01/24/2013 4:34PM

Sam Houston: Ladies Classic to see Brushed by a Star and Joyful Victory renew rivalry


In its inaugural running, Saturday night’s $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston Race Park serves as a platform for Brushed by a Star and Joyful Victory to renew their rivalry, a venue for Kentucky Oaks alum Summer Applause to make her first start at 4, and the chance for the undefeated, $10,000 supplement Sisterly Love to test stakes rivals.

The 1 1/16-mile race also anchors a card of four stakes worth $725,000, including the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Cup Turf led by Willcox Inn and King David.

The Houston Ladies Classic is the richest Thoroughbred race currently run in Texas. It drew a field of six fillies and mares, with the favorite difficult to peg. Brushed by a Star could be the choice following her troubled second in the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 22.

“We’ve been pointing for this race for some time,” said Eddie Kenneally, who trains Brushed by a Star for Unlimited Equine. “There’s not a lot of big-money opportunities for older mares going long this time of year, and we wanted to have her fit and ready to go when the race came around.”

Brushed by a Star found herself farther off the pace than usual in the Falls City, when she rallied from last to finish 2 1/4 lengths behind winner Afleeting Lady. One start earlier, Brushed by a Star had won the Grade 2 Chilukki at Churchill Downs over Joyful Victory.

“Brushed by a Star typically likes to be up close to the pace, close to the leaders. That’s her running style,” Kenneally said. “She broke a little slow last time, got squeezed back and pinched, and found herself quite a ways off the pace going into the first turn. But she overcame it and closed very well.”

Corey Lanerie has the mount on Brushed by a Star, whose other major wins last year included the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher and the Iowa Distaff. Both of those scores came at 1 1/16 miles, the distance she will be moving back to Saturday night following the 1 1/8-mile start in the Falls City.

“It’s the ideal distance for her,” Kenneally said of the Houston Ladies Classic.

Joyful Victory set the pace and finished third in the Falls City, one start after missing by a head in the Chilukki. She has since been pointed to the Houston Ladies Classic, among her preparations a bullet five-furlong work in 59.80 seconds at Fair Grounds on Monday.

“She’s really good, and this filly usually races pretty darn good fresh,” said Larry Jones, who trains Joyful Victory for Fox Hill Farms. “It doesn’t take her a lot of practice to get going. I feel we’ve got her ready.”

Joyful Victory will break from the rail under Rosie Napravnik.

Summer Applause, winner of last year’s Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds, was fourth in the Kentucky Oaks in her last start May 4.

“After the Oaks, she had chip removed from her knee,” trainer Bret Calhoun said. “We gave her plenty of time off. She’s been ready to run for a month, and we had an allowance for her, but it didn’t fill.

“Obviously, the benefit of a race would be great. I’d love to be coming into this race with a race under our belt. But with that being said, I don’t think she can be any more ready.”

Miguel Mena has the mount.

Sisterly Love has won her three career starts by a combined margin of 15 lengths. She last raced Dec. 30 at Gulfstream Park and won a second-level allowance at a mile. Luis Saez has the mount on Sisterly Love, a Bellamy Road mare who will be making her first start for owner Gary Barber and trainer Mark Casse.