07/13/2006 11:00PM

Precious Kitten in deep field


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It can't be said that the Churchill Downs racing office saved the best for last, but they might well have saved the biggest for last. A whopping 157 horses are on the overnight for Sunday, making the 57th and final program of the 2006 spring meet a veritable showcase for full fields.

Fields usually weren't this big as the meet unfolded from its April 29 opener, but better late than never. Every one of Sunday's 11 races appears to be very deep and competitive, and Churchill will leave a favorable impression on its horseplaying faithful as the meet comes to an end.

The featured 10th race is the $70,000 Heavenly Cause, a one-mile turf race that drew 13 3-year-old fillies, only 12 of whom will be allowed to start. Precious Kitten, the half-sister to 2004 Eclipse turf champion Kitten's Joy, could be a lukewarm favorite after finishing third in her last start, the Grade 3 Regret Stakes.

is owned by her breeders, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the Nicholasville, Ky., couple who on Sunday will once again win a Churchill owners' title, marking the 11th time they have won or shared in that honor. With Rafael Bejarano to ride, Precious Kitten will be considerably shorter odds than the 60-1 she took to the post in the June 17 Regret, a race won in highly impressive fashion by Lady of Venice, a fast-rising turf star trained by Patrick Biancone.

The number of plausible challengers for Precious Kitten in the Heavenly Cause is substantial. There is , whose June 1 allowance romp over the Churchill turf course equated to a 94 Beyer Speed Figure, the high for this group; Beau Dare, the pacesetter and fourth-place finisher in the Regret; Performing Diva, who has run in six stakes from her last seven starts, including four graded events; and Candy Ma'am, a late-running filly who captured a turf allowance here earlier in the meet.

Besides the Heavenly Cause, the closing-day card also includes three allowances (races 4, 7, and 8) and a $50,000 claimer for older turf sprinters (race 6). Every Sunday race drew 13 or more entries except the second and fourth, both of which have been carded with 11.

After Sunday, the Kentucky circuit goes dark for two days, after which the 36-day Ellis Park meet begins Wednesday in Henderson.