02/23/2011 3:38PM

Gilded Gem sticks to sprinting in Santa Anita allowance


ARCADIA, Calif. – Gilded Gem ran well enough in three consecutive sprints from late November to late January following a seven-month layoff that trainer Bob Baffert had bigger goals.

After Gilded Gem was second in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Sakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 30, Baffert contemplated a shift to two-turn races – until jockey Rafael Bejarano urged otherwise.

“I was thinking of running her long, but Bejarano said not to,” Baffert said.

So, Gilded Gem is staying in sprints, for now, and will be favored to win a $63,000 allowance race over 6 1/2 furlongs in Friday’s seventh race. Owned by a partnership, Gilded Gem, 5, is making her ninth start, and seeking her fourth career win.

“She’s a good late-running sprinter,” Baffert said.

Gilded Gem has only four rivals in Friday’s allowance race, but one is Mona de Momma, the winner of the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs last May. Mona de Momma has made one subsequent start, finishing last of five in the Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes here on Feb. 12.

Friday’s race will determine her future.

“If she doesn’t run to our liking, she’ll go to a leading stallion in Kentucky,” trainer John Sadler said.

Owned by Michael Talla, Mona de Momma, 5, has won 5 of 12 starts and $380,619. She won the Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap over 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita last April, and is better suited to Friday’s distance than the Santa Maria distance of 1 1/16 miles, Sadler said.

“She’d been off and it wasn’t the right spot,” Sadler said of the Santa Maria. Friday’s race “is the race I wanted and the spot I wanted.”

Silver Swallow, who placed in four stakes last year; the Baffert-trained Subsidized, a stakes winner at Fairplex Park last fall, and the speedy Southern Fireball also start.

Southern Fireball, winless in her eight races, could play an important role as a front-runner. She will be ridden by jockey Martin Pedroza, who has been aboard for her last two starts, including a fourth in the Wishing Well Stakes on the hillside turf course on Jan. 30.

“Pedroza has ridden her and he knows her well,” trainer Doug O’Neill said.

Friday’s race will be Southern Fireball’s first start on a conventional sand-and-clay track since a fourth in the $400,000 Charles Town Oaks in West Virginia in September.