03/22/2009 11:00PM

Patience pays off for Belmont Cat


ARCADIA, Calif. - With the financial backing of owner Richard Templer, the keen eye of agent Denny Boltinghouse, and the patient training of John Sadler, a pipeline has been created from the antipodes to Santa Anita.

Belmont Cat became the latest stakes winner for that group Sunday, when she captured the Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap for female turf horses. As with Black Mamba and Crossing the Line, Belmont Cat, who was bred in New Zealand, has blossomed since arriving from the South Pacific.

"I think this mare is going to have a lot of class," Sadler said. "The key is to try to take your time, not run them off the plane."

Belmont Cat won just 2 of her first 7 starts in New Zealand but is now 2 for 3 in the United States. She had a seven-month break between her last start in New Zealand and her first start here. And having been born in November, she is only 4 years, 4 months old on the calendar, but is considered 5 for record-keeping purposes. As such, she is a young 5, with plenty of upside.

"And we've got a couple more coming up," Sadler said.

Black Mamba, in fact, is ready to return to action. Sadler said she will run here in the Grade 2, $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap at 1 1/4 miles on turf April 18. She worked six furlongs on Pro-Ride at Santa Anita on Sunday in 1:14.

A change in tactics proved beneficial for Belmont Cat. She responded to a waiting ride from Joel Rosario in the Santa Ana. Belmont Cat won her U.S. debut on Dec. 3 at Hollywood Park but finished fifth of eight in the San Gorgonio Handicap here Jan. 4.

"She trained really, really well for her first race," Sadler said. "I was a little disappointed last time, but there wasn't much pace and she was up close. I think she wants to sit back and kick, so we really tried to emphasize that today. Last time, she caught a paceless field and was pulling hard."

Sadler said Belmont Cat would make her next start at Hollywood Park.

Bel Air Sizzle, who finished second in the Santa Ana, beaten a head, compromised her chances by veering sharply to the left leaving the gate to fall far back early.

"You can't spot these horses five lengths," trainer Barry Abrams said animatedly after the race. "But I'm happy. She's back."

Bel Air Sizzle had not placed in a graded stakes since a second-place finish in last summer's Del Mar Oaks.

Visit finished third as the 7-10 favorite. Though a promising fourth in her U.S. debut in last fall's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, Visit is now winless in four starts since arriving from her native Great Britain.

Zensational opts for allowance race

Trainer Bob Baffert found an allowance race on Friday for Zensational, who comes off a dazzling maiden win at Santa Anita, and the colt will go in that one-mile race instead of the six-furlong San Miguel Stakes on Saturday.

Only four other 3-year-olds, including the Baffert-trained Ventana, were entered on Sunday against Zensational.

"He's so fast," Baffert said. "I'm running him long so he'll learn how to slow down. He'll either slow down or get real tired."

Baffert will be a guest on HRTV's "Across the Board" at 5 p.m. Pacific on Wednesday to discuss, among other topics, Pioneerof the Nile's next start in the April 4 Santa Anita Derby, Indian Blessing's next start Saturday in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, and Baffert being on the ballot for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame for the first time.

Distance no problem for Midships

Midships had proven stamina in England last year, running exclusively in races at 1 1/4 miles or farther. He showed his class in Saturday's $150,000 San Luis Rey Handicap, leading throughout the race at 1 1/2 miles on turf.

The victory left trainer Bobby Frankel unsure where Midships would resurface, other than in marathon grass races.

"I didn't realize he could run a mile and a half," Frankel said. "We'll keep him at a mile and a quarter or farther. There are so many races back East for him. It's nice to have a speed horse that can go long. These are paceless races."

Midships was always in control of the San Luis Rey. He led by a length under Victor Espinoza for the first mile and pulled away to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Medici Code in the field of five.

Midships, 4, made his third start in California in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap. He was third in the Hollywood Derby last November, but only fourth as the 3-5 favorite in an optional claimer last month.

After the February race, jockey Garrett Gomez told Frankel that he was not happy with his ride.

"After the race, he said he should have let him run," Frankel said Saturday. "In Europe, he went to the lead."

The San Luis Rey was the best result of Midships's career. In Europe, he ran primarily in lucrative handicaps that draw fields a cut below group stakes level. He is proving to be a much better horse in this country.

Noble Court wins stakes on turf

Injuries have kept Noble Court from reaching his full potential. When he does manage a start, there is a 50-50 chance he will win.

Noble Court won his second stakes in Saturday's Joe Hernandez Stakes on the hillside turf course, his first win on turf and his fifth win in 10 starts.

The Hernandez was Noble Court's first start since a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood Stakes last December. He was sidelined with a foot abscess during the winter, trainer John Sadler said.

Earlier in his career, Noble Court, a 5-year-old horse by Doneraile Court, was out of training because of a bruised foot suffered in spring 2007 and a tendon injury in fall 2007.

The Hernandez Stakes victory could lead to a change in career.

"He's had issues with stops and starts in his career," Sadler said. "By winning on turf, it opens up two kinds of races."

Sadler said Noble Court will be considered for the $250,000 Commonwealth Stakes at seven furlongs on Keeneland's Polytrack surface on April 11 or the $100,000 San Simeon Handicap on the hillside turf course here April 18.

* Spring House, who finished last in the San Luis Rey Handicap on Saturday and then was vanned off the course, was reported to be "fine" on Sunday morning by his trainer, Julio Canani. Alex Solis, who rode Spring House, told the track veterinarian he was concerned Spring House had bled.

* Take the Points, preparing for a possible start in the Santa Anita Derby, worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Sunday. He will run here or in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 11 for trainer Todd Pletcher.

* Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Square Eddie, sidelined since late last year, had his first work on the comeback trail Sunday when he breezed three furlongs in 37.40 seconds at Hollywood Park for trainer Doug O'Neill.

* Jockey Alex Solis turns 45 on Wednesday.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen