08/08/2011 1:04PM

Del Mar: Ultra Blend going out on the rise

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Benoit & Associates
Ultra Blend, with Tyler Baze riding, wins the Clement Hirsch.

DEL MAR, Calif. - This fall is likely to be Ultra Blend's final autumn on the racetrack. Owner Nels Erickson and trainer Art Sherman are seriously thinking of breeding the mare in 2012, when she will be 6.

As she gets closer to the expected end of her career, Ultra Blend's status in the older filly and mare division is soaring with each start.

Saturday, she won the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar, her debut at the highest level of racing. In May, she was promoted from second to first in the Grade 2 Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park following the disqualification of St Trinians. At the time, the Milady was Ultra Blend's highest accomplishment. She has won seven stakes, but most have been minor races or statebred events.

The Clement Hirsch Stakes result has changed the way that Erickson and Sherman will plan Ultra Blend's fall campaign. The race was part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge program, offering a fees-paid berth for the winner in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic over 1 1/8 miles at Churchill Downs in November, a race now on Sherman's mind.

"I've never run her a mile and an eighth, not that I don't think she could go that far," Sherman said. "I'll play it by ear and see how she's doing at the time."

Until Saturday, when Ultra Blend rallied from last in a field of five to score a 10-1 upset, Sherman thought she was best around one turn, which is why the BC Filly and Mare Sprint in November remains a consideration.

Sherman hoped that Ultra Blend would earn an automatic berth to the Filly and Mare Sprint in the Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 16, but Ultra Blend finished second, by slimmest of noses, to Irish Gypsy. The difference between the two was nearly indecipherable.

"It was more like the lead of a pencil," Sherman said, describing the margin. "It was so close. I was very frustrated. I felt sorry for her. She ran too good to get beat."
Regardless of which Breeders' Cup race Sherman chooses, he has picked Ultra Blend's next start - the Grade 1 Lady's Secret Stakes at the Santa Anita Autumn meeting on Oct. 1.

"The timing is perfect," Sherman said.

Ultra Blend finished a neck in front of the 3-year-old filly Zazu, who was a length in front of 3-5 favorite Switch. John Sadler trains Zazu and Switch, and said their long-term goals are likely to be different. Zazu will be pointed for the BC Ladies' Classic, while Switch is more likely for the BC Filly and Mare Sprint, a race in which she was second last year.