07/19/2013 2:07PM

Del Mar: Iotapa will try turf in San Clemente

Benoit & Associates
Iotapa, shown winning the Railbird Stakes, has never even worked on the grass.

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DEL MAR, Calif. – If you have a 3-year-old at Del Mar and want to run long in a stakes race, the early-season options are limited. Unless you’re willing to wait for something age-appropriate on the main track later in the meet, you can run against elders, or try the turf.

That’s the dilemma facing trainer John Sadler and owner Kosta Hronis with their filly Iotapa. They decided to run her on Sunday in the Grade 2, $150,000 San Clemente Handicap, a prep for next month’s Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. The San Clemente will mark the first time Iotapa has been on turf – she’s never even worked on it – but she’s handled most everything thrown her way so far, so why not this, too?

“Her form is very classy,” Sadler said. “She never runs a bad race.”

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Iotapa comes off a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks, was second earlier this year in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks, and between those two starts won the seven-furlong Railbird Stakes. Claimed for $50,000 out of a winning, 4 1/2-furlong debut at Betfair Hollywood Park in June 2012, Iotapa has never finished worse than second in five starts.

Iotapa is by Afleet Alex and is out of an El Corredor mare, so the pedigree does not immediately scream “turf,” but Sadler said, “I don’t think she’ll have a problem with it.”

If she does, though, the fallback position is the Torrey Pines Stakes on the main track later this meet. But if Iotapa runs well, it’s on to the Del Mar Oaks.

Iotapa drew post 2 in the one-mile race, which attracted 11 fillies, including Broken Sword, who landed on the also-eligible list.

Trainer Jim Cassidy has a three-pronged attack, with Lilbourne Eliza, Foxy Boss, and Disko Dasko, all seeking their first graded stakes win.

“Lilbourne we hope to have the lead, Foxy just behind her, and Disko Dasko making a late run,” Cassidy said. “That’s the way we hope it goes. Lilbourne Eliza wants to be up front. We’re not going to mess with that.”

Foxy Boss comes off second-place finishes in first-level allowance races at Betfair Hollywood Park.

“I ran her against older in those races,” Cassidy said. “I could have run her against straight 3-year-olds, but I think the 3 and ups toughen her up.”

Disko Dasko usually races on or near the lead, but Cassidy said jockey Julien Couton will be instructed to drop back leaving the gate.

“I want him to grab a hold and make one run,” he said. “It’s just a matter of whether she can get the mile.”

Unusual Way should be one of the main contenders. She won her first start on turf in last month’s Campanile at Golden Gate. Russell Baze, who rode her for the first time that day, will be in for the mount.

Wishing Gate defeated maidens on turf here last summer. She returns to California following three races this year in Kentucky and Illinois. She had a particularly rough trip at Keeneland, the only previous time Gary Stevens, who is aboard for the San Clemente, rode her.

“He rode her so good at Keeneland, I figured I’d put him on again,” trainer Tom Proctor said, laughing. “He couldn’t have gotten in more trouble. She’s a nice filly, but she’s got some quirks. It looks like she’s maturing and becoming a better racehorse.”

Charlie Em and Kyriaki, first and third, respectively, in the Senorita Stakes, round out the field, along with Judy In Disguise and the comebacking Miss Empire.