08/02/2011 1:41PM

Del Mar: Clement Hirsch a crucial test for Ultra Blend

Benoit Photo
Ultra Blend could be pointed for the Breeders' Cup if she runs well in the Clement Hirsch.

DEL MAR, Calif. - For most of her career, Ultra Blend has raced against California-breds, and done quite well. But her trainer, Art Sherman, has recently warmed to the idea of trying her against the best company out there, and Ultra Blend has continued to excel.In her last two starts, both Grade 2 races at Hollywood Park, Ultra Blend won the Milady Handicap via disqualification, and then lost by a whisker in the A Gleam Handicap.

On Saturday here at Del Mar, Sherman will find out whether Ultra Blend’s season-ending goal will be the California Cup, or the Breeders’ Cup. Ultra Blend, 5, will compete in the Grade 1, $300,000 Clement Hirsch Stakes for older fillies and mares, a race whose winner receives an automatic starting berth in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic through the Win and You’re In program.

BREEDERS’ CUP CHALLENGE: Racing schedule, replays, and past winners >>

“It gives me a chance to find out what kind of mare I’ve got,” Sherman said. “She doesn’t know the company she keeps. If she runs against Cal-breds, she runs big. If she runs in open company, she runs big. This is the spot to find out if she’s Breeders’ Cup material.”

Ultra Blend might be the best horse no one outside of Southern California knows. She has won 10 times in 22 starts, and finished in the money 20 times, but carve out her five starts on turf, all losses, and she is now 10 for 17, with 16 finishes in the top three. She has won going short and going long, on dirt and synthetic surfaces.

“You’ve got to love her,” Sherman said. “She’s very easy to do anything with. I just love this filly. She puts out every time you run her.”

David Flores has ridden Ultra Blend in her last two starts, but he will be at Saratoga on Saturday to ride Turbulent Descent in the Grade 1 Test Stakes. Tyler Baze will replace him. Joel Rosario, who won four times with Ultra Blend between October and April, chose to stick with Switch, the expected favorite following her runner-up finish to Blind Luck in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park last time out.

Others expected for the Hirsch include Freedom Star, St Trinians, and Washington Bridge.

Freedom Star, who won the Iowa Distaff at Prairie Meadows on June 24 in her first start in 15 months, looked sharp working a half-mile in 47.60 seconds on Tuesday morning at Del Mar.

“She went really nice,” said her trainer, Bob Baffert. “She’s been working well here.”

Baffert said Freedom Star had lengthy vacation because of “DND – dis and dat.”

“We had to take a chip out of an ankle,” he added.

Small field for Best Pal

Only a handful of 2-year-olds are expected on Sunday for the Grade 2, $150,000 Best Pal Stakes, the final major prep for next month’s Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity. Baffert said he will run both Brigand and Night Tide, the second- and third-place finishers in last month’s Hollywood Juvenile Championship, but the one to beat could be Creative Cause, a dazzling debut winner at Hollywood on July 16 for trainer Mike Harrington.

The only others likely for the Best Pal are Galex, who beat maidens at Golden Gate, and I’ll Have Another, like Creative Cause a debut winner at Hollywood.

Majestic City, the Hollywood Juvenile winner, is bypassing the Best Pal to await the Del Mar Futurity.

Stakes-bound juveniles

The recent 2-year-old winners Emerald Gold, Sheer Talent and Lookin for Jonesy are bound for stakes at the end of the meeting.
Emerald Gold, a War Front filly trained by Tom Proctor, may start in the $250,000 Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 3. Emerald Gold won her second start, which came against maidens in a sprint over 5 1/2 furlongs on Saturday.

Two races later, Sheer Talent, a Wildcat Heir colt, won his debut in a maiden race over six furlongs. Trained by Dan Hendricks, Sheer Talent could start in the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 7.

Lookin for Jonesy, a filly by Purge, won her debut in a maiden race for statebred fillies in Sunday’s first race. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said the $100,000 Generous Portion Stakes on Aug. 31 will be the filly’s next start.

◗ Turf star Champ Pegasus worked six furlongs in 1:12.40 on Tuesday for trainer Richard Mandella, who said Champ Pegasus would make his first start since March in either the Del Mar Mile on Aug. 27 or the Del Mar Handicap, at 1 3/8 miles, on Aug. 28. “I don’t know that he’ll be ready for the Del Mar Handicap, but he’ll run in that or the Mile,” Mandella said. “He’s doing great.”

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen