05/19/2011 3:28PM

Pimlico: Life At Ten still a question mark in DuPont


BALTIMORE - On paper, Life At Ten towers over her six rivals in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Allaire DuPont Distaff at Pimlico. But based on her last two races, Life At Ten still has something to prove.

Life At Ten won 5 of 7 races as a 5-year-old last year, including Grade 1 events such as the Ogden Phipps and Beldame, both at Belmont Park, as well as the $750,000 Delaware Handicap. But in last year's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, in which she was the 7-2 second choice, Life At Ten was listless in the paddock and on the track and simply galloped around the Churchill Downs track under John Velazquez behind the other 10 horses in the field. She was believed to have tied up, or suffered cramps.

Ultimately, a four-month investigation into the incident by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission resulted in Velazquez being fined $10,000 in part for failing to notify a track veterinarian about concerns he had expressed about the filly in a prerace televised interview.

Life At Ten, trained by Todd Pletcher, returned to the races this year in an allowance race at Gulfstream in which she finished a well-beaten second, five lengths behind The Isabella Angel, as a 1-4 favorite. She vied between horses in that race and did show some gumption to nip Jehan by a nose for second.

The question for her connections - and handicappers - to ponder is whether Life At Ten can return to her Grade 1 form as a 6-year-old.

"I don't think you ever know for sure when you bring horses back at 6, but I thought her breeze the other day indicated that she's kind of rounding into form," Pletcher said Thursday morning. "It may take her a race or two. She's a big mare, carries a lot of condition. But based on her work the other day I'd be optimistic that she'll get back to her best."

Pletcher had the option of running Life At Ten here or at Belmont Park in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Shuvee, a one-turn mile race. Pletcher opted for the DuPont, in part because it is run around two turns and because it allows her regular rider, Velazquez, to remain aboard.

Life At Ten will break from post 4.

Payton d'Oro, who won the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes here as a 3-year-old in 2009, is making just her second start in the last 13 months. She was entered in but scratched out of last year's Gallorette here on turf and was diagnosed with a physical issue that required time off, according to trainer Larry Jones.

She went through the sales ring at Keeneland, where one of her owners, Mark Presley, bought out his other partner and returned the horse to Jones. In her only start this year, Payton d'Oro finished third behind Decelerator in an allowance race.

Jones scratched her out of a race at Oaklawn because of a wet track and didn't enter her in the La Troienne at Churchill because she didn't work well when in company with Joyful Victory. But she came out of a recent workout at Delaware Park in good shape, according to Jones.

"We know the filly likes Pimlico. Hopefully it's what she's been needing to see," Jones said.

There is the potential for a contested pace with Lily Quatorze, Decelerator, and Life At Ten in the field. That could set things up for Check Point, who comes off a troubled second-place finish in an allowance race at Penn National three weeks ago.