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Familiarity breeds competition in Holiday Inaugural

Wednesday, November 26, 2003 12:00 AM
  • General
FLORENCE, KY . . . November 26, 2003 . . . The contest wasn’t much of a contest the last time these three ladies met at Turfway Park, but this time Emily Ring will be raced and ready when she defends her title against Don’t Countess Out and Born to Dance in the Holiday Inaugural Stakes. The three are expected to meet in the $50,000 six-furlong sprint scheduled for Sunday, November 30. The Holiday Inaugural is the opening-day feature of Turfway’s Holiday Meet. First post is 1:10 p.m. EST.

Last time, in the Weekend Delight Stakes this past September, Don’t Countess Out won by 2 3/4 lengths despite a stumbling start, while Born to Dance, who also lost her footing out of the gate, moved up well to finish third. Emily Ring started fresh and ended tired, the last of eight.

But the Weekend Delight was Emily Ring’s first start in five months. She has since been recovering among good allowance company, taking third at Keeneland in October and second at Churchill Downs two weeks ago. Emily Ring won the Holiday Inaugural last year by heading right for the front and staying there. Don’t Countess Out was third at that meeting, 10 1/4 lengths back.

Don’t Countess Out has also found the money in every one of her six starts since then, all stakes races. In fact, she hasn’t been worse than third in 17 starts over two years. She most recently took second in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G3) at Keeneland, a head-to-head battle for the lead from start to finish.

Just barely behind her in the TCA was Born to Dance, who comes into the Holiday Inaugural off a stubborn third-place finish in the Churchill Downs Distaff (G2) earlier this month. After stepping up to that class, she may be ready to stop seeing the finish line from behind Don’t Countess Out. She has jockey Rafael Bejarano in her favor again this time, too.

Larry Jones trains Don’t Countess Out for Southern Pride Stable. “We beat Emily Ring once and she beat us once,” said Jones. “We beat Born to Dance our last time out, but it was just by a nose, or maybe even a head-bob. And she [Born to Dance] just ran a big race up at Churchill Downs. So it looks like it’s going to be pretty competitive. But our horse likes the Turfway track.” Terry Thompson, Don’t Countess Out’s regular rider, has the mount again.

Trainer William Huffman has named Willie Martinez to ride Emily Ring for owner Mike Anderson Thoroughbreds. Born to Dance is trained by James Jackson for Rosendo Parra.

Also likely for the Holiday Inaugural are Emilyna, Jenny’s Prospector, Put me In, Timeless Love, Two Dot Slew, Dance Hall Girl, and Halory Leigh; the latter two come in off first place allowance finishes.

The Turfway Park Holiday Meet runs from November 30 to December 31. Post time is 5:30 p.m. EST Wednesday through Friday; first post on the weekends is 1:10 p.m. EST. The track is dark Monday and Tuesday except December 29 and 30. From Friday, December 26, through Thursday, December 31, post time is 1:10 p.m. EST. General admission and parking are free.

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