10/20/2009 11:00PM

Careless Jewel has passed every test

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Josie Carroll says that Careless Jewel has her work cut out for her in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic ? whether Zenyatta runs or not.

It was about twice as hot at Santa Anita early this week as it was at Woodbine over the weekend, but for Careless Jewel, adapting seems to be part of her makeup.

Whether she's running in hot weather or cold, or racing on dirt or a synthetic surface, Careless Jewel has thrived. She has been overshadowed in the 3-year-old filly division this year by Rachel Alexandra, but is clearly the second-best of her generation, with runaway victories including the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga two months ago.

She has come west to race at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting on Nov. 6 in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, a race that is shaping up quite strong, Zenyatta or no Zenyatta. Careless Jewel will be one of the top choices in the race, but her trainer, Josie Carroll, is soberly realistic about the task.

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"We're going out there with a filly who's really strong right now," Carroll said over the weekend while watching Careless Jewel train at Woodbine. "Obviously we'll be up against the best in the country. It's going to be a very, very tough race. She's a 3-year-old filly who's relatively inexperienced for what she's done. But she knows how to win."

Careless Jewel heads to the Ladies' Classic in the midst of an eye-catching four-race win streak, which includes victories in the Delaware Oaks and, last time out, the Fitz Dixon Cotillion at Philadelphia Park. The Alabama, which she won by 11 lengths, was "clearly her best performance," Carroll said.

"Not only for what she won by," Carroll said, "but because she had a horse drop in front of her on the first turn, and a lot of times horses get on the bridle and get overly aggressive when that happens. But she kept her head about her, which was quite impressive for a young horse. I thought she was going down."

Careless Jewel would be the first Breeders' Cup starter for Carroll, 51, whose biggest win came with Edenwold in the 2006 Queen's Plate. Carroll is 11th in the trainer standings at Woodbine. Though based at Woodbine for most of the year, she spends her winters at Fair Grounds.

Last weekend, on a chilly, clear morning in suburban Toronto, Careless Jewel came to the track late, when traffic had dissipated.

"She's very easy to deal with around the barn, but when she's on the track, she's a handful," Carroll said. "She's tough to deal with on the track. Once the rider gets on, it's, 'Let's go.' There's no waiting around."

With exercise rider Moises Guce aboard, Careless Jewel took a strong hold of the bit, but was manageable.

"She was good today," said Guce, whose cousin Ramon is a jockey at Los Alamitos.

Guce traveled with Careless Jewel to California, where she is housed in Bob Baffert's Santa Anita barn. Robert Landry, her regular jockey, will be aboard for the Ladies' Classic.

"Landry's been on her enough to know her, to know how deceptive she can be," Carroll said. "She can be really tough."

Since she is based at Woodbine, which has a Polytrack surface, Careless Jewel has had plenty of experience on a synthetic surface. Santa Anita's surface is Pro-Ride.

"She's trained on synthetic, breezed on synthetic, and won on it, so at least we know she can handle it," Carroll said. "She'll breeze once at Santa Anita."

Hopes probably were not quite this high when Careless Jewel, a daughter of Tapit, was first purchased as a yearling for $40,000 by owners Donna and Vern Dubinsky. She's not an overpowering presence.

"She's not real big," Carroll said. "She'll look like a midget next to Zenyatta."

But once Careless Jewel started training seriously, and then racing, Carroll said it became apparent she had talent.

"We always knew the filly had a lot of ability, but we didn't know to what extent," Carroll said. "She's thrived on racing. That's what good athletes do."