09/22/2011 3:54PM

Turfway Park: Ailalea comes in off solid Spa showings

Barbara D. Livingston
Ailalea, off two good outings at Saratoga, should vie for favoritism in the Kentucky Cup Distaff.

FLORENCE, Ky. – Fall officially began Friday, but as far as the Kentucky racing calendar goes, it may have started a few days early. That’s when the Todd Pletcher stable began setting up shop at Churchill Downs in preparation of an autumn run that kicks off Saturday at Turfway Park with the Kentucky Cup before winding through Keeneland and another Churchill fall meet highlighted by the Breeders’ Cup.

As usual, Michael McCarthy is the Pletcher go-to guy when the boss stays home with his family in New York, and McCarthy is optimistic about getting a quick start to the local campaign with three Kentucky Cup starters, including Ailalea in the Grade 3, $100,000 KC Distaff.

“Ailalea trained very well here this morning,” McCarthy said Thursday from Churchill, from where many Kentucky Cup runners will ship early Saturday. “I don’t think she would’ve been one of the horses Todd sent here if she wasn’t live in that spot at Turfway.”

Indeed, Ailalea should vie for favoritism with Upperline among the seven fillies and mares entered in the 1 1/16-mile Distaff. Winner of the Grade 3 Dogwood last year at 3, Ailalea comes off two solid races at Saratoga for her owners, the Starlight Racing of Jack Wolf and partners.

Upperline, in from Chicago, has been terrific on turf and synthetics and will be looking to fare better following a decent fifth-place finish in a Beverly D. that her trainer, Mike Stidham, said drew a “deep, deep, contentious field. There were some really good Grade 1 winners in that race, so we were happy with the way she ran.”

Other Distaff contenders include Kiss Mine, Secret File, and High Quality.

Besides purse earnings, free seasons to the young WinStar sires Super Saver, Colonel John, and Hold Me Back will be awarded to the owners of the top three Distaff finishers.