02/01/2012 3:22PM

Gulfstream Park: Anunciata drops from graded stakes

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Anunciata found graded stakes company a little more than she could handle when making her U.S. debut last fall at Churchill Downs. The Peruvian-bred should find the competition a lot more to her liking when dropping down against second-level optional claiming foes for her south Florida bow in Friday’s one-mile, $56,500 main event at Gulfstream Park.

Anunciata won 9 of 17 starts in her native Peru before coming to North American and joining trainer Michael Matz’s barn midway through the 2011 season. She tried Grade 2 company in the one-mile Chilukki Stakes in her only U.S. appearance of the year, flashing brief speed before retreating to the rear of the field to finish ninth and last under Ramon Dominguez.

“The race was in the evening, under the lights, late at night, and she ran for about a half a mile and that’s it,” Matz said. “Ramon said she just got tired. She was probably in a little tough, and sometimes it takes a little longer than people think for horses from South America to get acclimated to this kind of racing.”

Matz says he expects Anunciata to run much better Friday.

“She’s doing well, it’s a better spot for her, and she should benefit from her first race,” Matz said. “I think she’s a very nice filly, but she’s still got to go out and do it down here.”

Anunciata figures to offer some value at the windows, with Majestic Maria likely to go postward the heavy favorite and strictly the one to beat in the six-horse lineup.

Majestic Maria has finished second under similar conditions in each of her first two starts at the meet, running into a buzz saw in Gorgeous Melody and Jump Up on each occasion. Majestic Maria overcame an unlucky start to control the pace in her most recent try before ultimately succumbing grudgingly to the undefeated and likely stakes-bound Jump Up through the final furlong while sent 1 1/16 miles for the first time in her career.

Rock the Moon finished nearly three lengths behind Majestic Maria when the pair met for the first time Jan. 2. The loss snapped a three-race win streak Rock the Moon fashioned during a seven-week period last fall over the artificial surface at Woodbine.

The compact field also includes Twice the Lady, making her first start since being haltered by trainer Dale Romans for $40,000 out of her 2011 finale at Churchill Downs; Lava Girl, who returned from a 13-month layoff to defeat softer allowance company here early in the meet; and American Angel.