06/08/2012 2:27PM

Hollywood: Two mares shake off rust in Redondo Beach

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The distance from starting gate to finish wire can be the simplest part of a journey, as the sudden reminder this week at Belmont Park dramatically illustrated.

Briecat and All Star Heart are not Triple Crown colts. They are graded stakes-winning mares who specialize on California turf. They are fast, accomplished, and resilient. But like every other racehorse, they also are fragile. And they cannot win if they do not start.

Briecat would have been a contender May 27 in the $70,000 Great Lady M at Betfair Hollywood Park, but she suffered a minor foot injury and had to be scratched.

All Star Heart would have been a contender Nov. 25 in Grade 1 Matriarch at Hollywood but suffered a splint injury. She scratched that morning and has not started since.

Fortunately for both mares, the setbacks were relatively minor.

Briecat and All Star Heart will race again Sunday at Hollywood, where they face Grade 1 winner Star Billing in the $70,000 Redondo Beach Stakes for fillies and mares at a mile on turf.

Based on recent racing, Briecat appears to have an edge. After all, her most recent start was April 29, whereas All Star Heart and Star Billing have not raced since fall. But trainer Vladimir Cerin is less enthusiastic than one would expect.

“She’s not at her absolute best for this race,” Cerin said. “She missed a little bit of training.”

A 7-year-old, Briecat bruised her foot two weeks ago while shipping from Santa Anita to Hollywood for a turf sprint. Cerin was forced to scratch her from the Great Lady M. She worked five furlongs early this week, but Cerin said the objective of the Redondo Beach will be to prep Briecat for the Grade 2 Royal Heroine on July 7.

All Star Heart was on a roll last summer and fall. She won four of five starts for trainer Ron McAnally and entered the Matriarch as a leading contender. But the morning of the race, McAnally observed something was amiss with the 4-year-old filly. She scratched.

The setback turned out to be a splint injury, which usually is not serious and rarely career-ending. But it does take time. All Star Heart on Sunday will be making her first start in seven months, and her workout pattern suggests she is ready to fire. Now a 5-year-old, All Star Heart has won five of 15.

The horse to beat Sunday is John Shirreffs-trained Star Billing. Her 10.70-1 upset in the Matriarch capped an outstanding 3-year-old campaign during which she won three races and $355,067 from seven starts. Star Billing runs well fresh and has targeted the Sunday stakes since early this year.

A field of eight entered the Redondo Beach, including likely pacesetter A Jealous Woman. A five-time winner from 13 starts, A Jealous Woman could clear the field and get brave.

Other entrants include Hard to Resist, Calle Vista, Broken Dreams, and Good Karma.