06/07/2009 12:00AM

Carlsbad, Third Dawn clash in Hollywood Oaks

Benoit & Associates
Carlsbad will try to bounce back in the Oaks.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Carlsbad and Third Dawn escaped attention this spring. They won't for long. Two of California's top fillies - a fast front-runner and an improving closer - meet for the first time Sunday at Hollywood Park in a big race for both.


Carlsbad is the speed of the Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile Hollywood Oaks, coming off her first loss in six starts.

"Circumstances hindered her performance," trainer Jeff Mullins said.

She missed a workout with a foot issue before her loss in the seven-furlong Railbird Stakes. That was not her only problem. Carlsbad also was hounded through a wicked pace.

"You can make all the excuses you want," Mullins said, "you still have to go out and do it."

Carlsbad finished second behind undefeated Witty, who is sick and does not run Sunday.

A Grade 3 sprint winner who has won long, Carlsbad can win the Oaks if she avoids a tussle with sprinter Kays and Jays. Carlsbad has trained superbly in recent weeks.

"She hasn't missed a beat," Mullins said.

She looked super working five furlongs Tuesday under Tyler Baze.

Owner Dennis Weir bred Carlsbad in Arizona; she won her first four starts at Turf Paradise by an average of double-digit lengths, including the one-mile Arizona Oaks. Sunday, the 5-for-6 filly can be gone. That is, unless Third Dawn mows her down.

Third Dawn is 1 for 6 and was slow to develop. She did not win a maiden race until her fourth start, then turned right around and was second by a nose in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks won by Stardom Bound.

"I think [Third Dawn] is really good," trainer John Sadler said.

And he has lost no faith despite Third Dawn finishing eighth in the Ashland on April 4 at Keeneland. Sadler is throwing that one out.

Third Dawn "just didn't like Keeneland," Sadler said. She does like Hollywood however, is training well, and will be finishing. Rafael Bejarano rides Third Dawn over $200,000 Melair Stakes winner Pretty Unusual, the only starter with a good recent route race.

Sadler also starts Evita Argentina, an odds-on sprint flop at Keeneland on April 8.

"We had a physical issue, an abscess popped out of her foot," Sadler said.

Evita Argentina is a good filly who defeated males in a Grade 2 sprint in February. She may prefer to sprint.

Other Oaks starters include Diamond Tag, Lady Lumberjack, and Will O Way.