07/12/2006 11:00PM

Rich in Spirit's race to lose

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Tom Proctor gave Rich in Spirit a legitimate reason to lose even before she ran in the June 17 Mint Julep Handicap at Churchill Downs. Proctor said the Mint Julep "came up absolutely huge" and that the winner should be able "to go somewhere else and take on some real nice mares."

Rich in Spirit wound up second, 1 3/4 lengths behind the multiple graded winner My Typhoon, who did go somewhere else - back to Belmont Park, where she has resumed steady training for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott while being pointed to the Saratoga meet.

But when returns to action Saturday at Churchill in the Grade 3, $150,000 Locust Grove Handicap, there shouldn't be any prerace excuses. Unlike the Mint Julep, the Locust Grove lacks such accomplished turf fillies as My Typhoon, Louve Royale, and Sky High Flyer, and Churchill horseplayers are likely to make Rich in Spirit a solid favorite in a field of eight.

A Glen Hill farm homebred, Rich in Spirit has earned nearly $400,000 from 14 starts, with a win in the 2005 Regret Stakes ranking as her career highlight. She will carry high weight of 118 pounds and break from the outside post under Mark Guidry.

Of the others, appears capable of a mild upset. Based at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland, Sweet Science made her last three starts in Kentucky, most recently finishing second to Louve Royale in the May 28 Top Corsage at Churchill.

Other contenders include , who makes the third start in her form cycle, and More Than Promised, a winner of four lesser stakes. The rest of the field is Cape Hope, Pyrana, Dynamist, and Story's Image.

The Locust Grove, run at 1 1/8 miles, is carded as the 10th of 11 Saturday races. The co-feature is the $70,000 Forestry (race 5), in which all eyes will be on Bright One, the Dale Romans-trained colt who earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure in a June 17 maiden win.

Also Saturday, Churchill will hold drawings throughout the card to give away a total of 23 tickets to the 23rd Breeders' Cup championships, to be run Nov. 4 at Churchill.

The 57-day meet ends Sunday, after which live action on the Kentucky circuit moves to Ellis Park for a 36-day meet that begins Wednesday.