07/10/2009 12:00AM

Patricia's Gem good enough to keep rising

Email

Of the eight fillies and mares entered in the Grade 2, $250,000 Royal Heroine Mile on Saturday at Hollywood Park, just one has never competed in a stakes race. But that filly, Patricia's Gem, has been so impressive moving up the class ladder in her three starts this year that she stands a terrific chance to pull off a mild upset in the one-mile grass race, which goes as the 10th race on an 11-race card highlighted by the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup.

The Royal Heroine was in recent years known as the CashCall Mile, and while the purse may have been cut, the class of horses remains high. The field includes Tuscan Evening and Gotta Have Her, who ran one-two in the Redondo Beach Stakes five weeks ago, and Visit, who has been facing the elite of this division yet is still seeking her first stakes win in this country.

Patricia's Gem, 4, does not come into the race with those kinds of credentials. But hopes have been high for the daughter of Mineshaft ever since she was purchased as a 2-year-old in training for $1.75 million by owner B. Wayne Hughes. After a pair of starts on the main track at 2, she was sidelined for 17 months with a minor injury near her pelvis, but since returning, she has been perfect in three grass races, winning by daylight each time.

"I do think she's this good," Richard Mandella, who trains Patricia's Gem, said on Thursday morning. "She won her last race like there was a lot more there. She's a very talented filly with a lot of class. This is a big step. I'm looking forward to it.

"I don't think turf has made the difference. It's just that a turf race came up when she was ready to run, and I didn't mind running her on it. When she works on the main track, she works like a monster. Now I'm like, 'Why mess with it?' "

Patricia's Gem has won her last two races from gate to wire, but she figures to have company up front on Saturday. Both Zardana and Tuscan Evening, who break from either side of Patricia's Gem, also have early speed, so the tactics used by the riders on those three horses could significantly impact the pace.

Tuscan Evening got a fairly soft trip in the Redondo Beach, her fourth victory in five starts since being imported from her native Ireland.

Gotta Have Her finished furiously in the Redondo Beach, which, like the Royal Heroine, is at a mile on turf. Gotta Have Her has finished first or second in her last five starts.

"She runs well every time," said her trainer, Jenine Sahadi. "It looks like it sets up for her on paper, but I thought that last time, and nobody went with Tuscan Evening."

Visit was a close second in the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes in her last start when ridden for the first time by Brice Blanc. Though winless in six starts in this country, she has come close on several occasions, including a third-place finish in the Matriarch Stakes over this course and distance last fall.

"She's difficult to ride," said Humberto Ascanio, the top assistant to Visit's trainer, Bobby Frankel. "She's real keen early in the race. Brice did a good job with her. That was one of her best races."

:: VIDEO: (DRF Plus)