After winning the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) in impressive fashion, Lovely Maria had earned a reputation as the best three-year-old filly in the country and was poised to enjoy a great summer of racing. But after finishing fifth in the Delaware Oaks (gr. II) and sixth in the Alabama Stakes (gr. I), Lovely Maria has been surpassed as the leader of the division, and will have to try and make a late-season surge to reclaim the title. Her quest will begin on Sunday in the $500,000 Spinster Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, a prestigious prep for the $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Keeneland on October 31st.
Lovely Maria will be facing a tough challenge in the Spinster, which is expected to draw 2014 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Untapable and Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) winner Frivolous, but trainer Larry Jones feels that Lovely Maria is ready for a good effort.
“Sometimes what is on the past performances don’t tell the whole story,” Jones was quoted as saying in the Keeneland Barn Notes for September 29th.
“In the Delaware Oaks, she had a wide trip and I know the Kentucky Oaks winner is supposed to overcome that,” he said. “But we had a virus go through the barn and she came back covered in mucus. I didn’t think she ran that badly. She was giving the winner (Calamity Kate) six pounds and Peace and War, who won the Alcibiades last year, was second.”
“They ran a fifth of a second off the track record and then those two fillies finished second and third in the Cotillion (gr. I) so they showed they are legitimate horses.”
Regarding Lovely Maria’s performance in the Alabama, in which she tracked the pace before tiring to be beaten 7 3/4 lengths, Jones noted that “she made a move and then got tired. The mile and a quarter may be a little too far for her.”
Since the Alabama, Lovely Maria has posted four workouts at Delaware Park, most recently breezing five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.80 on September 27th. She arrived at Keeneland on September 28th and “shipped well” according to Jones.
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