Updated on 09/15/2011 1:28PM

'Pleasure' is hardly a sure thing

NYRA/Adam Coglianese
Beautiful Pleasure may be vulnerable in her first start since November.

ELMONT, N.Y. - When Beautiful Pleasure romped to a 7 1/4-length victory in last year's Grade 1 Hempstead Handicap, she had two races under her belt coming off a championship campaign the previous year.

When Beautiful Pleasure tries to repeat in Saturday's $250,000 Hempstead at Belmont Park, the 6-year-old mare will be coming off a 7 1/2-month layoff following a poor race in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She will also be doing it as the 120-pound highweight against seven rivals, including stablemate Darling My Darling, Shuvee winner Apple of Kent, Pimlico Distaff winner Serra Lake, and Grade 1 winners Critical Eye and Jostle.

Beautiful Pleasure has been in training since early this year and was ready to run in last month's Shuvee Handicap. But stablemate Monarchos, the Kentucky Derby winner, was running in the Preakness that day and her connections did not want to be distracted.

"She has to run, win or lose, because she's tired of practicing," said Donna Ward, who oversees the conditioning of Beautiful Pleasure for her husband, trainer John Ward, and owner John Oxley. "She was ready to run in the Shuvee. We made the decision that we would all be together [at the Preakness]. She couldn't be working any better than she's been working, and it's time to start."

Beautiful Pleasure is one of the biggest horses in training, and she does appear to be carrying more weight than her connections would prefer. That is one reason why they also have entered Darling My Darling in the Hempstead. Darling My Darling is 2 for 2 this year, having won the Doubledogdare Stakes in April.

"If that big body does get tired," Donna Ward said of Beautiful Pleasure, "I think Darling deserves the chance to try and win it. She's training wonderfully."

Beautiful Pleasure will break from post 7 under Jorge Chavez while Darling My Darling starts from the rail under Mike Smith.

Beautiful Pleasure, a confirmed front-runner, could have company in Apple of Kent. Trainer John Kimmel says he will not change Apple of Kent's running style for this race.

"I'm going to tell Richie [Migliore] to let her break and get herself comfortable," Kimmel said. "We don't have to be on the lead."

A contested pace could set things up for a closer such as Darling My Darling - who will be coupled with Beautiful Pleasure - or Serra Lake. Although trainer Shug McGaughey is 0 for 29 at this meet, it wouldn't be shocking to see that skid end with Serra Lake, who is coming off three straight wins, including a neck decision over Jostle in the Pimlico Distaff.

Jostle, who won the Mother Goose over this track last year, gets a jockey switch to Jerry Bailey for the Hempstead.

for Hempstead Handicap Past Performances.

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