02/03/2008 12:00AM

Suwannee River protest expected


HALLANDLAE BEACH, Fla. - Green Girl overcame an eventful post parade and troubled trip to seemingly end her racing career on a winning note with a half-length victory over La Dolce Vita in Sunday's $100,000 Suwannee River Handicap at Gulfstream Park. But any celebrating may have to wait as Mark Hennig, the trainer of La Dolce Vita, indicated to track officials immediately after the race that he planned to file a protest against the winner for allegedly failing to carry her assigned weight of 118 pounds for an extended period prior to the start of the Grade 3 event.

Hennig and his owner, Gary Zwerling, have 24 hours to file a written protest with track officials.

The controversy began after Green Girl unseated jockey Rene Douglas upon entering the race track and ran off nearly a quarter-mile before being caught by the outriders at the head of the stretch. Douglas attempted to remount Green Girl but immediately jumped off the fractious mare and Green Girl spent the remainder of the post parade riderless.

Several other jockeys dismounted their horses to protest the fact Green Girl was not carrying her weight in the post parade, including Eibar Coa who was aboard the 2-1 favorite J'ray.

Green Girl was shuffled back along the inside during the early running of the 1 1/8-mile Suwannee River, and steadied a couple of times looking for clearance leaving the backstretch and then again approaching the quarter pole. She angled out four wide and finished full of run to register the first graded stakes win of her career.

La Dolce Vita lagged near the rear of the pack for six furlongs, came out into the stretch and finished swiftly to best J'ray by a nose for second. J'ray raced in perfect striking position behind the early leaders, gained command between calls near midstretch, but could not last.

Hennig said the Suwannee River was likely to be the last start of La Dolce Vita's racing career as she too is scheduled to be bred this season.

Green Girl, a 6-year-old daughter of Lord of Men owned by the Ronchalon Stable and trained by Christophe Clement, covered the distance in 1:46.46 seconds and paid $12.60. She is expected to be bred to Kingmambo later this spring.

"She was difficult to handle and Rene did a great job, rode a great race and we got lucky," said Clement. "And winning a graded stakes will increase her value as a broodmare."

Clement said he had no comment when learning several hours later that a protest might be filed regarding the final outcome of the race.