Updated on 09/16/2011 6:51AM

Astra just getting started


ARCADIA, Calif. - The $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap at Santa Anita on Monday is simply a launching pad for Astra's 2002 campaign, according to trainer Laura de Seroux.

A Grade 1 winner last year, Astra makes her first start in six months in the Grade 2 Buena Vista, which is run at a mile on turf, a distance shorter than her optimum trip.

De Seroux has not ruled out a win by Astra in the Buena Vista, but she has more lucrative goals in mind later this meeting - and beyond. Still, Astra, the mount of Kent Desormeaux, is expected to go favored against 11 other fillies and mares.

"My intention is to get a race into her," de Seroux said. "I won't send her and say to Kent, 'We have to win this.' I want him to ride conservatively and look to the future. She's giving indications that are very positive. She's trained like sort of a freight train."

The Buena Vista field includes four other fillies and mares who are graded or group stakes winners in the last year - Paga (Monrovia Handicap), Verruma (Dahlia Handicap), Veil of Avalon (De La Rose Handicap), and the Brazilian import Canzone.

Another contender is Old Money, a stakes winner from Australia, who posted a striking win in her United States debut, a one-mile allowance race Jan. 16.

Paga is seeking her third stakes win in the U.S. She is trained by Richard Mandella, who expects her to be close to the pace.

"Going a mile she wants to be near the lead, but she can sit off a hot pace," Mandella said.

Paga breaks from post 11, one spot inside of Old Money, a stalker.

Astra will also be in a stalking spot early, and should be within range of the leaders turning for home.

The Buena Vista is Astra's first start since she finished last of nine as the favorite in the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park last August. Astra was sent to de Seroux's barn in the week following the Beverly D. by her owners, the Allen Paulson Living Trust.

Last year, while trained by Simon Bray, Astra won the Santa Barbara Handicap over this course and the Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park. The Buena Vista is Astra's first start at a mile, though she did win over 1 1/16 miles in 2000.

"I don't know that a mile will be too short for her, but I'm not expecting to blow away the field," de Seroux said. "This is a good spot to bring her back."

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