02/17/2011 3:30PM

R Betty Graybull offers value in Fritchie at Laurel

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An in-form New York-bred from little-known connections trying graded stakes company for the first time could easily be overlooked. Those who look past R Betty Graybull in Saturday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap may do so at their own peril.

In a contentious renewal of the Barbara Fritchie at Laurel Park, the New York-bred mare R Betty Graybull should offer significant value in the seven-furlong stakes race for fillies and mares, which drew a field of seven.

R Betty Graybull has a potent late kick, one she has used to carry her to victory in three of her last four starts, including a pair of New York-bred stakes. In her lone loss during that time, R Betty Graybull finished a troubled second behind fellow Fritchie contender Meese Rocks in the Iroquois Stakes last September at Belmont Park.

R Betty Graybull is trained by Linda White, a former assistant to former New York kingpin Gasper Moschera. White worked for Moschera in 1988 when Royal Haven shipped to Laurel to win the General George, though White did not travel with the horse that day.

White inherited the horses from Fantasy Lane Stable when trainer Alan Seewald – for whom White worked as an assistant – died last April. Though White and R Betty Graybull struggled through the summer, both have put it together the last few months. White has won with 5 of her last 15 starters, with three of those wins courtesy of Graybull.

“She’s really, really moved forward off every breeze, off every race,” White said. “I feel a lot better than I did when I ran her in the Trenton Stakes [last Aug. 22]. This race I feel good. I don’t feel totally intimated and I like going in with a closer.”

There appears to be ample pace in the race with Aspenglow and Meese Rocks in the field. Aspenglow, a West Virginia-bred daughter of Lion Heated trained by Gary Capuano, has won six consecutive races and is 14 for 19 overall. This is her graded stakes debut.

“This filly’s been doing really well, she’s on a roll, doing great,” Capuano said. “The one hole does force your hand, but there’s not a ton of speed in there.”

Kid Kate came off a 10-week layoff to win the Correction Stakes at Aqueduct by a neck over Meese Rocks. Trainer Chad Brown is hopeful that second off a layoff and the stretch out to seven furlongs moves his filly forward.

“She’s training well enough to lead us to believe she will take a step forward,” Brown said. “I like her at seven. She won nicely at seven I thought at Saratoga last summer.”

Harissa, the 2-1 morning-line favorite, has won two of three starts since being transferred to Mike Hushion and being put on dirt. Her lone loss was a third-place finish to Always a Princess in the Indiana Oaks last fall. Always a Princess has come back with two Grade 2 victories over defending 3-year-old champion Blind Luck. Harissa is cutting back to seven furlongs for the first time and Hushion is hoping jockey Ramon Dominguez can work out a stalking trip.

“We got sharp speed inside of us, that’s a little bit of a help,” Hushion said.

Sweet Goodbye, last year’s Fritchie winner, and Fascinatin’ Rhythm complete the field.

Campbell: Arson Squad or Alma d’Oro

Alma d’Oro nosed out Arson Squad for second when both finished behind Heart Butte in the Evening Attire Stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 15. Saturday, Arson Squad and Alma d’Oro meet again in the $75,000 John B. Campbell Handicap at 1 1/8 miles.

Alma d’Oro, who will be ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, maintains a tactical advantage over the late-running Arson Squad, who gets the services of Ramon Dominguez. Alma d’Oro figures to be on the lead or stalking Philly Bound, the only other apparent speed in the race.