02/25/2011 2:51PM

Maggie McGowan, Evening Jewel's half-sister, starts with a win

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ARCADIA, Calif. – Scouting for 2-year-old prospects last year, trainer Doug O’Neill and his team came up with more than a gem when they acquired Maggie McGowan, an unraced filly. They wound up with the half-sister to a champion.

Maggie McGowan had cost Bobby Mitchell just $5,000 at the 2009 Barretts California Cup yearling sale. At the time, the filly by Salt Lake had a modest catalog page, to some extent. Even though the statebred champions Saucey Evening and General Challenge appeared under the second and third dams, Maggie McGowan’s dam, Jewel of the Night, was unraced and had produced one 2-year-old filly, who had yet to start.

That filly turned out to be Evening Jewel, who won her debut a few weeks after that yearling sale at Santa Anita. In 2010, Evening Jewel won four stakes, including two Grade 1 races – the Ashland Stakes and Del Mar Oaks. She was recently honored as the 2010 California-bred horse of the year.

By last summer, Mitchell knew he had made a bargain purchase, and O’Neill knew he wanted the filly in his stable.

“When Bobby broke her and got her in training, Evening Jewel was taking off,” O’Neill said Friday. “He contacted Steve Rothblum who has been helping me with purchases. We put a group together and did a deal. Bobby stayed in with a piece.”

Maggie McGowan is owned by the partnership of WC Racing, Westside Rentals.com, Gilman Racing, and Mitchell. She won her debut in a maiden race over 5 1/2 furlongs for 3-year-old statebred fillies at Santa Anita on Feb. 20. She fought for the early lead, went to the front in early stretch, and won by 2 1/4 lengths.

“Being a half to Evening Jewel, we thought she’d develop into a nice filly,” O’Neill said. “She had a brilliant debut.”

The private sale that brought Maggie McGowan to O’Neill’s barn was completed last summer. The filly joined O’Neill stable when the team returned to Los Angeles from Del Mar in September. Maggie McGowan was based at Fairplex Park in the fall, working four times from mid-October to early December and was sent to Santa Anita in late January.

Maggie McGowan had worked steadily since the start of the year, in advance of her Feb. 20 debut. The first start took longer than O’Neill expected.

“She’s a good-sized filly and she had some body soreness, typical baby stuff,” he said.

Maggie McGowan will be pointed to an allowance race in early spring, with the hope that she will develop into a stakes filly, similar to Evening Jewel. With the size of the statebred foal crop in decline, O’Neill insists this is a good time to have a promising filly.

“The owners are very patient, and there is no pressure,” O’Neill said. “We’ll look at an allowance in four to six weeks.

“With the inventory depleted as it is, there is not a lot out there. To land on something like this, it’s a big catch. We took our time getting her to the races, and it’s worked out.”

Safe in the USA to Tommy Town

Safe in the USA, a 12-year-old by Gone West, has been moved to Tommy Town Thoroughbreds in Santa Ynez, Calif. He will stand for $3,000, live foal.

Safe in the USA won 5 of 16 starts and $178,350. He is out of Safely Kept, the 1989 champion sprinter. Safe in the USA previously stood in Massachusetts. His progeny have earned more than $1.1 million and include See I A, winner of the Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs last month.