08/01/2008 11:00PM

Black Mamba tries to start a streak


DEL MAR, Calif. - The newest leader of California's shrinking female turf division will attempt an unprecedented feat this weekend at Del Mar. Unprecedented for her, that is.

Black Mamba has won 3 of 19 starts, and she never has won consecutive races. But there she is Sunday, favored to fix that two-in-a-row glitch by winning the Grade 1 John C. Mabee Handicap. Wish her luck, because at 1 1/8 miles she will need it.

What she does not need is weaker opposition. Aside from Black Mamba and the aging veteran Foxysox, the Mabee more closely resembles an overnight stakes than a Grade 1. Eight entered, and creative handicappers will consider rapidly improving allowance filly Ransom Captive and front-runner Passified as contenders, even if they are a reach.

As for Black Mamba, she crushed the Grade 2 Beverly Hills last out at 1 1/4 miles, and trainer John Sadler accurately noted "It's basically the same horses" in the Mabee. That is one reason Sadler elected to stay home rather than ship to Arlington Park for the Beverly D. at 1 3/16 miles next weekend.

"We were going to Chicago because of the distance, but this race . . . is $400,000 in your backyard," Sadler said.

The furlong issue is crucial, because Sadler attributed the distance of her recent win at 1 1/4 miles as a key factor that allowed Black Mamba to end a seven-race losing streak.

"There's never a single answer with horses, but a third of it was the trip, the other third was the distance, and the other third was the competition," Sadler said.

Reminded that the Mabee distance is one furlong shorter, Sadler countered "Yes, but we might be facing slightly easier competition."

Black Mamba was plagued by bad luck until Garrett Gomez rode her for the first time last out. She stormed from behind to win going away over Solva and Green Lyons, who both entered the race Sunday.

The Mabee is part of the Win and You're In program that gives the winner an automatic berth in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, subject to payment of entry fees. Black Mamba, who was bred in New Zealand, is not BC-nominated; a $300,000 supplement is required to make her eligible.

Foxysox was sixth in the Beverly Hills and at age 6 she might have lost a step. But she also did not have a good trip, according to trainer Carla Gaines.

"She broke slowly and got shuffled back off a slow pace and was very wide into the lane, and got knocked pretty good at the eighth pole," Gaines said.

Rafael Bejarano replaces Victor Espinoza on Foxysox, and when asked about the jockey reassignment, Gaines said: "There is a change; we're trying Bejarano this time."

Foxysox has won 6 of 21 and defeated Black Mamba one start back when that rival had a brutal trip.

Curiously, the jockey change may ultimately benefit Espinoza, who rides Ransom Captive. Bejarano rode Ransom Captive to a facile win last out in a second-level allowance, but the reason he is on Foxysox in the Mabee is because Ransom Captive was not originally intended for the Mabee.

Ransom Captive, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, was scheduled to run in a three-other-than allowance on Aug. 11, then wheel back 19 days later in the Grade 2 Palomar Handicap.

However, if the allowance did not fill, it would be two months between starts for Ransom Captive, who assistant trainer Dan Ward said is training remarkably well for her first graded stakes race.

"We've got a horse that's really better than ever; she loves it here," Ward said.

The questions are whether she is good enough and if she can run this far. She was compromised by a slow turf course here in her only previous U.S. start at 1 1/8 miles. With a six-pound weight break over the favorite, Ransom Captive has a shot at a price.

Passified, winner of the Grade 2 San Clemente at Del Mar last summer, will try to steal it, according to trainer Jim Cassidy. The other two entrants are Placid Lake and I Can See.