By C.L. Brown, The Courier-Journal
Rumor has won or placed in 11 of her 14 career starts, but the 5-year-old Indian Charlie mare has never experienced a top-three finish in a Grade I stakes.
She'll try to change that today as the 5-2 favorite in the $300,000 Humana Distaff Stakes at Churchill Downs. The seven-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares has a field of nine and is race 7, scheduled for a 2:08 p.m. post.
Her two starts of 2013 paint the contrast of how important getting out of the gate is for Rumor. In the Wishing Well Stakes on turf at Santa Anita, she broke poorly and finished seventh.
She won the Grade III Las Flores Stakes in March by a half-length over Teddy's Promise, partly due to a clean start, and she eventually came from slightly off the pace for her sixth career win.
"The last couple of times we run her we let her bounce away from there and it helped not letting her get too far back," trainer Richard Mandella said. "She's a good mare; she gives it all she's got, usually."
Seeking her first Grade I victory for owners Ramona Bass, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, Rumor will have to overcome that final furlong. All of her wins have come at either six or 61/2 furlongs. In her two races at seven furlongs she finished fifth and sixth.
Mandella said he is pleased with how well she's taken to Churchill after being shipped from Santa Anita.
"She's had plenty of races and had good work before we left," he said.
Aubby K, a 4-year-old daughter of Street Sense, aims for her fourth victory in eight starts. The James Spence-owned filly is coming off a three-length win in the seven-furlong Inside Information Handicap at Gulfstream Park in March.
Emma's Encore finished third in the Inside Information but has a Grade I win to her credit. The 4-year-old Congrats filly won the Prioress Stakes at Saratoga Race Course last year.
Trainer Eddie Kenneally has two fillies that could factor into the Distaff.
Glencrest Farm's Jamaican Smoke has been in the money in all six of her starts but has never won a stakes race. It looked as if the seven-furlong, Grade I Madison at Keeneland last month would be her first. The 4-year-old led by 2 1/2 lengths in the stretch but was overtaken by Last Full Measure and Byrama and finished third.
Burban is Kenneally's other entrant, and he is quietly confident that she may have a home-track advantage. Although she finished sixth in the Inside Information, her four starts at Churchill Downs have turned up three wins and a second.
"We're taking a jump in class; we've never run against the caliber of horses that we're going to face, but we're ready for it," Kenneally said. "We're going to give it a good shot."
What is very familiar to Burban will be a new experience for Byrama. The British-bred 4-year-old, who finished second in the Madison by a neck, will make her debut on a dirt track.
Byrama, who is trained by Simon Callaghan, has made 12 of her 14 starts on turf and the remaining two on Polytrack.