01/26/2017 12:06PM

Enola Gray seeks fourth stakes win in Sunshine Millions turf sprint

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Enola Gray worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Enola Gray has earned a reputation as a crack California-bred sprinter largely on her success in main-track sprints.

On dirt, she beat maidens in a sprint last April by 16 lengths and won the Fleet Treat Stakes for Cal-bred fillies in July by 7 3/4 lengths. Last month, she was third in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at seven furlongs.

Her lone start on turf was just as good, a one-length win in the California Distaff Handicap for California-breds on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in October.

Enola Gray is back on the hillside turf course Saturday in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint, occupying the familiar position as race favorite. Enola Gray is a standout in a field of nine and has an excellent chance to win her fourth stakes.

“I’m looking forward to it,” trainer Phil D’Amato said. “I think she’s ready to go.”

The race is one of two sprint stakes on Saturday’s 10-race program and is the second race on a card that begins at 11:45 a.m. Pacific. The sixth race is the $150,000 California Cup Sprint, a field led by Solid Wager, the winner of the Grade 3 Midnight Lute Stakes on Dec. 31.

Enola Gray, owned and bred by Nick Alexander, was beaten 3 1/2 lengths by Constellation in the La Brea Stakes after a wide trip under jockey Mike Smith. The La Brea was Enola Gray’s graded stakes debut and left D’Amato thinking that the filly belongs in that sort of race.

“I thought we fit with those horses,” he said. “If you look at the ground lost, Mike was stuck in the position that he was. We were five wide the whole race. With a little different trip, we’d have been right there.”

Enola Gray could make frequent appearances in hillside turf sprints in the coming months. In the California Distaff Handicap, Enola Gray fought for the lead under jockey Tyler Baze and pulled away late to beat four rivals.

“She showed an affinity for it,” D’Amato said. “I think she’ll be forwardly placed.”

Baze rides Enola Gray on Saturday. Smith is riding Arrogate in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.

Desert Steel, second in the California Distaff, is part of Saturday’s field in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint. She was third in the Bear Fan Stakes on the synthetic main track at Golden Gate Fields last month.

The Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint will be the first start since May for Smoove It, who won the Irish O’Brien Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares on the hillside turf course last March. Smoove It, 6, was fifth in the 2016 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint.

CAL CUP SPRINT

Solid Wager was part of a career milestone for trainer Peter Miller when he won the Midnight Lute Stakes, finishing in a dead heat with stablemate St. Joe’s Bay.

In the Cal Cup Sprint, Miller again has two runners – Richard’s Boy as a threat from the front and Solid Wager from off the pace.

“We’ve got a good one-two punch,” Miller said.

Miller gives a slight advantage to Richard’s Boy, who was third in the Grade 3 San Simeon Stakes on the hillside turf course Dec. 26.

“I think he’s a little better on the grass, but he’s run some big races on the dirt,” Miller said. “I think he can do it all.”

The six-furlong distance of the Cal Cup Sprint may not be ideal for Solid Wager.

“The distance is a little short,” Miller said. “It will be hard for him to get up going three-quarters.”

Jimmy Bouncer and Acceptance, stakes winners in 2016, are part of the field.