11/11/2011 2:45PM

Hollywood Park: Charm the Maker still improving for Sharp Cat Stakes

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Benoit & Associates
Charm the Maker looks like a player in the Starlet next month. First, she must get by the Sharp Cat.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – A 2-year-old filly making the third start of her career is about to make a big splash in a division that could use a little help.

Charm the Maker will be heavily backed Sunday in the $100,000 Sharp Cat Stakes at Hollywood Park, where she meets five rivals in a 1 1/16-mile race that could propel her to favoritism next month in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet.

First things first, and if Charm the Maker reproduces her recent third-place finish in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes – beaten a length – she will be tough to beat Sunday. Trainer Ron McAnally does not expect her to merely duplicate that effort. He expects better.

“She wasn’t really up to it,” McAnally said. “She only had the one race, and she wasn’t fit.”

In five weeks since the Oak Leaf, Charm the Maker has been training like clockwork under jockey Garrett Gomez. Not just working to stay fit, but also learning how to run.

“Garrett has worked her almost every time,” McAnally said. “He said she has learned a lot, where she can relax when he wants her to.”

That is good news for bettors that might consider even-money a gift, and bad news for Charm the Maker’s five rivals.

Lady Pecan stretches out, adds blinkers, and returns to synthetic after two disappointing efforts on dirt; Oblivion goes long after winning successive sprints at Golden Gate; and Willa B Awesome wheels back 15 days after a runner-up finish in the California Cup Juvenile Fillies. Killer Graces and Regal Betty also entered.

Charm the Maker’s pedigree has been in the McAnally family a long time. McAnally trained the filly’s first and second dams, Olympic Charmer and Charm the Giant. Both graded stakes winners were bred by his wife Debbie McAnally, who owns Charm the Maker.

McAnally described Charm the Maker as “tall, sort of a Zenyatta type, with a long stride. And they [Empire Maker offspring] usually get better.”

Bob Baffert hopes Lady Pecan gets better. She was purchased privately after a romping maiden win at Woodbine, but finished nowhere both starts afterward racing on dirt at Saratoga and Santa Anita.

“She’s been really disappointing, but I think she likes the synthetics,” Baffert said. “I really think she’ll go long.”

Blinkers are on Lady Pecan, who breaks from the rail under Martin Garcia.

Oblivion will make her first start for trainer Carla Gaines after her second straight sprint win at Golden Gate for trainer Steve Sherman. That race was flattered when third-place Lady of Fifty returned Nov. 5 to win the Golden Gate Debutante. Oblivion, sired by Johar, will be ridden by Joel Rosario.

Willa B Awesome finished second behind Starlight Magic in the Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies; Killer Graces won two sprint stakes at Hollywood in spring. Regal Betty has raced three times with a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 56.