10/09/2009 11:00PM

Meydan Princess aims lower


ARCADIA, Calif. - Meydan Princess looked ready for a big second half of 2009 after winning the Osunitas Handicap at Del Mar in late July. The rest of her Del Mar meeting did not go as well.

With a change in venue and a drop in class, Meydan Princess can rebound in Monday's $60,000 Swingtime Stakes at Santa Anita. The race is restricted to fillies and mares that have not won a stakes worth $60,000 or more to the winner, other than statebred, in 2009. Meydan Princess earned $55,086 in the Osunitas.

Meydan Princess tried for bigger prizes in late summer. She was sixth in the Grade 1 John Mabee Stakes on Aug. 16 and fifth in the Grade 2 Palomar Handicap on Sept. 9, a longshot in both.

"Maybe she's just not that good," trainer Jim Cassidy said. "Two races ago, she was too close. Last time, I said, 'Don't get too close.' There was no pace."

Owned by James Peyton's Forging Oaks Farm, Meydan Princess has won 4 of 16 starts, with 3 wins coming in England. In the one-mile Swingtime on turf, she will be coupled with Forging Oaks's Bahama Mama, who has won 7 of 31 starts. Bahama Mama is winless in seven starts this year and could be approaching the end of her career.

"She worked well the other day," Cassidy said. "There is a chance they may want to stop on her and breed her. This could be her last race."

Bahama Mama has not started since finishing fourth in an optional claimer over a mile on turf at Del Mar on Aug. 12. A threat to lead throughout, Bahama Mama is winless in nine starts since an optional claimer at Del Mar in August 2008.

The pace should be honest. Zardana, winner of the 2008 Osunitas, is most effective racing from the front. Trained by John Shirreffs, Zardana was third in an optional claimer over a mile on turf at Del Mar on Aug. 12, leading to the eighth pole as the 6-5 favorite.

Bel Air Sizzle is a capable of winning but has lost her last nine starts. Trainer Barry Abrams intended to start Bel Air Sizzle in the California Cup Distance Handicap on Oct. 3, but the entry blank was apparently misplaced.

Neko Bay eyeing BC Dirt Mile after win

Neko Bay may have earned a trip to the $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile with his hard-fought victory in an optional claimer at Santa Anita on Friday.

Making his first start since December, Neko Bay rallied from sixth in a field of eight to finish a length in front of Mast Track, winner of the 2008 Hollywood Gold Cup.

Neko Bay ($12.20) was timed in 1:35.28, earning a 100 Beyer Speed Figure.

Trainer John Shirreffs said that Neko Bay has been plagued by minor injuries that have left him "not quite right."

"He's such a nice horse," Shirreffs said. "The race he ran at Hollywood [last December], he gave it his all he had. It set him back a while."

Owned by breeders Jerry and Ann Moss, Neko Bay, 6, has won 4 of 10 starts and $221,020. He has limited stakes experience, having finished second in three stakes in 2006 through 2008.

"He's got a lot of class," Shirreffs said. "We've wanted to get in a program to get two or three races together, but it's been a struggle."

As for the BC Dirt Mile, Neko Bay would need to show further improvement. As of Friday, Shirreffs was willing to take that gamble.

"Everyone's dreaming of running in big races," Shirreffs said.