05/17/2007 11:00PM

Rolling Sea proves she fits at top

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BALTIMORE – Trainer Steve Asmussen considered Friday’s Grade 2 Allaire duPont Breeders’ Cup Handicap a defining moment in the career of his Illinois-bred mare Rolling Sea.

“Either she’s going to compete at this level or go to the listed statebred races,” Asmussen said.

Figure to see more of Rolling Sea in graded stakes company after she galloped to a 2 1/4-length victory in the duPont Handicap at Pimlico. Leah’s Secret finished second, three-quarters of a length in front of 6-5 favorite Kettloneup. Lexi Star, Amandatude, Gasia, and Fiery Pursuit completed the order of finish.

Rolling Sea was not Breeders’ Cup eligible, thus was running for only half of the original $200,000 purse, which made the value of the race $134,000.

The duPont drew a field of 12, but scratched down to seven. Among the scratches were morning-line favorite Sugar Shake and Grade 1 winner Swap Fliparoo. Not only did the scratches take some of the star power out of the race, but they enabled Rolling Sea to move inside several spots from her original post 11 draw.

“It made it extremely manageable for us,” Asmussen said. “She wants to be forwardly placed, but not enough speed to clear them.”

Third entering the first turn, Rolling Sea, under Garrett Gomez, moved into second straightening down the backside and stalked Fiery Pursuit through fractions of 24.62 and 48.76 seconds. Rolling Sea gradually advanced on Fiery Pursuit before putting a head in front midway around the far turn while Gomez had yet to ask her for run.

Turning for home, Gomez shook up his filly and she responded by opening up by 2?1/2 lengths at the eighth pole and easily holding Leah’s Secret at bay through the lane. Rolling Sea, owned by Millennium Farms, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.88 and returned $13.60 to win.

“She rated quite well,” Gomez said. “She was relaxed throughout the race, and when I called on her she had all the answers needed today.”

Asmussen said Rolling Sea would likely be pointed to the Grade 2, $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 16.