12/30/2010 4:31PM

Turf gives rivals best shot in Blushing K.D.

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Never Retreat and Category Seven are set to renew their New Orleans rivalry in the $60,000 Blushing K.D. Handicap on Saturday at Fair Grounds – but only if Mother Nature is in a benevolent mood.

The Blushing K.D. is carded for fillies and mares about 1 1/16 miles on turf, but a cold front is forecast to pass through New Orleans on Friday night, bringing with it a chance for the sort of heavy rain Fair Grounds has mainly dodged this meet. If the forecast holds, the Blushing K.D. will wind up on the main track, which will make for an entirely different race than the one on paper.

Never Retreat and Category Seven met twice last Fair Grounds season. In the Furl Sail Handicap on Jan. 2, Never Retreat finished first by a neck over Category Seven but drifted out in deep stretch and was disqualified after stewards ruled she had fouled the runner-up. The pair met again in the Bayou Handicap, but neither appeared to relish the nine-furlong distance, with Never Retreat coming home third, a half-length in front of Category Seven.

Since the Bayou the two mares’ paths have diverged, but only in terms of geography, not performance. Category Seven went on to win two open allowance races and three $50,000 turf stakes in Louisiana, and Never Retreat won an Arlington allowance race, the $100,000 Lady Canterbury, and the $50,000 Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf before finishing second by a nose in her most recent start, a $101,000 Woodbine turf stakes Oct. 30.

Both horses have synthetic-track wins, but Never Retreat appears to be a stronger dirt horse, if it comes to that. Last winter she stayed in the off-the-turf Marie Krantz Handicap and lost by a nose to the talented filly Bubbler.

Bubbler was trained by Bret Calhoun, and the Calhoun-trained High Quail figures to be a factor if the Blushing K.D. is moved to the main track. High Quail has a win, two seconds, and a third from four wet-track dirt starts, and she most recently set the pace and held second in the Grade 2 Falls City at Churchill Downs.

If the Blushing K.D. remains on grass, don’t disregard Single Solution. She is set to make her Fair Grounds debut and has the sort of stretch-running style so often effective on the local turf course.