06/18/2009 11:00PM

Unbridled Belle faces Peruvian mare

Email

One horse trying to prove she still can be productive on the racetrack before becoming a broodmare and another attempting to duplicate her South American success at the graded stakes level in the United States provide some intrigue to Saturday's Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park.

Unbridled Belle, winner of the Delaware Handicap in 2007 and the beaten favorite in last year's running of that $1 million race for fillies and mares, preps for another try in Delaware Park's premier event in the Grade 3, $125,000 Obeah at 1 1/8 miles.

Among her seven rivals in this local prep for the July 19 Delaware Handicap is Morena, a winner in 10 of 15 starts in Peru, making her North American debut for trainer Michael Matz.

The card also includes the $125,000 Susan's Girl, the local prep for the Grade 2, $250,000 Delaware Oaks on July 18.

Unbridled Belle, who has been covered twice by A.P. Indy this spring, is nearing the end of her racing career. Her connections intend to allow her to continue to race, even if she's in foal, through the summer, including the 1 1/4-mile Delaware Handicap.

In her only start this year, the 6-year-old Unbridled Belle finished fifth after bobbling at the start of the Grade 2 Louisville Distaff at Churchill Downs on May 1. Barry Irwin, the head of the Team Valor International syndicate that owns Unbridled Belle, blamed the muddy track at Churchill for her dull performance.

Unbridled Belle is winless in her last four starts and has been beaten a combined 30 lengths in her two most recent races.

Overall, Unbridled Belle is 4 for 6 at Delaware, including a win in last year's Obeah and a second-place finish in 2007.

Matz hopes to find out how the 5-year-old Morena fits in domestically after dominating Group 2 and Group 3 competition in Peru, where she won her three most recent starts by a combined 40 lengths.

"We are going to find out a lot about her this Saturday," Matz said. "She has a good record in South America, and she is a big, lovely filly, so we will see how good she really is."

The field also includes Skylighter, a Bobby Frankel-trained filly who wired four outmatched rivals in the Grade 2 duPont Distaff last time out at Pimlico, and Tell It as It Is, who has made all but two of her 17 lifetime starts on turf or Polytrack, but was good enough to finish third on dirt in last fall's Grade 2 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs.

The 1 1/16-mile Susan's Girl drew a field of nine 3-year-old fillies, led by Payton d'Oro.

Based at Delaware with trainer Larry Jones, Payton d'Oro has won four straight, capped by a wire-to-wire score in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico.

Her rivals include Garden District, winner of the Grade 3 Debutante at Churchill Downs last year. She will be making her first start beyond six furlongs.

Bon Jovi Girl, part of a coupled entry for trainer Tim Ritchey, also merits respect. She romped in a pair of listed stakes at Delaware last fall and finished second, beaten only 1 1/4 lengths despite a troubled start, in the Black-Eyed Susan.

Cat Moves, from the high-percentage barn of Tony Dutrow, has easily won her first two career starts. Like Garden District, she will be racing beyond six furlongs for the first time.

Tribute for retiring Jones

Delaware Park will honor trainer Larry Jones for his accomplishments and dedication to racing with a special tribute Saturday.

Jones, who has announced his plans to retire after this season, will meet fans in the paddock and grove area at 11 a.m. A trophy in his honor will be presented following the fourth race, a turf route for maiden claimers, which has been named the J. Larry Jones Tribute.

:: VIDEO: (DRF Plus)