Safely Kept's elite field may threaten 3-stakes win streak by `Bettie B'

Horse racing

October 21, 2006|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun reporter

If thoroughbreds can participate in a dogfight, the Grade III, $200,000 Safely Kept Breeders' Cup Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Laurel Park today could be it.

Favorite Wildcat Bettie B will be fighting to keep a graded stakes victory string alive, but to do it she'll have to beat two horses who lost to her by a length or less, and several more who have the talent for an upset in this six-furlong race.

"Wildcat Bettie B has won three [stakes] in a row," said trainer Ben Perkins, who will send Wild Gams into the fray today. "But at Belmont [in the Grade I Prioress Stakes], we only lost by a neck and the last couple jumps there, it looked like we'd win. But she kept digging in and pulled it out at the wire."

Perkins can appreciate the effort, given it was Wild Gams who pulled out victory in the Grade III Cicada Stakes at Aqueduct on March 18, delivering the first career loss to Laurel-based Celestial Legend.

G City Gal, Grade III-placed and trained by Todd Pletcher, has also come close to beating Wildcat Bettie B, losing by one length in the July 15, Grade III Azalea Breeders' Cup Stakes at Calder Race Course.

Besides trying to turn the tables on Wildcat Bettie B, G City Gal also will be trying to bring Pletcher a record-tying victory that will match the single-season graded-stakes victory record of 52 set by his former boss, trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

"All these horses have run against each other, and it's a solid bunch" Perkins said.

"It will be a very competitive race. Wildcat Bettie B is a Grade I winner, Livermore Valley has placed in Grade I races, and Todd Pletcher is going for the stakes record. That's good for him. Todd works really hard and he's a good friend. But I hope he doesn't get it in this race.

"I'm taking my horse there to win."

This will be Wildcat Bettie B's first trip to Maryland since beginning her winning streak in the Grade III Miss Preakness May 19 at Pimlico Race Course. She is trained by Delaware Park-based Larry Jones, who has shown the horse to be versatile in her attack.

In the Miss Preakness, she led wire-to-wire, but she came from far off the pace to win the Grade I Prioress and the Grade III Victory Ride at Saratoga in August.

"It was an awesome feeling to win the Prioress," said her jockey, Mario Pino, who earned his first Grade I victory in the Prioress. "It was a tough race. I had never been on her in the afternoon, so I didn't know what to expect. She came from way out to beat a terrific field.

"She's a nice big filly. She really looks like a colt. And she was even better in the last race, and is really peaking at the right time."

She better be, because also in the eight-horse field is Cajun Mistress. Trained by Steve Klesaris, Cajun Mistress hasn't run in any stakes yet, but the daughter of Salt Lake is undefeated this year and has led wire-to-wire in three allowance races against older horses at Delaware, winning the last two handily.

"This is a very competitive race, but what is very attractive is that she has beaten older horses three straight times," said jockey Ramon Dominguez, who had the ride in her past two outings and will be up again today. "She doesn't have to be on the lead and has a ton of ability."

In the morning line, G City Gal at 4-1 is the second favorite, while Cajun Mistress is given the same 9-2 odds as Wild Gams. But Wildcat Bettie B has won six of nine lifetime starts, including four stakes this year. And it is Wildcat Bettie B who is the morning line favorite and currently the biggest dog in the fight.

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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