Meadow Star, Lite Light renew rivalry


ELMONT, N.Y. -- They put together the best horse race run this year, at any track, at any time -- an event so special that it left everyone demanding more.

And today, the rematch.

Meadow Star and Lite Light will attempt to repeat their epic Mother Goose Stakes battle in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont, a race that also has attracted an undefeated filly, Shared Interest.

For now, Meadow Star is the leader of the division, by an eyelash. She held off Lite Light through a furious 3-furlong drive and won the Mother Goose by a fraction of a nose. But Lite Light was every bit as valiant. The winner of the Kentucky Oaks allowed Meadow Star to set the pace on an uncontested lead and still turned it into a contest.

This time, it is unlikely that Meadow Star will have the same advantage. Car Gal, who will run as an entry-mate with Shared Interest, will set the pace, and Meadow Star will not be able to sneak away to another easy early lead.

"I think there'll be a more honest pace this time," said Jerry Hollendorfer, the trainer of Lite Light. "It's an added dimension. In the Mother Goose, you had two similar fillies and two without any speed. When we got away from the gate kind of slow, that gave the advantage to Meadow Star."

The other difference between the two races will be the distance. Today's race is a furlong farther than the mile and one-eighth Mother Goose. Neither horse has ever run this far, making it unclear which, if either, will benefit from the extra furlong.

"It's uncharted territory," said Meadow Star's trainer, Leroy Jolley. "We really don't know how either one will handle it."

Another question that must be answered today is how both fillies have held up to their schedules. The Mother Goose was a grueling race for both and Lite Light has the extra disadvantage of having bled mildly in the race and also being shipped back to California.

Hollendorfer, though, seems pleased with the way his filly is holding up. Lite Light worked six furlongs in 1 minute, 12/15 seconds Sunday, indicating that she is still doing well.

"She's a good shipper and she's doing absolutely terrific," Hollendorfer said. "We realize that you're at a disadvantage shipping in to run against someone in their backyard, but that's where the race happens to be run."

Jolley issues a similar report.

"She came out of the Mother Goose much quicker than I thought she would," he said. "I was very surprised in that within 36 hours she was feeling normal. As tough a race as it was, I thought it would take a week for her to recover."

The other new element to this clash is the presence of Shared Interest, the Scotty Schulhofer-trained filly. A half-sister to Sewickley, she has been impressive in all four starts, but has faced far weaker competition. This is the test. She could be this good.

The others in the 1 1/4 -mile race are Risen Colony and Outlasting. Meadow Star, who also won the Acorn, is attempting to become the eighth filly to win NYRA's Filly Triple Crown. Open Mind last won it in 1989.

But this race really belongs to its two stars.

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