By virtue of her victory in the $750,000 Hambletonian Oaks earlier this month, Bar Slide made it known that any 3-year-old trotting filly vying for divisional supremacy would have to contend with her.
In her first outing since that historic triumph at the Meadowlands, the daughter of Yankee Glide is finding no shortage of challengers.
Thursday night's $232,750 Moni Maker Stakes at The Red Mile is shaping up as a race worthy of its champion mare namesake. The top five finishers from the Oaks — including Bluestone Farms and Fredericka Caldwell's Bar Slide — are among the field of 12 slated to go to post in the 1-mile contest.
Though Bar Slide was made the 5-2 morning-line pick in the Moni Maker, Oaks runner-up Ultimate Cameron looms as the 7-2 third choice with the improving Glide Power and Cantab It All both primed should their rivals have a misstep.
"I think it might actually be a better race than the Oaks," said Adam Bowden, who along with his father, Chris, operates the Paris-based Diamond Creek Farm, owner of Ultimate Cameron and co-owner of 3-1 choice Glide Power. "You have the Oaks fillies in there plus (trainer) Jimmy Takter's filly (Cantab It All) who is racing really well.
"It's going to be tough, but any time you can win a race like this is great. And to win a big stakes in Kentucky would be huge."
For a horse that has already exceeded her owner's expectations, a win by Bar Slide on Thursday would simply add to her banner year.
Though she always boasted raw speed and natural ability, Bar Slide was prone to making breaks in stride as a 2-year-old, a fairly common problem with many young trotters.
With the aid of trainer Joe Holloway and driver Tim Tetrick, the bay filly has learned to harness her energy. Her Oaks triumph was her third in nine starts this year.
"We always knew she had speed; we just didn't know how to get her to calm down and teach her, 'this is how you have to race,' " said Elizabeth Caldwell, daughter of Fredericka Caldwell, who picked out Bar Slide as a yearling. "Sometimes they get so excited, they get ahead of themselves. It was a long process to get her to where she has gotten to now, but she has just surpassed all our hopes for her."
The regally bred Ultimate Cameron has gotten the best of Bar Slide before, defeating her and the highly regarded Poof She's Gone at Mohawk Raceway on June 26.
A hard-trying daughter of Yankee Glide who has been off the board twice in 15 lifetime starts, Ultimate Cameron — who is trained by Lexington native Bob Stewart — impressed her connections with her recent training and could be sitting on one of her biggest efforts to date.
"She never really showed how great she was until the final race of her 2-year-old season," Adam Bowden said. "I actually wanted to stop on her because she's so valuable as a broodmare, but they convinced me to give her one more year. And now she's probably even more valuable."
If either Bar Slide or the Bowdens' Ultimate Cameron or Glide Power win Thursday, she is likely to have a vocal cheering section welcoming her to the winner's circle.
Based in Georgetown, the Caldwells own a compact yet quality band of broodmares and were the breeders of the legendary Moni Maker, who was twice voted harness racing's Horse of the Year (1998 and 1999) and retired as the sport's all-time leader in earnings, with $5.58 million.
While the Bowdens formed Diamond Creek Farm only five years ago, the operation has already proved it can develop some of the sport's top contenders.
Standardbred racing does not hold the status it once did in the Bluegrass, but anyone who believes Kentucky's days as a major industry player are behind it might be dissuaded Thursday.
"I think there is no better place to raise a horse than in Kentucky," Elizabeth Caldwell said. "We have some newer people that have come in like Diamond Creek, which we need. It's not been easy but we're hanging on."