09/03/2011 2:02PM

Del Mar: Andina finds good spot to shoot for first graded win in Palomar


DEL MAR, Calif. – Andina won her first stakes in the restricted Osunitas Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Del Mar on July 23 and will attempt to win her first graded stakes in Monday’s $150,000 Palomar Handicap over the same course and distance.

“I think she’s been better going shorter,” trainer Ben Cecil said. “We tried her a couple of times going a mile and a quarter and she didn’t stay.”

Owned by Arnold Zetcher, the 4-year-old Andina was considered for the Grade 2 John Mabee Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on Aug. 14, but Cecil chose the Palomar. Andina is the 121-pound highweight in the Grade 2 Palomar, which drew 12 fillies and mares but will be limited to 10 starters.

“We could have run her in the Mabee, but I thought this race might be easier and it looks like it is with her being high weight,” Cecil said. “She’s done well since her last race.”

Andina has won 4 of 15 starts and $280,097, which makes her the fourth-richest filly in the field behind the stakes winners Well Monied ($392,300), Turning Top ($283,943), and City to City ($281,491).

Well Monied, the winner of the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap in May 2009, has had one start this year, finishing fourth as the 5-2 favorite in the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap at Hollywood Park in April. Turning Top was sixth in the Mabee. City to City was third in the Osunitas.

Andina is one of two fillies in the field trained by Cecil, who starts Medaglia d’Amour, and one of two fillies in the field who won their last starts. Apple Charlotte, trained in Maryland by Graham Motion, is the lone shipper in the field. She won the Red Carpet Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on soft turf at Penn National on July 29, her first stakes win and third win in nine starts.

Medaglia d’Amour was seventh in the Mabee Stakes, her first start since a win in the 2010 Wilshire Handicap.

“As fat as she was, she handled it,” Cecil said candidly. “It was a year and a three-month layoff. She got beat four lengths. It wasn’t a disaster. She’s such a big filly, a race will do her good.”

There is a talented filly on the also-eligible list in All Star Heart, the winner of two allowance races this summer.

◗ Ruler of Dubai, the former maiden claimer who won the Graduation Stakes in a 14-1 upset on Aug. 3, breaks from the rail in Monday’s $100,000 I’m Smokin Stakes for statebred 2-year-olds.

Last month, Ruler of Dubai gave trainer George Papaprodromou his first stakes win in the Graduation. Owned by Harout Keshishian, Ruler of Dubai is unlikely to be favored in the six-furlong I’m Smokin.

Champions Gate, the sharp winner of a maiden race for statebreds on Aug. 7, commands respect. Trained by Mike Machowsky for breeder Don Dizney, Champions Gate has returned to work well since the Aug. 7 win. He will be ridden by Joel Rosario, who is expected to have Champions Gate on the lead.

“Before I came down here, he trained okay,” Machowsky said. “Down here, everything has changed on him. He kind of put it all together. He was kind of a goofball before. Now, he’s in the bridle when he’s galloping.

The other runners include Rousing Sermon, Unhitchthetrailor, and Inquisitive Son, who were third through fifth in the Graduation; and the unbeaten Stoney Fleece, the winner of the maiden claimer and a starter allowance race earlier at this meeting.