12/07/2015 1:22PM

Grass will have to wait for Pacific Heat

Benoit & Associates
Pacific Heat wins the Golden State Juvenile. Though bred for turf, she gets her first shot in a Grade 1 in the Starlet on the Los Alamitos main track Saturday.

CYPRESS, Calif. – When Pacific Heat began her career with a convincing win in a maiden race on dirt here in September, trainer Peter Eurton considered her breeding and thought he had a prospect for graded stakes on turf in 2016.

“I thought she’d have to do her thing on grass,” he said last weekend.

Pacific Heat seems very comfortable racing on dirt tracks. After two wins in as many starts, Pacific Heat is set to run in Saturday’s $300,000 Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos, a Grade 1 at 1 1/16 miles on dirt for 2-year-old fillies.

It is a good time for a 2-year-old filly to try a Grade 1 race on the main track in Southern California, because Songbird won’t be running.

Songbird, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland on Oct. 31, returned to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s stable at Santa Anita last week after a month-long break in Kentucky. Songbird won consecutive Grade 1 races in Southern California earlier this year – the Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 5 and the Chandelier Stakes on Sept. 26 at Santa Anita. She will not race until early next year.

By then, Pacific Heat could be one of Songbird’s opponents. Eurton said Pacific Heat deserves a chance at a top-level race Saturday.

“I think she can handle it,” Eurton said. “There is no Songbird in there and probably none of the first five fillies in the country. But it is a Grade 1 and she likes the track.”

Pacific Heat won her debut by 13 1/2 lengths in a maiden race at 5 1/2 furlongs Sept. 25 at Los Alamitos and her stakes debut by 5 1/4 lengths in the Golden State Juvenile Fillies for California-breds at seven furlongs Oct. 29 at Del Mar. Pacific Heat has earned $140,000 from her two wins. She led throughout her maiden race and closed from fourth in the Golden State Juvenile Fillies.

The Starlet Stakes was run at Hollywood Park until that track closed in 2013. Eurton started the favorite in the 2011 Starlet in Weemissfrankie, but she finished fourth at 4-5 after stumbling at the start. Weemissfrankie sustained a leg injury in that race and never ran again.

“She went to her knees coming out of the gate and got a condylar fracture,” Eurton said.

Weemissfrankie won the Del Mar Debutante and Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes, now the Chandelier Stakes, earlier that season. A win in the Starlet would have given her support for the division’s Eclipse Award. Instead, she was retired the following autumn after another injury surfaced during an attempted comeback.

In hindsight, Eurton said he regrets how he managed Weemissfrankie.

“She was going for the Triple Crown of California Grade 1’s,” he said. “We got greedy. I wish I’d backed off and given her time. I could have had a trip to the [Kentucky] Oaks.”

Weemissfrankie was owned by Sharon Alesia and Ciaglia Racing, who are owners of Pacific Heat with Mike Burns. They have had high hopes for Pacific Heat for more than a year. She was the most expensive horse at the Barretts October yearling sale in 2014, selling for $175,000.

Pacific Heat is by Unusual Heat out of Hotlantic, a mare by Stormy Atlantic who won stakes at Lone Star Park and Louisiana Downs. Hotlantic is the dam of Long Hot Summer, a Street Boss filly who won the Generous Portion Stakes at Del Mar in September 2014, about six weeks before Pacific Heat went through the sales ring.

Unusual Heat’s progeny excel on turf, which leads Eurton to expect her to do well on that surface.

Eurton said Pacific Heat grabbed a quarter in the Golden State Juvenile Fillies, but has recovered from that setback.

“It’s not an issue,” he said. “We didn’t work her back until there was no soreness in it.”

Pacific Heat has had four workouts since mid-November. She is the sixth stakes winner for Eurton this year, including the turf marathon runner Ashleyluvssugar, who won two Grade 2 races in the spring at Santa Anita – the San Luis Rey and Charles Whittingham stakes. Ashleyluvssugar will return from an autumn break in January.

Eurton, 58, has approximately 55 horses in his care, the most he has ever had. They includes Kobe’s Back, who was seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland in October. The unraced 2-year-olds She’s a Charm and Exhale are looked upon with promise.

A 55-horse stable is not too big, he said.

“I can handle it,” Eurton said. “I give every horse thought. It’s work, but it’s fun. I dig it.”