David and Goliath


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Username: Chumley

Post Number: 531
Registered: Dec-08
Interesting Puzzle in Gardenia Stakes

By Ellis Starr

The 28th running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Gardenia Handicap brings together a wide open field of fillies and mares running the unique one-mile distance at Ellis Park. The distance is unique in that it is run around one and one-half turns, with the starting gate pointing straight up the first turn before the field hits the backstretch for the rest of their journey. In the Gardenia, recent Ellis Park Turf Stakes runner-up Whirlie Bertie may have an edge in terms of recent local experience in a stakes, with little doubt she can run well on the dirt given she won three consecutive races on that surface last year. Tensas Yucatan won the Red Camelia Stakes and Honeymoon Stakes in succession this spring, both on turf and both restricted to Louisiana-bred horses, but like Whirlie Bertie she has won on dirt so should be competitive in the Gardenia. Abby's Angel lost the first start of her career way back in December, 2007, but has won all three starts since then, including a race at the distance of the Gardenia. Unforgotten finished third in last year's Gardenia. With a second place finish in the Grade 3 Chicago Handicap as her most recent effort she appears capable of running well again this year. Divine Sanction, Elizabeth Park and Lady's Laughter all recently won allowance races and with further improvement could have a say in the outcome of the Gardenia. French Kiss and De Star Xpress round out the field.

Whirlie Bertie earned a career best 102 Equibase® Speed Figure three weeks ago with a fine runner-up effort in the Ellis Park Turf Stakes, leading from the start in that event and gamely holding second by a neck as the winner drew off by two and one-half lengths. Having been away from the races from October of last year until June, Whirlie Bertie improved markedly off her fifth-place finish in her first start of 2009. With further improvement likely in her third start off the layoff she should run even better in the Gardenia. Having won around two turns on dirt in the second, third and fourth starts of her career last year, including a victory over Final Refrain, who beat her in the Ellis Park Turf last month, there is little doubt Whirlie Bertie can make the transition back to the main track and run well enough to win this race.

Tensas Yucatan came back from five months away from the races in January, winning an allowance race on the main track at the distance of the Gardenia by nine lengths and earning a career best 109 . Following that victory, Tensas Yucatan won two stakes races in a row for Louisiana-bred horses only during March and May, both on turf. Overmatched in the Grade 3 Locust Grove Handicap last month after winning the Honeymoon Stakes as well as perhaps uncomfortable on a yielding turf course, Tensas Yucatan finished last of five. However, facing easier company here and moving back to dirt where she earned that big win this spring, Tensas Yucatan could have a big say in the outcome of the Gardenia.

Abby's Angel made her career debut in December, 2007, finishing third in a sprint. One month later, she broke her maiden impressively, dominating the field in winning by 14 lengths at the distance of the Gardenia. Away from the races for 17 months, Abby's Angel returned this past June and won nicely to establish a new career best of 97, bettering that figure by one point last month when winning her third race in a row. Having already won around two-turns and on a pattern for more improvement in her third start off a layoff, Abby's Angel must be respected as a contender to win the Gardenia.

Unforgotten finished third in last year's Gardenia and has run competitively in a number of races since them, most recently when second in the Chicago Handicap last month. In her career, Unforgotten has amassed more second place finishes than wins, but overall has been very consistent with 13 first or second place efforts in 27 races. As such, she might be able to hit the board again this year.

The rest of the field, with their best representative Equibase® Speed Figures are De Star Xpress (100), Divine Sanction (89), Elizabeth Park (99), French Kiss (103) and Lady's Laughter (96).
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