02/14/2010 12:00AM

Royal Michele tries for Barbara Fritchie repeat

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A little more than three months after running for a $30,000 claiming tag at her home base of Mountaineer Racetrack in West Virginia, Royal Michele ran the best race of her life to upset the 2009 Barbara Fritchie Handicap.

A year later, Royale Michele is back at Laurel Park, where she will see if lightning can indeed strike twice.

Royal Michele, winless in six starts since scoring at 10-1 in the 2009 Fritchie, will likely be an outsider once again in Monday's Grade 2 stakes for fillies and mares. She's 6-1 on the track's morning line.

The $150,000 Fritchie goes as race 9 on a President's Day 10-race card that includes the Grade 2 General George Handicap and two other stakes.

In addition to defending champion Royale Michele, the 14-horse lineup for the seven-furlong Fritchie includes Fascinatin' Rhythm, who was third in this race last year; Sweet Goodbye, who beat Royale Michele by a length in last month's What a Summer; Northern Station, who ran her winning streak to three races by taking the one-mile Nellie Morse on Jan. 23; and the New York-based mare Weathered, who is a neck away from being 3 for 3 at Laurel.

Trainer Matt Kintz said he expects the 5-year-old Royale Michele to run better now that she has had one race and one workout over Laurel's main track this winter.

"It snowed an inch or two a couple of days before the What a Summer and I think the track was deeper than what she was used to training on," Kintz said. "She did get a little tired on me."

Third in the Jan. 9 What a Summer while making her first start since November, Royale Michele breezed five furlongs on Feb. 5 in 1:00.40, the third fastest of 50 drills at the distance.

Kintz, who won a modest 12 of 106 starts in 2009, said Royale Michele is one of the two best horses he has ever trained. The other, the homebred mare Lady Belsara, won the Grade 2 Chicago Handicap at Arlington Park in 2007, the same season in which she set a track record of 1:14.41 for 6 1/2 furlongs on Keeneland's Polytrack.

Fascinatin' Rhythm, no worse than second in 8 of 9 starts at Laurel, will be coming back two weeks after finishing third behind runaway wire-to-wire winner Hold That Prospect in the Correction at Aqueduct.

Sweet Goodbye was a two-time stakes winner going seven furlongs last season at Charles Town.

Weathered, runner-up in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm in October, was narrowly beaten by Northern Station as the 3-5 favorite in the Nellie Morse.

* Encaustic, a two-time stakes winner in West Virginia last season, and Redding Colliery, returning to stakes company after earning a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure over Aqueduct's inner track, head a group of nine older horses in the $70,000 John Campbell Handicap at 1 1/8 miles.

The 6-year-old Encaustic has been first or second in 7 of 11 starts locally.

Redding Colliery, based in New York with Kiaran McLaughlin, was good enough as a 3-year-old last season to finish third in the Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas in Dubai.

* Gator Prowl and Jim's Prospect, who finished heads apart on Jan. 29, are rematched in the $70,000 Marshua, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies.

Gator Prowl was scratched from Sunday's Dearly Precious at Aqueduct in favor of the Marshua, where she will be seeking her first stakes victory. Gator Prowl is 3 for 3 at Laurel and 4 for 7 lifetime.

Jim's Prospect nearly overtook Gator Prowl when they met last month despite stumbling coming out of the gate.