11/01/2011 2:12PM

Golden Gate: Ultra Blend a happy surprise for Shermans

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Barbara D. Livingston
Ultra Blend is scheduled to be sold after her appearance in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic.

Northern California fans will have two rooting interests during Friday’s Breeders’ Cup races.

Trainer Jeff Bonde will run Blacky the Bull in the new Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, while Art Sherman will saddle Ultra Blend in the Ladies’ Classic.

“Any time you get a chance to play at this big level, you’re thankful,” said Bonde, who saw his Smiling Tiger run third in last year’s Sprint.

Blacky the Bull’s Northern California connection is through Bonde and some of his ownership group. He’s listed at 20-1 on the morning line. He comes off an Oct. 8 maiden win at Santa Anita after running fourth in his first two starts.

“He’s a big guy,” said Bonde. “He’s gotten better as the year went on. His style fits here because the pace should be lively.”

Although she’s based down south with Sherman, Ultra Blend, listed at 8-1, is a Northern California development.

After running second in a $25,000 maiden claiming race in her Sept. 11, 2008, debut at Stockton, Ultra Blend, a 5-year-old Richly Blended mare, ran off four straight victories at Golden Gate Fields, including her stakes debut in the Tiburon, while being trained by Art’s son, Steve Sherman.

Steve Sherman later took her back following leg surgery when she had a screw placed in her cannon bone and saddled her for a win in last year’s California State Fair Sprint.

Since going back to papa Art’s barn last fall, she scored victories in the California Cup Matron and Cat’s Cradle. She then was third, beaten one-half length in the Sunshine Millions Distaff before running off three more stakes wins in a pair of Cal-bred Stakes and the Grade 2 Milady on a disqualification. After losing by a nose in the Grade 2 A Gleam, she won the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch at Del Mar and ran second, losing by a half-length, in the Grade 1 Lady’s Secret.

“I’m glad I got her at the beginning stages and got to watch her become the horse she’s become,” said Steve Sherman, who never envisioned Ultra Blend as a Grade 1 winner or Breeders’ Cup candidate.

“I didn’t even think she’d win a stakes. She was so mellow. I never thought she’d be that great training. Her works were very nonchalant. That’s why we ran in a claiming race so that she’d be eligible for the starter allowance.”

When the starter race didn’t fill, Steve Sherman entered her in first-level optional claimer, which she won. When she repeated the victory, beating a highly regarded Greg Gilchrist runner, Shakenwithanolive, the Shermans realized what a hard trier they had and put her in the Tiburon, which she also won.

“She surprised us as she got older,” said Art Sherman. “This will be a lot to ask of her with a different track and running at night, and the 3-year-olds in there look awful tough.”

Ultra Blend will be sold after the Breeders’ Cup, but Art said she could race again next year if the new owner wanted.

And he wouldn’t mind having her back in his barn.

“She’s like a part of the family,” he said.

Golden Gate gates open at 10 a.m. Friday with the entire Churchill Downs card being simulcast beginning at 11 a.m. with the first live race at Golden Gate at 12:35 p.m. Gates open at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday with the entire Churchill Downs card being simulcast beginning at 9:05 a.m. First live post is 10:55 a.m.

Juvenile stakes on card

Golden Gate will offer a stakes race on Saturday’s card, the six-furlong $50,000 Debutante, the first of its series of races for 2-year-old fillies.

Century Union, I’m Tops, Madoffwiththemoney, and Power of Nine are scheduled to run. The multiple stakes winner Killer Graces may run, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said.

Five older runners, headed by Hollendorfer’s Our Nautique and Skipshot, are signed up for a 1 1/16-mile allowance race Friday that is a perfect prep for the Grade 3 All American scheduled three weeks later on Nov. 25.

Cal Cup runners go 1 of 6

Northern California fans had only six rooting interests in last weekend’s California Cup competition at Santa Anita.

The Larry and Marianne Williams homebred Rousing Sermon won the Bob Benoit Juvenile for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, while their Unveiled Heat ran sixth for Steve Specht.

Hollendorfer said Rousing Sermon will run next in the Golden Gate’s stakes series for 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds, either in the Gold Rush, California Derby, or El Camino Real Derby.

In the Sprint, the Ed Moger Jr.-trained Legal Separation was fourth and the Bonde-trained Frumious was sixth.

Bonde sent out Strawberry Tart and Specht Antares World in the Distaff where they finished eighth and ninth, respectively.