes at Pimlico.

The advance forecast for Baltimore calls for scattered thunderstorms, which could create non-firm turf conditions or, as was the case a year ago when Baltimore Belle won this race, the Dahlia may get moved to the main track. The Dahlia has been shortened from 1 1/16 miles to one mile this year.

Baltimore Belle, who prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths over runner-up Dream Louise and was 3 1/2 lengths in front of In the Rough in the Lady Baltimore on Oct. 22, will be switching surfaces and stretching out from seven furlongs.

That combination is not among high-percentage trainer Mike Trombetta’s strengths. A 22 percent trainer overall this season, Trombetta is just 3 for his last 36 (8 percent) with horses switching from sprints to routes while moving from dirt to turf. Those statistics include a runner-up effort by Baltimore Belle as the lukewarm 7-2 favorite in last fall’s Maryland Million Ladies.

Dream Louise, who returned from a four-month layoff to finish second locally in a second-level optional $25,000 claimer, and In the Rough, shipping north following a winter campaign in Florida, will be making the second start of their form cycles.

Edwin Merryman, the owner-trainer of Dream Louise, is just 1 for 15 the past two years with turf runners making their second start following a layoff.

The stats are far more favorable for In the Rough’s trainer, Kelly Breen. He has a two-year record of 5 for 20 (25 percent) in that same category, including a win by In the Rough last June at Monmouth Park.

In the Rough most recently was up close at the stretch call of an overnight stakes at Gulfstream Park before tiring in the final furlong of the 1 1/16-mile race. She romped by five lengths going a mile at Laurel Park last fall.

The field also includes the former European filly Master Shade. She won her final start as a 3-year-old in an overnight stakes at Aqueduct, but was a dull ninth in her season debut facing optional $100,000 claimers at Gulfstream.

Ben's Cat tunes up for Jim McKay

Two weeks after capturing the 10th stakes win of his career, Ben’s Cat will bean overwhelming favorite in a $43,000 allowance race, scheduled for five furlongs on the grass.

Ben’s Cat won the Mister Diz Stakes on April 7 for the third consecutive year in his 6-year-old debut. After the victory, owner-trainer King Leatherbury said his star would run next in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint Stakes on May 18, a race he won a year ago.

“It is a surprising move but last year I ran him in-between the Mister Diz and Jim McKay,” said Leatherbury, referring to a fifth-place finish by Ben's Cat in the one-mile Henry Clark. “Of course he didn’t run well in that one. This allowance race came up in the condition book so we entered. I am surprised it filled but the schedule works out well.”