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Grade I Winner Check The Label Heads Tough Early Times Mint Julep
Lael Stable’s Check the Label, winner of last fall’s Grade I Garden City at Belmont Park, will break from the outside post when she faces 11 accomplished rivals in a strong 35th running of the $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep (III) for fillies and mares on the grass on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
The 1 1/16-miles test for fillies and mares ages 3 and up is scheduled to be the featured 10th event on an 11-race live racing program at Churchill Downs that will also provide fans an opportunity to wager on the Belmont Stakes (GI), the final jewel of the Triple Crown. That three-race series began nearly five weeks ago at Churchill Downs with a victory by Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and continued with a Preakness (GI) win by Shackleford, who ran fourth in the Derby. First race post time on Saturday is 12:45 p.m. (all times EDT), with the Early Times Mint Julep set for 5:29 p.m.
Check the Label will enter the starting gate for the Early Times Mint Julep in search of her first victory of 2011. Trained by Graham Motion, who will be in New York to saddle Team Valor International’s Animal Kingdom in the Belmont Stakes, the daughter of Stormin Fever finished a close second to Embur’s Song in the Doubledogdare (GIII) over the synthetic Polytrack main track at Keeneland on April 22. That was her first start since Check the Label ran sixth behind Harmonious in the $400,000 Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup (GI) at Keeneland in her final start of 2010.
The Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup loss snapped a string of four consecutive graded stakes victories in 2010 by Check the Label that included Keeneland’s Appalachian (GIII), the Sands Point (GII) at Belmont Park, the Virginia Oaks (GIII) at Colonial Downs and the Garden City. Jeremy Rose will be in the the saddle on Saturday aboard Check The Label, who has earned $518,894 while compiling a record of 6-3-1 in 15 races. She will carry high weight of 122 pounds and concedes from three to 10 pounds to the other fillies and mares in the race.
While Check the Label is the only Grade I winner entered in the Early Times Mint Julep, there are plenty of fillies and mares in the field with credentials to be major contenders. They include Frank L. Jones Jr.’s homebred Tapitsfly, winner of the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf; Barbara Hunter’s homebred Snow Top Mountain, a close runner-up to Check the Label in the Garden City and a half-sister to Keertana, who defeated males in Churchill Downs’ Louisville Handicap (GIII); Team Block Stable’s Askbut I Won’ttell, winner of the Cardinal (GII) at Churchill Downs and the My Charmer (GIII) at Calder; and Mrs. Yoshio Fujita’s Ravi’s Song, who makes her turf debut after dirt wins at Fair Grounds in the Pelleteri and New Orleans Ladies.
Tapitsfly ran a disappointing seventh behind Aviate in the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GII) on Kentucky Derby Day, her third start since she returned from a layoff of more than a year following her Breeders’ Cup triumph at Santa Anita. Miguel Mena will ride the 4-year-old daughter of Tapit, will who carry 116 pounds and breaks from post seven. Tapitsfly is trained by Dale Romans, who will be in New York to saddle Shackleford in his rematch with Animal Kingdom in the Belmont.
Snow Top Mountain will bid for her first stakes victory at Churchill Downs after a runner-up finish in the 2010 Regret (GIII) and fourth-place run in last fall’s Mrs. Revere (GII). She brings back-to-back allowance wins on the Keeneland and Churchill Downs turf for trainer Tom Proctor into Saturday’s race. Robby Albarado will ride Snow Top Mountain, who will carry 119 pounds.
Askbut I Won’ttell has not raced since a fifth-place finish behind Denomination in the Hillsborough (GIII) on turf at Tampa Bay Downs. Trainer Chris Block will give jockey Eduardo Perez a leg up on the 5-year-old mare, who has been assigned 117 pounds and will start from post 10.
Trainer Carl Bowman’s Ravi’s Song will break from the rail post under leading jockey Corey Lanerie in her first outing on grass. She ran fifth to 2010 Kentucky Oaks winner Blind Luck and Unrivalled Belle, winner of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (GI), in the $300,000-added La Troienne (GII) on the Churchill Downs dirt last time out. Ravi’s Song will carry 113 pounds.
Another horse to watch in the Early Times Mint Julep is Magdalena Racing’s My Baby Baby, who finished second to Keertana in the Bewitch (GIII) at Keeneland on April 28. The 6-year-old daughter of Bernstein has a record of 1-2-1 in six races on the Churchill Downs grass that includes third-place finishes to Hot Cha Cha in the Early Times Mint Julep and Askbut I Won’ttell in the Cardinal. My Baby Baby, who will be ridden by Manoel Cruz and will carry 116 pounds, will attempt to build on last weekend’s success at Churchill Downs for trainer Ken McPeek, who saddled Noble’s Promise to win the Aristides (GIII) and Salty Strike to take the Dogwood (GIII).
The field for the Early Times Mint Julep, from the rail (with jockey, weight) includes: Ravi’s Song, (Lanerie 114), Bella Medaglia (Jamie Theriot, 113), Vivo Per Lei (Leandro Goncalves, 113), Silver La Belle (Brian Hernandez Jr., 112), Abuela (Marcelino Pedroza Jr., 113), Sweetest Song (Calvin Borel, 115), Tapitsfly (Mena, 116), Snow Top Mountain (Albarado, 119), My Baby Baby (Manoel Cruz, 116), Askbut I Won’ttell (Perez, 117) and Check the Label (Rose, 122).