08/23/2007 12:00AM

Turf stakes at Ellis lures graded trio


It wouldn't have come as a major surprise if one of the eight fillies and mares entered Saturday in the $100,000 Ellis Park Breeders' Cup Turf was already a graded stakes winner. Or maybe even two.

But three graded stakes winners? That's the impressive turnout for the Ellis Park BC Turf, a 1 1/16-mile race that anchors a 12-race card at the Henderson, Ky., track.

Quite a Bride, winner of the Grade 3 Mint Julep two starts ago at Churchill Downs for trainer Bill Mott, figures as a slight favorite over Quiet Royal, a Group 3 winner in France and a multiple winner since being shipped into the American stable of Todd Pletcher. Rich in Spirit, winner of the Grade 3 Locust Grove at Churchill in July 2006, helps round out the field.

After setting a Churchill turf-course record for 1 1/16 miles in winning the June 16 Mint Julep, Quite a Bride finished third as the favorite in her lone subsequent start, the July 8 Locust Grove. Unlike many of the top Mott horses, Quite a Bride did not make the trip to Saratoga.

"The thought was to give her a little bit of a break without taking her out of training, but also not having her on any kind of regular work schedule," said Mott assistant Kenny McCarthy. "Bill saw this as a good way to start her campaign back for the fall."

Likewise, Pletcher declined to assimilate Quiet Royal into his powerhouse barn at Saratoga, leaving her behind at Churchill with assistant Michael McCarthy (no relation to Kenny).

"Todd actually thought about her going to Saratoga, but we've got Wait a While and a few other nice turf fillies up there, and it looked like she'd be pretty salty in this spot," said Michael McCarthy.

East Coast mainstay Chris DeCarlo will make a rare foray to Ellis for the mount on Quiet Royal. "Chris rides a lot for us and was available this weekend," said Michael McCarthy.

While Quite a Bride figures to be on or near the lead, with Honour Colony and maybe Royal G G as early challengers, Quiet Royal does her best from off the pace. The race figures to boil down to Quiet Royal having to catch Quite a Bride, although a big effort from Rich in Spirit, a 5-year-old mare who has spent much of her career in stakes company, would make her a late threat, too.