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Ambition, but not blind
ELMONT, N.Y. - Running a horse in a Grade 1 stakes at 1 1/2 miles in her third start might not be the most conventional thing to do, but trainer Terry Knight thinks Sister Girl Blues can handle it.
Sister Girl Blues arrived at Belmont Park from Bay Meadows on Tuesday for Saturday's $350,000 Coaching Club American Oaks, the final leg of New York's triple for 3-year-old fillies.
"If you're going to do something unorthodox, she's the kind of horse that is mentally comfortable with most things," Knight said. "She's always laid back."
Sister Girl Blues won a maiden race on the grass by 2 1/2 lengths at Bay Meadows in her debut in May. In her next start, Knight and the filly's owner, Jeff Nielsen, shot for the stars and ran Sister Girl Blues in the Grade 2 Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks on the dirt. Sister Girl Blues, who was 30-1, ran a huge race and finished second, beaten a length by Adoration, the likely favorite in Saturday's $250,000 Delaware Oaks.
Knight said one of the reasons he and Nielsen have been ambitious in placing Sister Girl Blues is that Nielsen owns the filly's sire, Hold for Gold, who stands in Kentucky at Crestwood Farm for $1,000. A win or even a placing would be a good advertisement for Hold for Gold, a 7-year-old who has yet to sire a stakes winner.
"That was a definite consideration," Knight said.
Shaun Bridgmohan, who has won a stakes on each of the last three weekends at Belmont, has the mount on Sister Girl Blues.
Chamrousse, the likely favorite in the CCA Oaks, worked a half-mile in 49 seconds at Churchill on Wednesday and was scheduled to arrive in New York on Thursday.
The other expected starters are Jaramar Rain, Jilbab, Linda Eder, Shop Till You Drop, and Tarnished Lady.
Familiar filly foes
It's a nice rivalry that gets little attention. Gold Mover's half-length victory over Xtra Heat in Saturday's Princess Rooney Stakes at Calder was the fourth meeting between them.
At 2, Xtra Heat handed Gold Mover her first career defeat, a neck decision in the Astarita. Earlier this year, Xtra Heat beat Gold Mover by 4 1/2 lengths in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap. Trainer Mark Hennig said Gold Mover came out of that race with an electrolyte imbalance.
In last month's Vagrancy Handicap, Xtra Heat again beat Gold Mover by a neck.
"These two have never been that far apart throughout their careers," Hennig said. "When they were 2 she beat us a neck and we got a real bad trip that day. [Saturday] was the right spot to turn the tables."
Hennig said Gold Mover returned to Belmont Sunday morning in good order.
He is not sure where Gold Mover will run next, though he did not dismiss the Honorable Miss on Aug. 2 at Saratoga. The Honorable Miss is the prep for the Grade 1 Ballerina on Aug. 25, and Hennig plans to run Raging Fever in that spot. But, he said Gold Mover could also run in the Ballerina.
"Wouldn't be a bad entry," Hennig said.
Hennig, who through Monday was in 10th place among the nation's trainers in earnings with $3,614,304, will try to add to that total Sunday when he sends out Summer Colony in the $600,000 Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park. He also entered Unrestrained the race, but she is not certain to run.
Though Hennig has 18 stakes wins this year, he wonders if he could have had a few more had two of his best horses not been injured. Wopping, beaten a nose in the Nassau County by Nonsuch Bay, came out of the race with a chip in her knee and had to be operated on. Nonsuch Bay went on to win the Mother Goose.
Seeking Daylight, the Brooklyn winner, suffered a fractured cannon bone training for the Suburban. Seeking Daylight underwent surgery - performed by Dr. Stephen Selway - last week and Hennig and owner Edward Evans hope to bring him back to the races next year.
"If the right offer came along to stand him at stud at a place where Mr. Evans felt comfortable with the people, he might do it," Hennig said. "But Dr. Selway said there's no reason he couldn't come back and run, and we think there's still plenty of run left in him."
Gander to run in Shipman
Having come out of his bullet five-furlong workout Monday in good order, Gander will start in Sunday's $75,000 Evan Shipman Stakes. Gander, who worked in 59.61 seconds, won the race in 2000.
"He looked great this morning,'' Tonja Terranova, assistant to her husband, John, said Tuesday. "He worked great Monday. It's coming back in three weeks after a big effort, and we want to spot him in all the right spots."
Gander, winner of last year's Meadowlands Cup, ended a five-race losing streak by winning a classified allowance race June 30, in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 105. Gander was assigned high weight of 124 pounds for the Evan Shipman, a six- to 12-pound concession to the rest of the field.
Also expected to run are Turnofthecentury (118), Ahpo Here (117), Mount Intrepid (116), Sherpa Guide (116), Personal Pro (115), Stalwart Member (115), Bakhoor (114), and Affair In the Air (112).
The Terranova-trained Heavyweight Champ, graded-stakes-placed last year at 2, drilled five furlongs in 58.11 seconds Tuesday, the fastest by two seconds of 18 works at the distance. Heavyweight Champ was equipped with blinkers for the first time in the workout.
"We wanted to see if he might concentrate a little better,'' Tonja Terranova said. "He worked great in them. We were kind of experimenting and we liked the results.''
Terranova said it hasn't been decided if Heavyweight Champ will wear blinkers when he runs in the Amsterdam Stakes on Aug. 3 at Saratoga.
* Suburban winner E Dubai worked five furlongs in 1:02.87 on Wednesday at Belmont. E Dubai is under consideration for the $300,000 Saratoga Breeders' Cup on Aug. 17 or the $350,000 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park the following day.
New York Handicap winner Owsley, preparing for the $500,000 Diana on July 27 at Saratoga, worked a half-mile in 49.72 seconds.
* Entries for Wednesday, opening day at Saratoga, will be drawn on Saturday.
- additional reporting by David Grening