Frank Jones Jr.’s Tapitsfly, runner-up to Hungry Island in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Presented by American Commercial Lines (Grade II), will shoulder the top weight of 121 pounds when she faces eight rivals in Saturday’s 36th running of the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
The Early Times Mint Julep will be run under the lights at Churchill Downs as part of the Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka racing program. It will be co-featured on Saturday evening with the ninth running of the $100,000-added Winning Colors (GIII) and the 24th running of the $100,000-added Aristides. The Early Times Mint Julep is scheduled as Race 9 at 9:39 p.m. (ET).
Tapitsfly, a 5-year-old gray/roan daughter of Tapit, ended her juvenile campaign with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita. After missing her sophomore season, Tapitsfly returned for a 4-year-old campaign that was highlighted by a third-place finish behind My Baby Baby and Ravi’s Song in last year’s Early Times Mint Julep and a runner-up effort to Daveron-GER in the Ballston Spa (GII) at Saratoga.
Trained by Dale Romans, Tapitsfly recorded the biggest win of her career in taking the Honey Fox (GII) at Gulfstream Park in her 2012 debut. Prior to her runner-up effort in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, Tapitsfly finished third behind Daisy Devine and Bay to Bay in the Jenny Wiley (GI) at Keeneland.
Tapitsfly’s overall record stands at 5-6-4 from 20 starts and her earnings are just shy of the $1-million mark at $953,836. She will break from post three under Victor Lebron.
Bizzy Caroline, Hard Seven, Heavenly Landing and Snow Top Mountain will all carry 118 pounds and could be the top challengers to Tapitsfly.
Catesby Clay’s Bizzy Caroline has two wins over the Matt Winn Turf Course, including last year’s Regret (GIII) as a 3-year-old. She ended her sophomore campaign with runner-up performances in the Valley View (GIII) at Keeneland and the Mrs. Revere (GII) at Churchill Downs. In her lone start as a 4-year-old, Bizzy Caroline finished third in an allowance race over the Polytrack at Keeneland. She will break from the rail under Manny Cruz, who teamed up with trainer Ken McPeek to win last year’s Early Times Mint Julep with My Baby Baby.
John J. Campo III’s Hard Seven will be making her seventh start of the year in the Early Times Mint Julep and has raced at distances ranging from 6 ½ furlongs to 1 ¼ miles. In her two most recent starts, the Dan McFarlane-trained Hard Seven finished third in both the Santa Ana (GII) and Santa Barbara (GII) on the turf at Santa Anita. She will break from post five in her Churchill Downs debut under Leandro Goncalves.
Lally Stable’s Heavenly Landing will be seeking her second graded-stakes win of 2012 on Saturday as she was victorious in the Marshua’s River (GIII) on the turf at Gulfstream Park in January. In her most recent start, Heavenly Landing finished sixth in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile. Trained by Eddie Kenneally, Heavenly Landing will break from post four under Corey Lanerie, who won the Early Times Mint Julep in 2009 aboard Acoma.
Barbara Hunter’s homebred Snow Top Mountain achieved her lone graded-stakes victory in February in the Suwannee River (GIII) on the turf at Gulfstream Park. The Tom Proctor-trained Snow Top Mountain has placed in four other graded stakes, including a runner-up finish to Check the Label in the Garden City (GI) at Belmont Park. Snow Top Mountain, who finished fourth in last year’s Early Times Mint Julep, will break from post eight under Shane Sellers.
Trainer Bill Mott has saddled a record five winners of the Early Times Mint Julep and will send out Pam and Marty Wygod’s Warm Hugs on Saturday. Weighted at 113 pounds, Warm Hugs will break from post nine under Corey Nakatani.
The field for the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap, from the rail out, is as follows: Bizzy Caroline (ridden by Cruz, 118 pounds), Artemus Kitten (Shaun Bridgmohan, 117), Tapitsfly (Lebron, 121), Heavenly Landing (Lanerie, 118), Hard Seven (Goncalves, 118), Ravi’s Song (Miguel Mena, 116), Joharmony (Brian Hernandez Jr., 115), Snow Top Mountain (Sellers, 118) and Warm Hugs (Nakatani, 113).
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4, 2013, and its 2012 Spring Meet is scheduled for April 28-July 1. The track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.
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