05/26/2016 12:50PM

Forest Chatter on favorite course in Lennyfrommalibu

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Forest Chatter (inside) wins the California Flag Stakes on Santa Anita's turf course last October.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Forest Chatter has found his niche on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita. In six starts at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the course, Forest Chatter has won five times. His only loss on the course was a third to Boozer in the Sensational Star Stakes for California-breds on Feb. 27, his last start.

Forest Chatter ends a three-month rest in Saturday’s $100,000 Lennyfrommalibu Stakes on the hillside turf course. Trainer Richard Mandella said Forest Chatter is ready.

“I wasn’t happy with the way he ran,” Mandella said of Forest Chatter’s last start. “He seemed a little sour, and I freshened him a bit. He seems to be doing well.”

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The Lennyfrommalibu, for 4-year-olds and up, is the first of five stakes for California-breds on an 11-race California Gold Rush program that features 10 races for statebreds. The Lennyfrommalibu Stakes drew only five runners.

Forest Chatter has won 5 of 12 starts, including the California Flag Stakes for statebreds on the hillside turf course last October. Owned by Marty and Pam Wygod, Forest Chatter won four consecutive starts on the hillside earlier in his career.

Mandella said it is hard to pinpoint why some horses thrive on the hillside turf course.

“Running downhill is a little bit strange for a horse,” he said. “Not everything likes it. It has something to do with the action, the way they move.”

Forest Chatter’s main rival on Saturday is Ambitious Brew, who won the E.B. Johnston Stakes at Los Alamitos last September. The Lennyfrommalibu Stakes will be Ambitious Brew’s first start since a sixth-place finish in the California Flag. He was vanned off after that race and resumed workouts in early March.

Fran’s Valentine Stakes

The final stakes of the day, race 10, is the $125,000 Fran’s Valentine Stakes, for fillies and mares at a mile on turf, which drew a field of eight. Sheer Pleasure, who was second to the three-time champion Beholder in the Grade 3 Adoration Stakes on May 8, will be favored.

Sheer Pleasure won the Dream of Summer Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares at a mile on the main track March 27, her third stakes win. In the Adoration Stakes, Sheer Pleasure set the pace and finished 2 1/2 lengths behind Beholder.

“This should be class relief,” trainer Phil D’Amato said.

Owned by Little Red Feather Racing and RM Racing, Sheer Pleasure has started once on turf, finishing fourth in the 2015 California Cup Oaks in her second career start.

“She hasn’t run much on the grass,” D’Amato said. “There’s nothing that says she can’t [run on] turf. It’s a good spot.”

The field for the Fran’s Valentine includes Singing Kitty, who beat Sheer Pleasure in the 2015 Cal Cup Oaks. She has since won two additional stakes, both on turf against open company – the China Doll Stakes at a mile in March 2015 and the Unzip Me Stakes on the hillside last September.

Trained by Matt Chew, Singing Kitty was fourth in the Dream of Summer Stakes, losing by three-quarters of a length to Sheer Pleasure.

The Fran’s Valentine Stakes will be the second start at a mile for the 6-year-old mare Velvet Mesquite, a two-time stakes winner on the hillside turf course. Velvet Mesquite was fifth in an optional claimer at a mile on the main track in February 2014.

Trained by Blake Heap, Velvet Mesquite was second in the Irish O’Brien Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares on the hillside turf course March 19.

Smoove It, the winner of the Irish O’Brien, is part of the Fran’s Valentine field. She was last of 14 in the Grade 2 Royal Heroine Stakes at a mile on turf May 5. Trainer Doug O’Neill said this week that he rates Smoove It as his best chance for a stakes win from four runners Saturday.