05/19/2006 12:00AM

Very Vegas a perfect fit in turf dash


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Narrow defeats, or "tough beats" as racetrackers call them, don't come any tougher than the one Very Vegas experienced in the May 4 Mamzelle Stakes. Sent to the front under jockey Jesus Castanon, she led for nearly every jump, until getting caught by Unbridled Sidney in the final stride.

A dejected Castanon, talking to reporters after the race, said the nose loss hurt.

"Honestly, when I got to 70 yards, I thought I was going to hang on," he said.

A favorable opportunity for in Sunday's ninth race at Churchill Downs, a $68,000 allowance at five furlongs on turf, might help ease the pain. Very Vegas is well suited to the conditions, which restricts entrants to those that have not won two races other than maiden, claiming, starter, or statebred on the turf in 2005-2006.

Very Vegas, having won a stakes race on turf at Hollywood Park last July, wouldn't be eligible if she had won the Mamzelle. Her perfect fit of the conditions does not end there. She also won three races at Turfway over the winter, including the Queen Stakes, but because those wins came on Polytrack, not turf, she is eligible for Sunday's race.

About the only surface she has not handled is Keeneland's grass course, which has a sandy base. She ran 12th over it in the Giant's Causeway this spring and 10th in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County last fall.

Nick Canani trains Very Vegas, a 5-year-old mare, for Everest Stables. Castanon returns in the saddle.

Although a deserving favorite off her runner-up finish in the Mamzelle, Very Vegas has little margin for error. Mocha Queen, the third-place finisher in the Mamzelle who was a neck behind Very Vegas at the finish, is entered, as is Angel Trumpet, who ran a close fifth in the Mamzelle. Both are stakes winners over the Churchill Downs turf course.

won that same race in 2005, edging Unbridled Sidney and Very Vegas.

Both those mares had troubled trips in the Mamzelle. Angel Trumpet was bumped at the start, contributing to her racing further off the pace than usual, and Mocha Queen had to race four wide on the turn, and even wider in the stretch, after breaking from post 11.

La Tache, Misgoldy, True Kiss, and Papa Sids Girl complete the seven-horse field.