05/08/2012 12:34PM

Hollywood Park: Gittel going a route on turf

Shigeki Kikkawa
Starship Flare is entered for the $80,000 claiming price.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The filly Gittel, who starts in Thursday’s fifth race at Betfair Hollywood Park, is one reason trainer Janet Armstrong has had an excellent start in 2012.

Gittel won twice at Santa Anita in January, two of the seven winners Armstrong has saddled from 19 starters this year. Armstrong’s career high for wins occurred in 2007, when she had 20 wins from 111 starters.

This year, Armstrong has 10 horses based at Santa Anita for Syd Belzberg’s Budget Stable. None of the runners has started in stakes this year, although Gittel could be nearing that level if she runs well on Thursday.

Bred by Budget Stable, Gittel, by Bernstein, will be making her second career start on turf, having finished last of 11 in her debut on the surface in a six-furlong maiden race last December for 2-year-olds. Gittel was 10th in her career debut on Hollywood Park’s main track in June 2011, and did not start again until December.

Armstrong dismisses both losses.

“She’s not a sprinter, so those two sprint races were throwouts, I think,” she said on Tuesday. “This will be her first time going long on the turf. She’s improving all the time.”

This year, Gittel has raced over a mile or 1 1/16 miles, winning a $30,000 claiming race for maidens and a starter allowance in January.

In two starts in optional claimers at Santa Anita, Gittel was third by a neck to Jemima’s Pearl on March 9 and second by a half-length to Bobina on April 13.

Jemima’s Pearl finished 10th in the Kentucky Oaks last Friday. Bobina won the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes on turf at Hollywood Park last Saturday, but had a fatal breakdown after the wire.

Gittel’s improvement from a maiden claimer is a case of the filly “figuring it out,” Armstrong said.

“I think she would have belonged in the race last weekend,” she said of the Senorita. “My owner likes to run through conditions.”

Thursday’s optional claimer drew a field of nine, including Starship Flare and Island Paradise, who were second and third in the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes here last November.

Starship Flare is winless in five starts since the Miesque. She was last of eight in an optional claimer over six furlongs on turf last Saturday and is entered to be claimed for $80,000 on Thursday.

Island Paradise has not started since the Miesque.