07/14/2011 12:11PM

Hollywood Park: A Gleam contender Ultra Blend improving with age

Benoit Photo
Ultra Blend, winning the Valentine Dancer in February, can secure an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint by winning Saturday's A Gleam Handicap.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Nearing the end of her career, Ultra Blend is peaking this year, with 3 wins in 4 starts.

She won two stakes for California-breds earlier this year and was promoted from second to first in the Grade 2 Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park on May 21 after being hampered in the stretch.

Ultra Blend can win her first graded stakes outright in Saturday’s $200,000 A Gleam Handicap at Hollywood Park, a race with major ramifications for the fall. The winner receives a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs in November.

Ultra Blend, 5, is likely bound for Kentucky to be bred in 2012. Considering her results in recent races, a start in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint would be a fitting conclusion to her career.

“To me, she’s just a grade under that real top horse,” trainer Art Sherman said. “You love to own one like her. She dominates the Cal-bred races, and she runs well in the open company right now. I think she’s the type of filly when it sets up right she can beat a graded horse.”

BREEDERS’ CUP CHALLENGE: Racing schedule, replays, and past winners >>

Sherman gave Ultra Blend a brief break following the Milady, where she finished 1 1/4 lengths behind St Trinians.

Earlier this year, Ultra Blend won the Valentine Dancer Handicap over a mile on turf at Santa Anita and the B. Thoughtful Stakes over 7 1/2 furlongs on the Hollywood Park synthetic main track. In the B. Thoughtful, she closed from sixth in a field of seven, making up five lengths in the final three furlongs to win by a length.

“She’ll set back and it looks like she might not have a chance to win it, but she finds a way turning for home to close the gap,” Sherman said. “She’s had a nice little rest between races, which she likes. I think she’ll run big. She’s never off the board, a hard-trying filly.”

Owned by Nels Erickson, Ultra Blend has won 10 of 21 starts and $625,546, and has been second or third in nine other starts. She has finished in the first three in her last 12 starts, dating back to June 2009.

In the Grade 2 A Gleam, run over seven furlongs, Ultra Blend will carry 119 pounds, one less than Irish Gypsy, the topweight who will be after her third consecutive sprint stakes win. Irish Gypsy is one of three fillies in the field of nine trained by Bob Baffert, joined by American Story and Fund Raiser.

“They’re doing well,” Baffert said. “Ultra Blend is the filly to beat.”

Eight of the nine starters are stakes winners. American Story has placed in three stakes in her seven-race career.

The 3-year-old filly Mildly Offensive, racing against older fillies and mares for the first time, may set the pace. Trained by Carla Gaines, Mildly Offensive won the Santa Paula Stakes at Santa Anita in March in her stakes debut.

Killer Graces tops Landaluce lineup

Killer Graces, the winner of the Cinderella Stakes on June 11, can confirm her status as the leading 2-year-old filly in California in Saturday’s $100,000 Landaluce Stakes.

Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and co-owned by him in a partnership, Killer Graces has five rivals in the Landaluce – Chloe W, the runner-up in the Cinderella in her career debut – and four maiden race winners – Mighty Caroline, Son de America, Stayclassysandiego and Woebegon.

Stayclassysandiego and Woebegon are trained by Peter Miller. Woebegon, owned by Mace and Samantha Siegel, drew the rail. In her debut over five furlongs on June 26, Woebegon led throughout and pulled clear to win by 3 1/4 lengths in a 13-1 upset.

Killer Graces, who will be ridden by Joe Talamo, closed from fifth to win the Cinderella over 5 1/2 furlongs, and should get a similar trip in the six-furlong Landaluce.