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Believe You Can, Applauding in Rachel Alexandra
Believe You Can will only have to contend with six rivals in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds, but her biggest threat looks to come from a filly making her stakes bow in the 1 1/16-mile race.
Applauding was scheduled to begin her three-year-old campaign in the Silverbulletday Stakes on January 21, but was scratched from the first leg of Fair Grounds' series for sophomore fillies the morning of the race due to a mild case of colic that developed overnight. Trainer Al Stall Jr. indicated later that day his chestnut daughter of Congrats was doing well and on course for a match against Believe You Can, who led all the way home in the Silverbulletday to score by 1 1/2 lengths.
Since her "slight tummy ache," as Stall described it, Applauding has posted two works, clocking a half-mile in :50 on February 4 and then going four furlongs in :49 3/5 last Sunday. Garrett Gomez was aboard when the chestnut miss captured her maiden debut by nine lengths at Keeneland last October, but Shaun Sellers took over the mount for her six-length score in an optional claimer in early December at Fair Grounds. He'll stay in the irons for Saturday's race.
Believe You Can was made the 5-2 second choice to Summer Applause's even-money favorite in the Silverbulletday, and held that rival on the wire to earn her second stakes triumph. Sent wide around the first turn of the mile-and-70-yard event, Believe You Can controlled the pace from the onset and had more than enough left in tank to take the win.
The Larry Jones-trained daughter of Proud Citizen scored three straight as a juvenile, culminating in a 2 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3 Tempted Stakes at Belmont Park. She was unable to challenge when stretching out to a mile in the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes against Triple Crown nominee On Fire Baby at Churchill Downs to close out 2011, but proved distance wasn't an issue with her Silverbulletday win under jockey Rosie Napravnik, who retains the mount for Saturday.
Summer Applause will be making her fourth start in three months when breaking from the 5 post on Saturday under Robby Albarado. The Harlan's Holiday filly broke her maiden at Woodbine on December 3, then traveled south of the border to Fair Grounds and added a seven-length score against optional claiming rivals to her record on New Year's Eve. Switched from trainer Josie Carroll to Bret Calhoun's barn, the bay filly made her stakes bow in the Silverbulletday and ran second throughout. She'll be looking to turn the tables on Believe You Can with Albarado aboard.
Inny Minnie was content to stalk the pace in the Silverbulletday while running just off the rail, but ranged up to draw even with Summer Applause while four wide rounding the second turn. It was nip/tuck between those two down the lane, with Inny Minnie just missing second by a nose on the wire. The Steve Margolis trainee, who had seven lengths to spare on the fourth-place finisher, entered the Silverbulletday off a second in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Princess Stakes in mid-November. Shaun Bridgmohan was aboard for Inny Minnie's initial two starts, both runner-up efforts, and takes back the mount on the Hard Spun filly.
The remaining three runners in the Rachel Alexandra have something to prove.
Table Three Ten, a gray daughter of El Prado, is looking to keep her unbeaten mark going in her stakes bow. The three-year-old lass broke her maiden by 5 1/4 lengths at Fair Grounds under Michael Stidham's tutelage, but was then sent to Graham Motion, who saddled her to a 1 3/4-length optional claiming score at Gulfstream on January 27.
Avie's Sense took three tries to earn her first win, finally getting the job done by 5 3/4 lengths for Carroll on January 5 at Fair Grounds. The Street Sense miss was making her first start on a conventional dirt track in that event and gets the services of jockey James Graham here in her initial try against winners.
Annaclone owns just one win from seven starts thus far, with that coming at Churchill Downs last November. She's tried turf in two of her last three races, and the Flatter daughter will need a career-best effort to succeed in her black-type bow.