Multiple Grade 1 winner Sassy Image, looking for her first victory in over a year, is among four graded stakes winners set to contest the Gardenia Stakes (G3) for fillies and mares Saturday at Ellis Park.
Sassy Image, a multiple graded stakes winner as a two-year-old in 2009, blossomed in 2011, winning the Humana Distaff Stakes (G1), Princess Rooney Handicap (G1), and Winning Colors Stakes (G3). However, the Dale Romans trainee encountered bad luck in the summer and fall, tearing her quarter while finishing unplaced in the Ballerina Stakes (G1) and then suffering an ankle chip in a workout that ended her season.
The five-year-old Broken Vow mare returned in this year's Humana Distaff, finishing sixth in her first start in over eight months. Most recently, she was second in the Roxelana Stakes June 30 at Churchill Downs.
Sassy Image drew the outside post in the 11-horse field for the one-mile Gardenia. Jockey Robby Albarado will be aboard, marking his first mount in Kentucky since May 3, the day before he was arrested in Louisville on domestic violence charges for the second time in just over a year.
The Daily Racing Form reported that Albarado has been eligible to ride in Kentucky since late May, when he was awarded a temporary restraining order in a Franklin Circuit Court. Albarado, who has been riding regularly at Arlington Park, was found guilty last month by a Jefferson District Court jury and ordered to pay a $500 fine.
Romans has also entered She's Picky, who is making her stakes debut
Salty Strike comes into the Gardenia off consecutive stakes victories, including a 3 ½ length score over Sassy Image in the Roxelana Stakes. The four-year-old Smart Strike filly, winner of the 2011 Dogwood Stakes (G3), drew the rail, and Victor Lebron will be aboard for trainer Ken McPeek.
Multiple graded stakes winner Juanita took the La Troienne Stakes (G2) May 4 at Churchill, but the Mike Maker trainee enters the Gardenia off a last-place finish in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (G1) May 28 at Belmont Park.
Absinthe Minded, winner of two editions of the Bayakoa Stakes, as well as the Pippin Stakes, is looking for her first career graded stakes victory. The five-year-old Quiet American mare, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, has five career graded stakes placings, including a runner-up effort in this year's Apple Blossom Handicap (G1).
Joyful Victory was a two-time graded stakes winner in 2011, scoring in the Fantasy Stakes (G2) and Honeybee Stakes (G3). Her only win in over a year since was the Tiffany Lass Stakes in February at Fair Grounds. Trained by Larry Jones, the Tapit filly is making her first start since finishing third in the Azeri Stakes (G3) in March at Oaklawn Park.
Also in the field are graded stakes placed runners Find the Humor and Toxis, multiple stakes placed Formal Plan, and stakes placed Ridgester.