04/21/2011 11:43AM

Hollywood Park: B. Thoughtful favorite Ultra Blend has found her niche


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Ultra Blend has changed in the last few years. She won her first stakes at 3, and proved capable of placing in graded stakes or minor stakes against open company at both 3 and 4.

In the last year, she has become virtually unbeatable, while racing almost exclusively against statebreds.

Ultra Blend has won 3 of her last 4 starts, all in stakes, and is expected to extend that span of success in Saturday’s $125,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes for statebred fillies and mares over 7 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park.

“She’s tough right now,” said Alan Sherman, an assistant trainer to his father, Art. “When they get good, it’s a different attitude. They don’t want to lose.”

Owned by Nels Erickson, Ultra Blend, a winner of 9 of 18 starts and $460,646, was the dominant statebred female at Hollywood Park last fall, winning the California Cup Matron over 1 1/16 miles during the Oak Tree meeting and the Cat’s Cradle Handicap over 7 1/2 furlongs by an easy 3 1/4 lengths during the track’s autumn meeting last December.

“I think 7 1/2 is the ultimate distance for her, too,” Sherman said. “She used to want to show more speed. She’s more relaxed now.”

Joel Rosario, the leading rider at the recently concluded Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, has the mount on Ultra Blend, who has seven rivals. Ultra Blend is expected to be such a strong favorite that Hollywood Park is carding the B. Thoughtful as the second of 10 races. It will not be part of the pick six, which covers the fifth through 10th races, but will be part of the new 50-cent pick five in the first five races, which debuted at the start of the spring meeting on Thursday with a 14 percent takeout rate.

Ultra Blend will be a key selection on many tickets, although Lady Railrider, who was second to Ultra Blend twice last fall, and Warren’s Jitterbug, third in the Cat’s Cradle Handicap, merit respect.

Lady Railrider has won her last two starts, both allowance races at Golden Gate Fields over a mile and 1 1/16 miles. In her last start in Southern California, she was fourth in the Sunshine Millions Distaff at Santa Anita on Jan. 29, closing from well off the pace.

“She had a rough trip coming from last to get beat two lengths on a track when speed was winning everything,” trainer Steve Specht said.

Lady Railrider has won 9 of 25 starts and $515,800, the highest earnings among the entrants.

Specht said the Golden Gate allowance races filled the need for action for Lady Railrider, who he says is likely to be retired at the end of this year by owners Larry and Marianne Williams.

“I needed to run somewhere,” Specht said. “She doesn’t run a bad race. She’s dealt with quarter cracks and she’s got them now. Pretty soon, she’ll be retired. I’m sure she’ll keep going until she looks like she needs some time off and that will be the end of it.”

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