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Black Mamba staying home
DEL MAR, Calif. - Mabee? Mabee not? That was the question trainer John Sadler faced with Black Mamba: whether to remain here for the Grade 1, $400,000 John C. Mabee Handicap on Sunday, or ship to Arlington Park for the Grade 1, $750,000 Beverly D. at 1 3/16 miles on Aug. 9.
In the end, Sadler decided to stay put. Black Mamba, coming off a victory in the Grade 2 Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 29, will run in the Mabee. She will be the starting highweight at 119 pounds against a handful of rivals in the 1 1/8-mile race for female turf runners.
"This race here comes up good for her, without the shipping," Sadler said. "The other is a longer distance, it's also a Group 1, and it's for more money, but this is in our own backyard. With Diamond Diva defecting, we should be a short price."
Indeed, Black Mamba likely will be favored for the fifth time in her last seven starts. And she already owns a victory over this course, having won in her United States debut last summer after arriving from her native New Zealand.
Mauralakana, trained by Christophe Clement, was assigned top weight of 121 pounds for the Mabee, but she is running in the Beverly D. Those expected to face Black Mamba are Foxysox, I Can See, Passified, and Solva. Green Lyons is also possible. Her trainer, Neil Drysdale, said he is considering going to the Beverly D.
Passified to go it alone
Passified will be the lone entrant in the Mabee for trainer Jim Cassidy, who also trains CashCall Mile winner Diamond Diva. With Diamond Diva nursing sore feet and on the sidelines until the fall, Passified, 4, will try to improve on her fourth-place finish in the CashCall Mile.
"She ran well last time, she won her time before that, and she just got beat a head in her comeback race," Cassidy said Tuesday morning. "I don't think she could have handled this distance as a 3-year-old, but now that she's older, I think she can get the distance. It's within reason now. She's tough and genuine."
Zenyatta lives up to moniker
The best female horse around the barn is referred to as "the big mare." At John Shirreffs's barn, the reference is both figurative and literal.
Zenyatta is big in every way. She is unbeaten in six starts - including the Apple Blossom Handicap and, most recently, the Vanity Handicap - to rank as the best older female on the West Coast. And she is big physically, too.
"She weighs about 1,180 pounds, but she weighed more than 1,200 when we got her back from Oaklawn," Shirreffs said.
Zenyatta will put her unbeaten streak on the line on Saturday, when she heads the field in the Grade 2, $300,000 Clement Hirsch Handicap at 1 1/16 miles. Zenyatta was assigned top weight of 124 pounds, which equals her career high and is what she carried when gutting out a half-length win in the Vanity on July 5 at Hollywood Park.
Tough Tiz's Sis and Silver Swallow, who were second and third in the Vanity, are back to try again. Others scheduled to run in the Hirsch are Dawn After Dawn, Romance Is Diane, Silver Z, and West Coast Swing. Silver Z worked a half-mile in 46.80 seconds on Tuesday morning at Del Mar, which equaled the fastest time of 29 at the distance.
Tiago having tough summer
Zenyatta won the Apple Blossom the same day Tiago - who is also trained by Shirreffs and owned by Jerry and Ann Moss - won the Oaklawn Handicap. But Tiago, who did not train well here last summer as a 3-year-old, has had another hiccup. Both of his last two scheduled works, including one last weekend, were aborted by his riders, including one with jockey Mike Smith.
"I really don't know what's wrong," Shirreffs said. "He jogs very well. After his last race, we did a nuclear scan and took X-rays, and couldn't find anything. He's been slightly sensitive to the hoof-testers. He's had a long campaign since the end of his 2-year-old year. He's been an iron horse.
"The good part is we haven't found anything serious, but the part that's a mystery is a bad thing. You always like it to be obvious."
Gryder changes course
Around the track, Aaron Gryder's nickname is Gryder the Rider, but after his actions on Saturday, he might have to take to the skies.
Gryder was aboard a private jet that left California with owner Paul Reddam and his wife, Zillah, and Leandro Mora, the assistant to trainer Doug O'Neill. Reddam was going to Saratoga to watch Notional in the Whitney Handicap, Mora was going to saddle Thor's Echo in the Vanderbilt, and Gryder was to ride Black Seventeen in the Vanderbilt.
About two hours into the flight, Gryder got up to see if the pilots wanted something to drink. When he went to ask, though, Gryder noticed a map of the United States between the two pilots, with a route from California to Florida highlighted.
Puzzled, Gryder asked them, "How's the weather in New York?"
"Who cares about New York?" one of the pilots responded. "We're going to sunny Florida. Sarasota, Florida."
"We're not going to Sarasota," Gryder said. "We're going to Saratoga, New York."
At that, the co-pilot took off his headset, turned to Gryder and said, "You're kidding, right?"
"It was just dumb luck," Gryder said. "All because I asked if they wanted a cup of coffee. If the door had been locked and I couldn't have talked to the pilots. . . ."
The plane arrived in Saratoga Springs about an hour later than originally scheduled. Gryder missed an earlier mount on the Saratoga card, but was there in time for the Vanderbilt, where he finished fifth aboard Black Seventeen.
On to Pacific Classic for Surf Cat
Surf Cat, who finished second in the San Diego Handicap on July 19, worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 on Tuesday morning for trainer Bruce Headley, who said Surf Cat will make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 24.
"It was just an easy work the first work after a race," Headley said. "He'll do something more serious next time."
Headley said Street Boss, who won the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap on Sunday, would not race again until the Grade 1 Ancient Title Handicap on Sept. 27 at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting. Arson Squad will represent Headley in Del Mar's next major sprint stakes, the Grade 2, $300,000 Pat O'Brien Handicap at seven furlongs on Aug. 24.
Mandella duo on comeback trail
Richard Mandella had two of the better 3-year-old prospects in California earlier this year in Crown of Thorns and Into Mischief, but both went to the sidelines and missed the Triple Crown. Both are back in training at Del Mar, where Into Mischief looked sharp working a half-mile in 48.20 seconds on Monday.
"He might make the end of the meet," Mandella said. "I don't have any big designs on anything yet. The next few works will tell where we're at."
Into Mischief won the CashCall Futurity at 2. He has not raced since finishing second to Georgie Boy in the San Vicente Stakes in February.
"His feet fell apart on me," Mandella said. "He had a big abscess. It took a long time to get to where I could train him."
Crown of Thorns, who won the Robert Lewis Stakes, is farther behind in his training.
"He just started jogging," Mandella said.
Bejarano, Mitchell the early leaders
Through the first two weeks of the meeting, Rafael Bejarano, riding his first summer at Del Mar, leads the jockey standings with 15 victories, four more than second-place Tyler Baze.
Mike Mitchell, six times the leading trainer at Del Mar, is atop the trainer standings with eight wins, three more than Jerry Hollendorfer, O'Neill, and Sadler.
* Student Council, who finished second in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga on Saturday, will try to defend his title in the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 24 at Del Mar, his owner, Millennium Farms, announced in a release.