09/28/2009 11:00PM

Exquisite returns in good spot


ARCADIA, Calf. - After a six-month rejuvenation, it is time for the allowance turf filly Exquisite to return to work. On Thursday at Santa Anita, it is time for Exquisite to return to the winner's circle in the race 7 feature.

Eight entered the mile turf race for fillies and mares, nonwinners-of-two-other-than or $62,500 claiming. Exquisite has not raced since March, but she looks like the one to beat. She also looks better physically than six months ago, trainer Paddy Gallagher said.

"Her coat wasn't good, her weight [was down], so we turned her out and freshened her up a bit," Gallagher said. "She's come back good, she acts good, and she has breezed good."

Gallagher said Exquisite was ready for a comeback at Del Mar, but an allowance for her did not fill. No problem. It gave Gallagher an extra month to prepare for a winning comeback under Alex Solis on Day 2 of the Oak Tree meet.

There is no question Exquisite is good enough. Imported from New Zealand, she won a first-level allowance in her third U.S. start last fall. She subsequently misfired in her only start on synthetic at Hollywood Park and then returned to form in a second-level mile turf race that she lost by a nose.

Her two starts on firm turf at Santa Anita produced a win and a second, and Exquisite figures for a comfortable trip Thursday positioned just off the pace that is likely to be set by Malibu Artiste or Cee Stone. Exquisite has won 3 of 18.

Hermione's Magic made a splashy U.S. debut at Del Mar, winning a first-level turf allowance for 3-year-old fillies before diving into the deep end 17 days later in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. She broke slow, got rank, and finished ninth.

Although Hermione's Magic remains unproven against older, the lightly raced (2 for 4) filly has worked well since returning to her Hollywood base. She might be the best finisher in the field. Kathy Walsh trains Hermione's Magic; Mike Smith rides.

Cee Stone makes her first start since January, while racing for the $62,500 claiming tag at a condition she won in March 2008. Mike Machowsky trains Cee Stone, who has a history of running well fresh. She has won 4 of 12.

Other contenders in the field include class-droppers Bel Air Sizzle and April Pride, in addition to Pericia Fina and Air Fair.