09/25/2008 11:00PM

Crucial test for Magnificience


ARCADIA, Calif. - A $65,000 stakes has million-dollar implications Sunday at Santa Anita, where Magnificience and Tiz Elemental will try to use the Pine Tree Lane Stakes as a springboard into the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

Seven fillies and mares entered the Pine Tree Lane, and though lone front-runner Coco Belle could wire the field going 6 1/2 furlongs, that will be her limit. She is not considered a Breeders' Cup candidate.

"Seven-eighths is too far for her," trainer John Sadler said, referring to the distance of the Filly and Mare Sprint.

The biggest question in the Pine Tree Lane is Magnificience, once considered the top female sprinter in California but a dull fifth after a slow start in her most recent start Aug. 24 at Del Mar. Magnificience appeared to struggle with the Del Mar Polytrack surface, and trainer Bruce Headley hopes a change in venue will produce a return to top form.

"I think what she really loves is being back on the Santa Anita training track," Headley said, referring to the dirt oval inside the main track. Magnificience trains daily on the training track, except for workouts on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride track.

Magnificience, with 3 wins from 5 starts, is drawn outside, and if the track plays as kind to closers as the first two days of the meet, she will have a fair shot. "We've got the perfect post, and she is doing better than she ever has done," Headley said.

Her problem has always been the start. Magnificience has broken slowly in three of her five starts.

Headley has trained Magnificience from the gate, and if she breaks reasonably well Sunday she should be positioned right behind Coco Belle. Headley said Magnificience "has to run well" Sunday to go into the Breeders' Cup.

Graded stakes winner Tiz Elemental is drawn on the rail. It should not matter for her closing style. Based on her nose defeat last out in the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo and neck victory in the Grade 3 Las Flores in April at Santa Anita, she belongs on any shortlist of BC Filly and Mare Sprint contenders.

Trainer Carla Gaines considered running Tiz Elemental next weekend in the California Cup Distaff, but opted for the Pine Tree Lane. "It's the right timing," Gaines said.

Tiz Elemental has won 5 of 10, and Gaines has raved about her current condition. Plus, she loves the surface.

"She's a great synthetic horse, and you just have to hope that some of the others, like Indian Blessing, are not as good on synthetic as they are on dirt."

Other starters in the Pine Tree Lane, a restricted stakes, include Tizzy's Tune, Jimbos Fire Ant, Felicitee, and Spenditallbaby.