July 24, 2024

Locust Grove attracts Grade 1 pair; Bango, Wicked Halo top sprint stakes

Pauline's Pearl came out on top in a three-runner Fleur de Lis (Photo by Coady Photography)

Grade 1 veterans Pauline’s Pearl and Search Results top a salty field of older fillies and mares in the $400,000 Locust Grove (G3) at Churchill Downs on Saturday. Although they enter the 1 1/16-mile Locust Grove with prior top-level success, the career trajectory of the two mares suggests races like the Locust Grove are currently better fits. 

Pauline’s Pearl’s record this term has been a mixed bag. Starting off with a successful title defense in the Houston Ladies Classic (G3), the gray was not competitive in either the Beholder Mile (G1) or La Troienne (G1), the latter of which she won in 2022. She rebounded last time in the Fleur de Lis (G2) while at a pace disadvantage, albeit against just two rivals.

Search Results has dropped five in a row dating back to the Molly Pitcher (G3) in July 2022, placing in four of them. Although she was narrowly defeated by Clairiere in the Ogden Phipps (G1) in June, Search Results was not up to her usual standard when only third in her Molly Pitcher title defense on July 22.

A Mo Reay, who kicked off the season with back-to-back graded wins in the Bayakoa (G3) and Beholder Mile, was only fourth in the La Troienne and fell short at odds-on in the Fleur De Lis. Falconet has won two of her last three, including the Groupie Doll S. at Ellis over Hidden Connection, while Le Da Vida is on the improve having finished second by a half-length in the Molly Pitcher last out.

The first stakes of the September meet is the $300,000 Louisville Thoroughbred Society S., where Bango will attempt to visit the Churchill winner’s circle for 11th time in 19 attempts. The six-year-old was last seen taking the Kelly’s Landing S. at Ellis Park on July 1.

The field for the six-furlong dash also includes Strobe, who’s placed in the Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3), True North (G2), and Iowa Sprint in his last three, and Necker Island, who was beaten a neck by Miles Ahead in the 2022 edition of the Louisville Thoroughbred Society.

The field for the $300,000 Open Mind S., for fillies and mares over six furlongs, is led by multiple Grade 2 heroine Wicked Halo, who has hit the board in all but one of her 15 starts. She was last seen taking the Twin Bridges S. at Ellis in late July and figures to be an odds-on choice in the Open Mind.