04/19/2009 11:00PM

Lofty ambitions set for Stella Mark


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - It was during the 2008 spring-summer meeting at Hollywood Park that Stella Mark made the successful transition from claimer to stakes horse, winning the Tiznow Stakes for statebreds.

Stella Mark is back in Saturday's $150,000 Tiznow Stakes, and this year trainer Ted H. West is hoping that the now 5-year-old gelding can develop into a graded stakes winner.

"I think he's got a ton of talent, still," West said. "I was thinking of the Pacific Classic last year, he was getting so good. I don't see any reason why he couldn't be as good."

Stella Mark was claimed for $50,000 by owner Jeffrey Sengara in January 2008 and won three of his next five starts. His season ended because of injury after a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap and he has not raced since. In five starts for Sengara and West, Stella Mark earned $215,306.

West explained that when Stella Mark took a bad step out of the gate in the Lone Star Park Handicap, he strained a ligament. "It could have been something serious, but we caught it early," West said.

Stella Mark has had six workouts for his comeback, including seven furlongs in 1:29.20 at Santa Anita on Saturday. West admits he wishes that Stella Mark had more time to prepare for the Tiznow.

"The race comes up a little quick, but he's come back so good," West said. "I think he'll run well. He takes his training pretty seriously. He gets fit faster than most. He's aggressive and pretty intense."

The Tiznow Stakes is run over 7 1/2 furlongs. The race lost some of its luster when Georgie Boy, the top sprinter in California, was withdrawn from consideration over the weekend because of a quarter crack.

The Tiznow is part of the 10-race California Gold Rush program for statebreds. There are six races worth $150,000 or more, including the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles. Feisty Suances and Unbridled Roman, who were fifth and sixth in the Santa Anita Derby on April 4, and the two-time stakes winner Triumphant Flight are the leading candidates.

Gamely next target for Magical Fantasy

Magical Fantasy, who beat Black Mamba by a nose in Saturday's $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap on the Santa Anita turf, will probably remain on grass for the rest of the year and will run next in the $250,000 Gamely Stakes over 1 1/8 miles at Hollywood on May 30.

"That will give her some time," said trainer Paddy Gallagher .

A Grade 2 race over 1 1/4 miles, the Santa Barbara was her second stakes win, coming eight months after her victory in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks on turf last August.

Magical Fantasy lost her first two starts of 2009, both on Santa Anita's synthetic main track. She finished second in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes on Feb. 14 and fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap March 14, losing both races to Life Is Sweet.

In the Santa Barbara, Magical Fantasy overcame a bump with Toque de Queda on the final turn, which forced jockey Alex Solis to steady her.

"She gave up a length or two there," Gallagher said. "She was game."

Black Mamba lost the Santa Barbara by a nose for the second consecutive year. On Saturday, Black Mamba was six wide turning for home.

"She ran really well and didn't get the trip we wanted," trainer John Sadler said. "We'd like to have won, but we can't fault the effort."

BC Turf Sprint is Mr Gruff's goal

Mr Gruff, who won his stakes debut in Saturday's $100,000 San Simeon Handicap on the hillside turf course, will be lightly raced, with the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita in November a long-term goal, trainer Ron Ellis said. The Turf Sprint is run over the same hillside turf course as the San Simeon.

Mr Gruff, a 5-year-old who did not make his career debut until March 2008, had won a first-condition allowance race on the hillside turf course on March 11. Ellis tried Mr Gruff in the San Simeon to test the gelding's class.

"We wanted to see if he was good enough to handle stakes horses," he said. "Obviously, he is. I think being a hill specialist can be a big advantage for that Breeders' Cup race."

Sadler warned about steroids last summer

John Sadler was given four official warnings for steroid overages found in his runners at Del Mar last summer in a ruling released by Santa Anita stewards last week.

The post-race tests revealed excessive levels of the steroid stanozolol, one of four anabolic steroids allowed to appear in minute levels in post-race tests, according to a rule instituted by the California Horse Racing Board last summer.

Sadler's starters that showed overages ran in a five-day period at Del Mar. Tizsweetdreams finished third in the CERF Handicap on Aug. 1, Chanjo won a maiden special weight race on Aug. 2, Sunshine Ridge won a $25,000 claimer on Aug. 3, and Soupy won a $40,000 claimer on Aug. 3.

There will be no penalties for Sadler. The positive tests occurred during a time when trainers were only being warned of steroid overages for boldenone, nandrolone, stanozolol, and testosterone. The warnings will remain on Sadler's permanent record.

Effective Sept. 4, 2008, the racing board enacted tougher penalties for steroid overages, including a loss of purses and a fine and/or suspension for the four aforementioned steroids. No such penalties have been administered in Southern California.