04/23/2011 7:42PM

Three-year-olds impress on Illinois-bred stakes day

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Four Footed Fotos
Luck With a Kiss wins the Land of Lincoln Stakes on Saturday.

STICKNEY, Ill. – Luck With a Kiss was a precocious juvenile, the kind of horse who came into the world ready to tear through a fast quarter-mile. He won his debut here at Hawthorne last Oct. 9 by four lengths, and three weeks later won a stakes by a similar margin. By contrast, it took the filly Our Lady in Red, whose career started about the same time as Luck With a Kiss’s, seven races even to win her maiden. Now she’s got it. Three races after Luck With a Kiss sped to victory the $90,950 Land of Lincoln Stakes, Our Lady in Red was an equally sharp winner of the $89,550 Pretty Jenny on a six-Illinois-bred stakes day at Hawthorne.

Our Lady in Red twice was defeated in statebred-restricted maiden competition here last fall, and she turned in three middling performance in open company over the winter at Fair Grounds. But something clicked between February and March. Our Lady in Red gave highly promising debut winner Moon Buzz a stretch tussle finishing second in a maiden sprint March 14, then crushed Illinois-bred maidens on April 8 after shipping out of New Orleans.

“Physically, you couldn’t see much change, but mentally, I think she started figuring out the competition part of it,” said Richie Scherer, who trains the winner for Last Call Racing Partnership.

Our Lady in Red ($13.40) turned in a textbook performance under jockey Julio Felix on Saturday, breaking sharply and taking up a pressing position just outside pace-setting Third Chance. The fractions – 22.36 for the first quarter-mile, 45.79 to the half - were lively but not especially fast considering conditions, and when asked to go after Third Chance turning for home, Our Lady in Red set willingly out. She collared the leader and gradually pulled away, crossing the finish 1 1/4 lengths in front while running six furlongs in 1:10.31. Missjeanlouise was third, comebacking Wonderlandbynight fourth.

Luck With a Kiss, meanwhile, had to work harder for his money. Quickly taking the lead under Tim Thornton, Luck With a Kiss set a fast pace, 21.77 seconds for the opening quarter, 44.54 to the half. He shrugged off pace rival Mastman turning for home and had a four-length lead at the stretch call, but Tapilu made a good late run to get within a half-length of the winner, with Dance for Paco a distant third. Luck With a Kiss was timed in a 1:10.27 for six furlongs and paid $3.20 to win.

“He’s just a fast horse, and that’s how he runs,” said Mike Reavis, who trains Luck With a Kiss for Earl Trostrud and Greco Racing.

Mighty Rule beats River Bear by a nose

River Bear and Mighty Rule traded decisions in their two most recent starts. River Bear won the Robert Molaro Handicap in 2010, Mighty Rule won it in 2009. The two horses are nearly equals – and they went about proving it in this year’s edition of the Molaro. River Bear took half-length lead at the stretch call, but there came Mighty Rule on his outside, wheeled out of a tight spot by jockey Junior Alvarado. In live action it looked like River Bear had held on, but the photo showed Mighty Rule a nose in front.

“He ran a great race,” said River Bear’s trainer, Rusty Hellman. “He just got beat.”

Mighty Rule, once a front-running type, has suddenly transformed himself into a horse that can come off the pace. Outrun for the early lead, Mighty Rule relaxed nicely through the middle portion of the race, said Alvarado, who feared being trapped inside in upper stretch, but found room in time.

Mighty Rule, claimed a couple years ago by the Scarlet Stable and trainer Roger Brueggeman, paid $6.40 to win and was timed in a fine 1:10.05 for six furlongs. Royal Express finished third.

Claimers Denham and Catalina Way step up

A sharp claimer can go a long way in the right Illinois-bred stakes race. Denham and Catalina Way proved as much Saturday.

Denham, moving up from long-term habitation in $5,000 starter-allowance ranks, rallied from third to win the $88,050 Milwaukee Avenue Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths. Catalina Way, exiting a $10,000 claiming romp, scored a front-running 2 1/2-length victory in the $88,200 Peach of It Handicap.

Denham won his fourth race in a row, sixth of seven, and eighth of 11 for trainer Tom Dorris and owner Kenneth Hutchens. He was ridden to victory by Julio Felix, who won two stakes races Saturday. Denham paid $7.20 to win and was timed in 1:44.16 for 1 1/16 miles. Pacesetting Hydro Power held second by a head over Racing Bran. Favored Racing Bran finished sixth.

Catalina Way ($15.80) is owned by Mast Thoroughbreds, trained by Robert Gorham, and was ridden to victory by Eddie Perez. America’s Blossom was second, Pathway third.

Cruise takes Governor’s Lady

An Illinois-bred stakes day hardly would be complete without a Christine Janks-trained winner. Cruise obliged, winning the $88,575 Governor’s Lady by 1 3/4 lengths, Janks’ third straight win in the race.

Cruise, racing along the fence under Junior Alvarado, seized command of the race in midstretch and drew clear to win convincingly. She was timed in 1:10.31 for six furlongs and paid $6.20. Wild Hope finished second, Kathleen L third.