07/11/2013 1:45PM

Hollywood Park: Sarach sitting on ready for American Oaks

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Sarach finished fifth in the China Doll and Providencia, then upset the Grade 2 Honeymoon (above).

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Sarach has fooled Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella at times this year.

A 3-year-old filly, Sarach won a maiden race on turf at Santa Anita on Jan. 5, leaving Mandella optimistic about her chances through the rest of that meeting.

“We’d been hoping she’d be good enough, and she did show something when she broke her maiden,” Mandella said. “I tried her in a few stakes, and she wasn’t as good.”

It turns out that Mandella and owners Alain and Gerard Wertheimer needed patience. After finishing fifth in the China Doll and Grade 3 Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita, Sarach won her first stakes in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park on June 8, leading throughout to pull an upset at 8-1.

When she makes her Grade 1 debut in Saturday’s $350,000 American Oaks over 1 1/4 miles on turf, Mandella expects further improvement.

“I think she’ll get better as she goes along,” he said.

Sarach, who is by Arch, will need a career-best performance to win the American Oaks. The field of eight includes three other stakes winners – Emollient, who won the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland in April; Scarlet Strike, who won the Providencia Stakes in April; and Emotional Kitten, who won the Hilltop Stakes at Pimlico on May 17.

The other runners are Macha and Wittgenstein, who have placed in stakes; Becky Lou, a troubled fourth in the Honeymoon; and Topic, a maiden race winner in her last start June 13.

Sarach drew the rail and is likely to set the pace. She could be closely followed by Macha, who was third behind Sarach and Scarlet Strike in the Honeymoon Handicap over 1 1/8 miles. Having the lead is an asset for Sarach, Mandella said.

“I think she’ll be part of the pace and I think she’ll like that,” he said. “She’s kind of one-paced.”

Emollient, trained by Bill Mott, will make her turf debut in the American Oaks and is likely to go favored. By Empire Maker, Emollient was sixth in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico on May 17, a race that Mott dismissed after Emollient stumbled at the start.

“I don’t think she was comfortable after that,” he said.

Mike Smith rode Emollient in the Ashland Stakes and Black-Eyed Susan and has the mount Saturday. He is likely to have Emollient in a stalking position.

Emotional Kitten and Scarlet Strike will be farther back.

Emotional Kitten has yet to start in a graded stakes, but has won her last two starts, closing from well off the pace to win turf races over 1 1/16 miles. The added distance will be a bonus, according to trainer Wesley Ward.

“It’s what she’s bred to do,” Ward said. “She likes a firm turf course. It’s a question of whether she is good enough.”

Scarlet Strike is always a threat from off the pace. The American Oaks is her 10th consecutive stakes appearance since last September, a span that includes the win in the Providencia and runner-up finishes in the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes here May 11 and a one-length loss in the Honeymoon.

The American Oaks is the longest race of her career.

“It’s a race we’ve been pointing for,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “We’re coming up to it in good shape. We think she can get the distance.

“She’s tried every time we’ve run her. We haven’t gotten there every time, but she’s been right there.”

Dave More than 1 year ago
I used to look so forward to this race. It used to draw a fabulous field and was worth $750K. This is a G3 caliber field. Emollient is the standout if she can handle grass. She may just be too classy for this field.
John More than 1 year ago
I certainly agree with you. This is the state and quality of So Cal racing for you. Very sad.
Josephine Charboneau More than 1 year ago
cdd