11/28/2009 12:00AM

Fluke begins to fulfill potential

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Benoit & Associates
Fluke, with Joe Talamo up, takes the Citation at Hollywood Friday.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - After months of high expectations, Fluke gave a career-best performance in Friday's Grade 1 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park, confirming his status as a turf miler to follow in 2010.

Since winning his second start in the United States last March, in a one-mile optional claimer on turf at Santa Anita, the Brazilian-bred Fluke seemed like a 4-year-old colt who would play a role in major stakes.

Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who died on Nov. 16 after a lengthy illness, spoke highly of the colt last spring. His current trainer, Humberto Ascanio, Frankel's long-time assistant, said before the race that Fluke was thriving this fall.

With a confident ride from jockey Joe Talamo, Fluke closed from fifth in a field of eight to win the $300,000 Citation by 1 1/4 lengths over Ever a Friend.

The victory was no surprise to Talamo, especially after he saw Fluke's win in an optional claimer at Belmont Park in September.

"I watched the replay of his last race, and, man, he came home in 22" seconds, Talamo said. "I'm not going to say that we knew he was going to win, but we came in with a lot of confidence."

Fluke is expected to be one of the leading older horses in Ascanio's stable, which is in the midst of a transition following Frankel's death. The Citation was a race that Frankel thought would be a good fit for Fluke, Ascanio said.

"Bobby called the right shot," Ascanio said. "He said [Fluke] would be ready for the Citation. I didn't do much, just breezed him a couple of times."

Ascanio does not have an immediate goal for Fluke, but one possibility is the $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Santa Anita on Dec. 27.

Pinkarella earns shot at La Brea

Pinkarella will make her second start of the year in a Grade 1 in the $300,000 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26 after winning a six-furlong allowance race at Hollywood Park on Friday.

Making her first start since being sidelined by a bone chip in an ankle eight months ago, Pinkarella won by five lengths over Via Veneto, finishing in 1:09.01 under jockey Joel Rosario. She ran on the wrong lead leg through the stretch, but trainer Doug O'Neill was not concerned about that on Saturday.

Rosario "didn't ask her and that's good," O'Neill said.

Owned by Flintridge Stable and STD Racing, Pinkarella has won 2 of 4 starts. Earlier this year at Santa Anita, she was eighth in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes and third in the Grade 3 Santa Paula Stakes before being sidelined.

Ranger Heartley stakes-worthy

Decision time is approaching for trainer John Sadler regarding Ranger Heartley, who won an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on Friday.

The 2-year-old Ranger Heartley, claimed for $32,000 in July, will be pointed for a stakes in coming weeks, with the options including the $750,000 CashCall Futurity here on Dec. 19 and the $100,000 San Rafael Stakes over a mile at Santa Anita on Jan. 16.

"He'll run in a good race next time," Sadler said. "Any 2-year-old turning 3 that can run a distance is interesting."

Owned by Dave and Herb Alpert, Ranger Heartley has won three times since being claimed - a $32,000 maiden claimer at Del Mar on Sept. 2, a starter allowance at Santa Anita on Oct. 21, and Friday's race.

Blind Luck tunes up for Starlet

Blind Luck, the winner of the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita in October and the third-place finisher in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies earlier this month, worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Hollywood Park on Saturday.

Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Blind Luck is expected to start in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 20, the closing day feature of the current autumn meeting.