06/14/2013 1:40PM

Hollywood Park: Include Me Out, Teddy's Promise classy stablemates in Desert Stormer

Benoit & Associates
Teddy's Promise (above) and Include Me Out are both Grade 1 winners trained by Ron Ellis.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – It is a peculiar twist that an ungraded sprint stakes on Sunday at Betfair Hollywood Park came up tougher than the Grade 1 Vanity scheduled one day earlier.

Include Me Out and Teddy’s Promise race six furlongs Sunday in the $70,000 Desert Stormer, which brings together the deepest group of fillies and mares for one race in California this year.

In addition to the aforementioned Grade 1 winners, both trained by Ron Ellis, the field includes Winding Way, top female sprinter in California last summer, graded winner Via Villaggio, and stakes-caliber Shumoos, Candrea and Givine. Nine were entered.

The Desert Stormer is the most important race of the year for Include Me Out, because it is her first. Ellis and owner Samantha Siegel were never in a hurry with Include Me Out, the top main-track female in California last season with two Grade 1 wins and a third in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic in her final 2012 start.

That was seven months ago.

“We weren’t in a rush to start,” Siegel said. “She had a long year last year and we wanted to give her at least 60 days off. And then we had one week she got [her hoof] trimmed too close, and we backed up a week or 10 days.”

It was March 18 before Include Me Out had her initial three-furlong breeze. The first half of the season was history.

“It’s frustrating, but I’ve been out here for almost every work and I know how good she’s doing and I try to console myself with that,” Siegel said early this week at Hollywood. “I miss having her to watch run.”

Include Me Out has maintained a consistent recent workout pattern and is fresh for fall. After Sunday, her tentative campaign includes the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes on Aug. 3 at Del Mar, Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes in fall at Santa Anita, followed by the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic.

Include Me Out has won six races and earned $911,600 in 13 starts, and is the class of the field. Can she win first start back?

“She’ll run well because she’s a good filly, but no way did we try to get her ready [to sprint],” Ellis said. “We just trained her to be steady and get fit, and get a good foundation under her.”

Ellis already has the Desert Stormer favorite in Teddy’s Promise, 124-pound co-highweight with Include Me Out. Teddy’s Promise has won 3 of her last 4, including a romping win on May 5 in the Time to Leave at five furlongs. She could have trained into her next start July 13 in the Grade 2 A Gleam, but she does better racing rather than training.

“It was going to be seven weeks [between starts],” Ellis explained. “She’s a tough filly to train, too. Include Me Out is an easy filly to train. You can get her to do what you want. Teddy’s Promise always wants to work hard.”

Teddy’s Promise has won 9 of 23 starts and will be ridden by Victor Espinoza. Her long-range target is the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

That also is a long-range goal for Winding Way, who fractured a splint bone last fall and has not raced since Oct. 7. Carla Gaines trains Winding Way, impressive winner of the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo Handicap last summer at Del Mar.

Winding Way has worked well for her comeback, but Gaines said, “She’s probably going to need a race. I hope I’m wrong, but I have not really tightened the screws on her. She looks like she swallowed a watermelon, she’s so fat.”

Gaines said the Desert Stormer is designed as prep race for the A Gleam. Rafael Bejarano will ride the filly, who is 3 for 4.

Jerry Hollendorfer trains Via Villaggio, who makes her first start since fall. She won the Grade 3 Railbird Stakes at Hollywood last summer, and assistant Dan Ward believes she has returned a better filly at age 4.

“She’s a different horse – she’s bigger and stronger,” Ward said.

Depending on the Saturday performances in the Vanity by Hollendorfer-trained Lady of Fifty and Esentepe, Via Villaggio could stretch out for the Clement L. Hirsch.