Updated on 09/16/2011 8:40AM

Queen of the East title up for grabs

Spain, the richest mare in North American racing history, takes on Summer Colony in Saturday's Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Spain and Summer Colony come to Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap at Monmouth Park along different paths. With a victory, one will leave Monmouth as the top filly in the East and chief challenger to Azeri, the divisional leader out West and the best filly in the country.

The Molly Pitcher, for fillies and mares at nine furlongs, drew a field of five.

Spain, the richest mare in North American racing history with more than $3.5 million in earnings, has returned to a form reminiscent of her greatest triumph, in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff. At the age of 5, Spain has found the fountain of youth, stringing together two consecutive Grade 2 victories with her outstanding career nearing its end. She won the Louisville Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs on May 3 and most recently captured the Fleur de Lis at Churchill on June 15. In the Fleur de Lis, Spain raced for the first time while in foal to Storm Cat.

"She seems better now than we've had her in a long time," trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. "I just think she's really come around of late."

Spain, the 122-pound highweight, returns in the Molly Pitcher off only two weeks' rest. It is her shortest layoff between races for Lukas, who took over training of Spain in the spring of her 3-year-old campaign.

"I don't think that'll be too much of a concern," Lukas said of the short layoff. "She had a real good trip in the Fleur de Lis, came out of the race well, and it wasn't that tough a race on her."

Spain, who will be ridden by Jorge Chavez for the second consecutive race, is no stranger to Monmouth. She won the Grade 2 Monmouth Oaks here in 2000.

While Spain is nearly done with racing, Summer Colony, a 4-year-old, is in the heart of her career. She has won seven out of her last eight starts and sits atop the fillies and mares division in the East. Summer Colony, trained by Mark Hennig, holds the only win over Azeri, something Hennig said has been lost in the mix. Azeri has won four straight Grade 1's, but the race before that streak started was a one-length defeat to Summer Colony in the Grade 2 La Canada at Santa Anita, a race in which Summer Colony was giving Azeri four pounds.

Summer Colony has three graded-stakes wins in her last four starts. The only blemish on her record in the last eight starts came in the Grade 2 Rampart Handicap on March 2. Her last race was a hard-fought nose victory over Dancethruthedawn in the Pimlico Breeders' Cup Distaff on May 17. She earned a career-high 110 Beyer Speed Figure in the race.

"I think it was certainly a gutsy race," Hennig said. "Because it was such a big performance, we wanted to space out her next race. Everything has gone according to plans and she has been training great heading into the Molly Pitcher."

Summer Colony, who will be ridden by John Velazquez, has four wins in five starts at the 1 1/8-mile Molly Pitcher distance. Her tactical speed, which usually places her on the lead, should be useful over the often speed-favoring Monmouth surface.

Spain and Summer Colony both have similar running styles and could hook each other on the front end. The Vicki Oliver-trained Southern Fiction, the local standout among the fillies and mares stabled here, and Extend, trained by Roger Attfield, should also be close to the lead.

Atelier, a multiple graded-stakes winner, will be attempting to give trainer Shug McGaughey his fifth Molly Pitcher victory. Atelier, who ran fourth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff last year, should be closing from off the pace and would benefit from quick fractions up front.

The Molly Pitcher is the tenth race on the card. The race will be televised live on CBS as part of the "Road to the Thoroughbred Championships," airing as the first race on the telecast along with the Arlington Classic and the Mother Goose at Belmont. Post time for the 57th running of the Molly Pitcher is set for 5:09 p.m. Eastern.

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