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An Ellis-trained pair worth keeping tabs on
INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Time to clear out the notebook, one last time before winter . . .
* "I was surprised she got beat the first time," trainer Ron Ellis said after Navigator's impressive second-start win Nov. 16. And it's not too early to start hyping the 2-year-old filly. "I think she'll stretch out [because of] the way she strides," Ellis said, describing the Stormy Atlantic filly as "tall and leggy."
Navigator earned an 83 Beyer Speed Figure, and Ellis will aim her to long-distance stakes for 3-year-old fillies during the winter at Santa Anita. There is one caveat, however. If Stardom Bound enters the same race, Ellis deadpanned, "We'll ship."
* Mace and Samantha Siegel own both Navigator and the Ellis-trained 3-year-old Rail Trip. In his Nov. 7 debut, all Rail Trip did was run the fastest six furlongs (1:07.94) of the fall meet and earn the meet's top Beyer (102).
"He was my best 2-year-old last year, I considered him my Derby horse," Ellis said.
Rail Trip was a colt before he was sidelined with an ankle chip.
"Once we got past the Derby, we went to Plan B and decided to geld him," Ellis said.
Mark it down - Rail Trip, a son of Jump Start, is one to follow in 2009.
* The Siegels recently moved dirt specialist Arson Squad from trainer Bruce Headley in California to Richard Dutrow Jr. in New York, hoping he would return to top form on traditional footing. He did. In his first start on dirt since winning the Strub Stakes in 2007, Dutrow-trained Arson Squad won the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup. The Siegels were under no obligation to Headley but sent him a check anyway for 10 percent of Arson Squad's earnings. A move like that goes a long way in the "good karma" account.
* Ventura will face boys during the winter at Santa Anita at her specialty trip of seven furlongs. She had her first work Thursday since the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, and early this week trainer Bobby Frankel planned her campaign.
"She'll win the Santa Monica and she'll win the San Carlos," he said.
Both races are seven furlongs; the Santa Monica is for females and the San Carlos is open to both genders. The dates for those races have not been announced.
* A trainer who has done business with Dubai commented on the apparently limitless funds Sheikh Mohammed uses to buy U.S. horses and subsidize the World Cup.
"Dubai is the same thing as going to Disneyland and Las Vegas; it's not the real world," he said.
Wonder what high-profile U.S. horse is next on Sheikh Mohammed's wish list?
* Most of the 2,351 in attendance Wednesday at Hollywood thought odds-on Tom Quinn won race 3 by a nose, so track announcer Vic Stauffer gets a full pardon for calling the wrong winner. Stewards, after examining the photo, surprisingly gave it to longshot Just Go Gusto. A half-hour later in race 4, one had to chuckle along with Stauffer when Royal Taat out-nodded Christiana's Heat. But it was close. At the end of his call, Stauffer said, "I ain't calling that one." Stauffer takes a lot of flack, but he does have a sense of humor.
* Jerry Hollendorfer-trained California-bred You Lift Me Up won the Audrey Skirball-Kenis on Saturday, joining Florida-bred stablemate Christmas Ship as stakes fillies in peak form. It prompted assistant Dan Ward to suggest "the Sunshine Millions should be good." That assumes there is a 2009 Sunshine Millions, which is no certainty as the stock of Santa Anita parent company Magna Entertainment Corp. (MECA) continues to sag, and part of the purse money for the Sunshine Millions is provided by the company. It closed Monday at $1.39. Exactly one year ago, MECA traded at $33.
* Diamond Diva resumes training later this month for Jim Cassidy. She has not started since she nicked a suspensory defeating Ventura by a nose in the Grade 2 CashCall Mile in July. And reinforcements are on the way to Cassidy. He purchased seven fillies and three colts last month at auction in England. The best are Meydan Princess, a 3-year-old filly that won both starts on all-weather and was 1 for 9 on turf, including a listed stakes, and Souter's Sister, a juvenile filly whose 3-for-11 record includes a Group 3 win.
* Tyler Baze has climbed to third in the jockey standings at Hollywood and he was at his politically correct best Sunday after guiding Evita Argentina to a last-to-first win in the seven-furlong Moccasin Stakes. Afterward, trainer John Sadler teased Baze by asking if he wanted to ride Evita Argentina or "the other one" in the Hollywood Starlet. Baze declined to answer, so Sadler said "I'll pick for you." The other one, of course, is Alpha Kitten, expected to start as the big favorite Dec. 13 in the Starlet. As for Evita Argentina, she is a nice filly that Sadler is likely to keep around one turn.
* Speaking of Sadler-trained stretch-runners, Noble Court gets a beneficial pace scenario Saturday in the Grade 3, six-furlong Vernon O. Underwood Stakes. Speedball comebacker Bob Black Jack is the "marquee horse," but he has not raced since May and he must put away front-runner Wiredfortwotwenty on the rail and Johnny Eves to the outside. Three speeds plus one good closer equals a late-running win by Noble Court.
* Anonymous horse to watch: Runforthedoe, a Group 1 winner in Argentina in May, posted a bullet five-furlong workout Monday at Santa Anita in 58 seconds. Stay tuned.
* Pedro Arambula won with 7 of his first 38 mounts this fall at Hollywood, but when he loses his apprenticeship allowance Sunday, the Southern California colony will once again be without a top bug boy.
* Trainer Caesar Dominguez won two races Wednesday at Hollywood (Just Go Gusto in race 3 and Thelma Rose in race 8). It was the first double for Dominguez since Jan. 9, 2003, when Ghost Memo and Cinfful Bride won at Santa Anita.
* Zenyatta will be honored Nov. 30 at Hollywood Park and paraded between races. Too bad her appearance will be lost in the shuffle of an already outstanding stakes program that includes two Grade 1's - the Matriarch and Hollywood Derby.
* As a big, good-looking colt walked off track the other morning at Santa Anita, the trainer turned and said, "That is my Derby colt." Hope springs eternal, even with 2-year-olds that have never run in a race. And the truth is, as of late November, they all are "Derby colts."