06/07/2009 11:00PM

One to consider vs. Carlsbad

Barbara D. Livingston
Asiatic Boy, training this week at Belmont under Renzo Morales, should show up in a graded stakes soon.

PHOENIX - Okay, so the 3-year-old filly division out West isn't quite as strong as it looked a few months ago. Stardom Bound is on the farm. Haka is sidelined. Hooh Why has been strong, but is now back East. Just Tuesday, the unbeaten Witty, an up-and-comer for Dick Mandella, was reported sick and missed some training.

Nonetheless, some filly will win Sunday's Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks, a 1 1/16-mile event on the Cushion Track.

There's little doubt the girl to beat is the transplanted Arizona filly Carlsbad. A daughter of Rocky Bar, she has been nothing short of brilliant for owner Dennis Weir. She won her first four races, including three stakes, all at Turf Paradise and for trainer Kevin Lewis, by a combined 50 3/4 lengths. She was never headed at a margin call in any of them.

That included the one-mile Arizona Oaks Feb. 21, which she won by 13 1/4 geared down - in case you were worried about her route ability. She came to Southern California and the barn of Jeff Mullins, and promptly stayed undefeated with an easy win in the Grade 3 Santa Paula at Santa Anita March 29. However, in the Grade 3 Railbird here May 10, she ran into another undefeated filly, the aforementioned Witty, and suffered her first defeat. She dueled for the lead in the seven-furlong race and finished second.

Mullins subsequently pointed out that her training for that race had been compromised; a foot issue forced her to miss a work. Reports now are that she's doing great, and that was backed up by her bullet 59.20 move at Hollywood Park last Tuesday.

But the expected short price (6-5 or so), a new distance, and her loss last out give cause to look around first.

Lady Lumberjack was cut out to be a quality filly from the start. In fact, trainer Julio Canani was so taken with her first two starts, seconds in a maiden sprints here in November, that he entered her next in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel at Santa Anita Jan. 11.

She stalked the pace in the 1 1/16-mile race and finished fourth of nine at 3-1. While she didn't win, she proved Canani's point - she has talent.

She beat maidens sprinting at Santa Anita on Feb. 22 in her next start, and then rallied for second to Witty in an allowance in April. Lady Lumberjack returned in a sprint here May 14 against optional claimers and ran her best race yet. She dueled on the pace from the start, dispatched with the other speed, and bounded clear to win by three lengths for a 91 Beyer.

With more experience under her belt, Canani gives her another shot at the deeper end of the pool. Catching Carlsbad won't be easy, but this daughter of Forestry has enough speed to keep that foe in her sights and may be poised to move forward enough to spring a mild upset at perhaps 7-2.

Spicing up a bland division

Einstein is the top older horse in the country, but he's yet to win a Grade 1 on dirt. Colonel John hasn't been seen this year. Commentator may finally be answering to Father Time. Well Armed is on vacation after a big Dubai World Cup win. Matto Mondo is done for the year. Albertus Maximus is hurt, too. Tiago, Arson Squad, Cowboy Cal, Court Vision are nice horses all, but hardly imposing. In other words, the handicap division is there for the taking.

A very interesting horse has popped up on Belmont work tab in recent weeks: Asiatic Boy, a proven top-class horse on dirt and turf. In 2007 he was a close fourth in the Group 1 Sussex, a mile turf race in England. In early 2008 he ran second behind Curlin's tour de force in the Dubai World Cup, beating 2009 winner Well Armed. He ran two smart races in Dubai this winter but tossed in a inexplicably dull run in the World Cup, finishing 12th of 14, beaten 33 lengths by Well Armed.

He's been given plenty of time to regroup, has moved from one world-class trainer (Mike de Kock) to another (Kiaran McLaughlin), and has been working splendidly in New York, including a bullet 48 breeze May 26. He's possible for next Saturday's Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, which is expected to lure the Einstein and Arson Squad. Whether goes there or instead waits for, say, the Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont July 4, he would surely add flair to a division lacking any real sex appeal.