09/10/2009 11:00PM

Rustiness a concern for Ladyledue


AUBURN, Wash. - A test of speed, fitness, and willpower awaits Sunday when the top 3-year-old fillies at Emerald Downs compete in the one-mile John and Kitty Fletcher Stakes. One of seven $50,000 stakes races on Washington Cup Day, it could be the most entertaining. With speedy multiple-stakes winners Ladyledue and No Flies on Doodle in the lineup, it figures to be the most competitive.

Ladyledue began her career with five consecutive stakes victories, including three this season, before suffering her first loss July 19 in the 1 1/16-mile Washington's Lottery Handicap. Victimized by a slow start, she pressed the pace for five furlongs before giving way to finish 15 lengths behind No Flies on Doodle. Bruised feet knocked her from the nine-furlong Washington Oaks on Aug. 15, and No Flies on Doodle took full advantage, leading all the way for her second consecutive stakes victory.

When they meet for just the second time Sunday, Ladyledue will attempt to stay a mile after an eight-week layoff. She worked brilliantly last Thursday, cruising six furlongs in 1:10.80 under regular rider Ricky Frazier, and trainer Bonnie Jenne was cautiously optimistic early this week.

"My biggest worry is whether she's going to be fit enough being off so long," Jenne said. "But I think she's as good as she's ever been. She's trained into this really well. She galloped out the other day in [1:38.60] so she should be pretty tight."

Vann Belvoir, who trains No Flies on Doodle, is enthused about his filly's chances.

"I think she's coming in good," Belvoir said. "She hasn't missed a work, she finished up strong the other day on an off track, and she came back great. Shortening up to a mile, we've got her a little sharper, too, so she should show a lot more speed."

More speed? No Flies on Doodle has never been headed when racing around two turns, and never worse than second at any call in six career starts. She might be the fastest 3-year-old filly on the grounds.

"She's got a high cruising speed," Belvoir said. "She can throw her head up and relax, even if she's just a head in front. We've run against Ladyledue before and we were in front of her then, and hopefully we'll be in front of her this time, too. It's going to be a great matchup. With Ladyledue coming off a layoff, our advantage might be that we're race fit."

If Ladyledue and No Flies on Doodle go hammer and tongs up front, the race could set up for a late runner such as Point of Reference, a fast-closing second behind No Flies on Doodle in the Washington Oaks. Jenne figures it's more than a two-horse race.

"They all scare me," she said. "There are no easy races, and being off for so long, that could work against me. I just hope that she's tight enough, and I really believe she is. I know they are going to push her on the front end, because No Flies on Doodle will go on with it."

In other Washington Cup races:

* Atta Boy Roy, fifth in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile after setting a blistering pace, will take aim at Emerald's six-furlong track record in the Chinook Pass Sprint. The 4-year-old Atta Boy Roy equaled Starbird Road's mark of 1:07.40 in his Emerald debut in early June, and raced through six furlongs in the Mile in 1:07.60, the fastest split in the race's 74-year history. He will be a prohibitive favorite in a five-horse field than also includes 2008 Chinook Pass winner Bound to be M V P.

* Wasserman, the 2008 Longacres Mile champion but winless in seven starts this summer, tops the 1 1/16-mile Muckleshoot Tribal Classic. Though open to horses bred in British Columbia, the race attracted just five entries, none from Canada. The late-running Wasserman figures to start as a short-priced favorite.

* Gadget Queen, who finished a close second behind Elusive Horizon in the $100,000 Emerald Distaff in her last start, headlines the 1 1/16-mile Belle Roberts for fillies and mares. A late-running 5-year-old, she could benefit from the presence of likely pacesetter Clair Annette, a stakes winner early in the meeting who has been sidelined since June 7 because of throat surgery. While she has worked forwardly for her return, Clair Annette, a 6-year-old, has never raced beyond 6o1/2 furlongs.

* Ugottabcatty, who has flourished in the high-priced claiming ranks since stretching out to route distances, is a leading contender in the one-mile Trooper Seven Stakes for 3-year-olds, a race that came up light on the heels of the Emerald Derby on Labor Day.

* Knight Raider, a dominating presence in the 2-year-old filly division, tops the Diane Kem Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs. The winner of four consecutive races by an aggregate 34 1/4 lengths, she could be the linchpin to a big day for Frazier, Emerald's leading rider. In addition to Ladyledue and Knight Raider, Frazier has the call on Atta Boy Roy in the Chinook Pass Sprint and Gadget Queen in the Belle Roberts.

* Koala Beach, second in the WTBA Lads in his most recent start, tops a field of six in the Dennis Dodge Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings at 6 1/2 furlongs.