01/29/2009 12:00AM

Bahama Mama gets firm turf this time


ARCADIA, Calif. - For the second consecutive weekend, Bahama Mama is entered in a turf stakes at Santa Anita. This Saturday, in the $70,000 Wishing Well Handicap on the hillside turf course, Bahama Mama is expected to reach the gate.

Trainer Jim Cassidy scratched Bahama Mama from the Grade 3 Tuzla Stakes last Sunday because he feared that she would not handle a "good" turf course. Saturday's course will be firm.

"I thought the ground was too soft for her," Cassidy said. "I was glad I had the foresight to nominate her to both stakes."

Bahama Mama fits the conditions of the Wishing Well. The Wishing Well is run over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course. Bahama Mama finished first in the Grade 3 Las Cienegas Handicap on the hillside turf course last April, in her U.S. debut, but was disqualified and placed fourth for causing interference in the stretch.

Bahama Mama, 5, has drawn the rail in a field of 10. Although she is capable of setting the pace, Cassidy does not feel Bahama Mama has to be forced into that strategy.

"We'll be forward," Cassidy said. "This is enough speed to keep the race honest."

The Wishing Well marks the California debut of Sharp Susan, a winner of 6 of 20 starts and $477,626 on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Previously trained by Bill Mott and now by Neil Drysdale, Sharp Susan won the Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga in August 2007, and the Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap at Philadelphia Park last July.

Dawn After Dawn returns in seven days following an eighth-place finish in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff here. Dawn After Dawn won the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes here last February. The Wishing Well will be Dawn After Dawn's first start on turf since a fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs in June 2007.

"I want to get her on the grass," trainer John Sadler said. "She had an easy race last week, not by design, just the way it set up."

Claiming partners take a $100K plunge

In the most unlikely of races at Santa Anita on Wednesday, horse owner Rich Seidner and his partners found a 3-year-old prospect for coming months. Along with Joe Valenti and Bill Moore, Seidner claimed Balfour Park for $100,000 from a victory in a one-mile maiden race.

Seidner has an allowance race as an immediate goal, but did allow his thoughts to creep into dream mode in the minutes after the race Wednesday.

"We've got a maiden race winner we hope we can get to the allowance level," he said.

"We had a group of friends looking for a needle in the haystack that would have an outside chance of making the Derby. For what we saw the last time, we believe the horse wants to go farther than a mile."

Working with trainer Craig Lewis, Seidner and his partners had been searching for a prospect. Balfour Park was examined in the paddock on Wednesday before the claim was submitted.

"Craig brought it to my attention and we thought we had a good opportunity for a claim," Seidner said. "We're normally $32,000 to $40,000 [claiming] guys. We saw the potential."

Balfour Park made the third start of his career on Wednesday. He was third in an $80,000 claiming race for maidens at Hollywood Park on Nov. 16 and third in a $75,000 claiming race for maidens here over a mile on Jan. 1.

Balfour Park, by Mutakddim, was favored on Wednesday. Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Balfour Park was fourth for the first six furlongs and emerged between horses in the stretch to win by a half-length. The race was run in a slow 1:40.06, but the time did not overly concern Lewis. Fiery Rebel, who wound up fourth, set an early pace of 24.45 and 50.24 seconds.

"He looked like a promising 3-year-old," Lewis said. "It's difficult to say. The race was void of early speed. They went slow and that threw everything out of whack. I don't think the final time is conclusive based on that."

Balfour Park was previously owned by Keith Abrahams and trained by Sadler. Thursday, Sadler said he was surprised that Balfour Park was claimed.

"You don't think you'd lose one for $100,000," Sadler said.

Maiden comes cross country to try turf

Spring Party finished third in a maiden race at Laurel last month, a promising start to her career. She is switching surfaces and coasts for her second start in a competitive one-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies, Saturday's fourth race.

Trainer Graham Motion wanted to try Spring Party on turf, and such opportunities do not exist in Maryland during the winter.

"She's a little filly, but she has a big stride," said Alice Clapham, Motion's assistant in California. "I think the grass should suit her."

Owned by Augustin Stable, Spring Party is part of a field of 11. The race has several contenders. Dextera, a German-bred filly, placed in two minor stakes last year. Stormy Slew is a half-sister to the stakes winners Slew's Tiznow and Slew's Tizzy. Sweet Thoughts is the first foal out of the 2004 champion 2-year-old filly Sweet Catomine. Venatrix is a full-brother to the millionaire Geri.

This is the first race at a mile for Dextera, who has not started since September when she finished second in a maiden race over 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. She will be ridden by Brice Blanc on Saturday.

"I told Brice that if she breaks well, we'll need to cover her up," Cassidy said.

O'Neill fined $500

Trainer Doug O'Neill has been fined $500 after a horse he trains, Esperamos, tested in excess of the permitted level of flunixin, an anti-inflammatory, after a workout on Dec. 26. Esperamos was on the veterinarian's list at the time and was given a workout in an effort to be removed from that list. Horses must undergo routine drug tests when they are given workouts while on the vet's list.