01/13/2011 6:11PM

Champagne d’Oro back to two turns for El Encino

Barbara D. Livingston
Champagne d'Oro needs at least three months off to recover from a bout with colic.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Champagne d’Oro’s career has been defined by two Grade 1 wins around one-turn in New York last year – the one-mile Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park in June and the seven-furlong Test Stakes at Saratoga in August.

Trainer Eric Guillot has different goals for 2011 – winning major stakes around two turns. The first opportunity, and a difficult one, will be Sunday’s $150,000 El Encino Stakes over 1 1/16 miles for 4-year-old fillies at Santa Anita.

The distance and the age restriction suit Champagne d’Oro.

“I wanted to run her against 4-year-olds,” Guillot said.

The competition is a different matter. The race features Blind Luck, the leading contender for the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding 3-year-old filly of 2010.

Guillot warns that Champagne d’Oro is underestimated in a two-turn race, referring to her game second in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks over 1 1/16 miles last March when she lead throughout and finished a half-length behind Quiet Temper.

“That’s what she wants to do,” Guillot said. “She’s got a high cruising speed. Her 2011 name is Rachel Jr. She loves to go 23, 47, and 1:11.”

Leave it to the boisterous Guillot to hope Champagne d’Oro can be as dangerous racing near the lead as 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra was.

Joe Talamo will have the mount on Champagne d’Oro, who finished sixth of 10 in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes over seven furlongs on Dec. 26. The El Encino also will feature Malibu Pier, who was a troubled second to Switch in the La Brea, closing from last to be a clear second.

Bluster aside, Guillot knows that if Champagne d’Oro finishes second in the El Encino there will be no embarrassment. He has watched Blind Luck train in recent days.

“She looks as good as she ever has,” he said.