Updated on 09/17/2011 9:45AM

Struggling 'Mystic' has much to prove


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Sometimes, opponents just catch up. A horse such as Mystic Lady had a huge jump on many of her peers when knocking out the bulk of a bankroll that now has surpassed $1 million, but it has been eight races and nearly 10 months since the mare last won.

Indeed, whether Mystic Lady has passed her peak is the overriding theme in Monday's featured race at Gulfstream Park, where a 10-race card begins at 1 p.m. Eastern. Mystic Lady, a multiple graded stakes winner at 3 for owner Lee Lewis and trainer Mark Hennig, drew the rail in a field of six entered in the ninth-race, a $46,000 allowance race under "money won" conditions.

Mystic Lady, now 5, last raced Dec. 7 in the Great State Challenge Distaff at Sam Houston Park, where Take Charge Lady won with ease. That race kept Mystic Lady, who finished second, winless since last April, when she won the Banshee Breeze Stakes at Gulfstream.

Still, the so-called "back class" that is an integral part of Mystic Lady is perhaps the largest piece in Monday's handicapping puzzle. Her form is not as spectacular as it once was, yet it is still respectable, and she is likely to be a solid favorite. With hot-riding Eibar Coa named, she figures to take plenty of beating off what will likely be a ground-saving trip from her favorable post.

If Mystic Lady is to be upset, Vespers could do it.

Vespers is a 5-year-old mare who has made 11 of her 13 career starts on grass. She has won both of her races on dirt, however, including a 5 3/4-length victory in a restricted stakes at Aqueduct to end her 2002 campaign, a race that surely convinced trainer Shug McGaughey to give the dirt another try.

The field is rounded out by Stormy Frolic, Unbridled Waters, Tonight's Wager, and Gentille Alouette. The best of those may be Stormy Frolic, upset winner of a $100,000 stakes race at Calder in her last start.

Two additional allowances races are carded for Monday.

Because of the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., this Monday is the only one in January during which Gulfstream will have conducted live racing.

Gulfstream goes to six-day racing weeks in February and March, with only Tuesdays dark, but will revert to a five-day week in April.

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