01/08/2010 12:00AM

Plenty to like about Zilva in stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Zilva (left) figures to be in a good spot in Sunday's Grade 3 Santa Ysabel.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - I'm usually a big fan of early speed, but when recent results point in a different direction I'm always willing to pay attention. Horses with early speed have been less effective than usual in route races at Santa Anita, and closers have been the main beneficiaries. When the horse who looks best on paper also has the preferred running style, that's a powerful combination. Zilva fits that profile Sunday in the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Santa Ysabel.

She was in 10th place at the first call against Grade 1 company in 12-horse fields in each of her last two races. She rallied to finish fourth, just a head behind the third-place finisher, two races ago at Keeneland in the Alcibiades. She was dismissed as a 25-1 longshot last time in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. She rallied along the rail turning for home, was forced to alter her course repeatedly, swung out to find room in midstretch, and was going well at the end to finish seventh, beaten by only 2 1/2 lengths. Given the advantage of a class drop, a much smaller six-horse field that makes a better trip likely, and a track bias that figures to favor her running style, Zilva is the filly to beat in this race.

Whispering Hush also has the right running style as a probable closer. Although she graduated in her first try on the turf two races ago, her previous form on this synthetic track was good when she rallied from ninth to finish a solid third going seven furlongs in the California Cup Juvenile Fillies. She ran respectably on grass on the jump to this class level last time in the Miesque, so I'm satisfied that she fits here on class.

Crisp has tactical speed, but she is still an interesting possibility to hold on well enough to participate in the exotics. She stretched out from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles last time against maidens in her second career start. She tracked the early speed in second, then bore out badly while drifting out to the eight or nine path turning for home. Most fillies would not have been able to recover from a mistake like that, but she settled down and rallied very impressively to win the race by three-quarters of a length, going away, without being asked for her best effort.

Evening Jewel, Harissa, and Ellafitz are all capable of making their presence felt, especially if the track bias is kinder to their early and tactical speed running styles than it has been recently, but I prefer the others.

I'll bet on Zilva to win, and I'll play her on top in the exacta over Whispering Hush and Crisp.

Ft. Lauderdale: Speed from inside

There is another Grade 3 stakes race scheduled on Sunday. The Ft. Lauderdale is a 1 1/16-mile turf stakes at Gulfstream that has attracted a very competitive field of 14 4-year-olds and up.

A reasonable case can be made for many of these runners to win and for most of them to be competitive in the exotics. I'll give the call to Jet Propulsion, who is stepping up in class following an allowance win and a victory in a $50,000 third-level optional claiming race, both run at Calder. He earned competitive Beyer Speed Figures in those wins and was claimed from that last race for $50,000 by trainer Marty Wolfson. He's the speed from an inside post and might be sharp enough to get the job done at a square price despite the class jump.

Mambo Meister finished fifth, two lengths behind the winner, as a 44-1 longshot in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. He won't mind returning to the turf and figures to be a major player when he rallies from midpack. He's my second selection.

A number of closers in this field have perfectly legitimate chances, but the concern is that they'll probably have to either fight their way through traffic or race wide when they launch their bids in this large field. Vacation finished fourth of six on the dirt against Grade 1 rivals in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. He's about as good on grass as he is on dirt and synthetic surfaces, so a good try is likely on the class drop. He'll probably be in the rear half of the pack early, but he should still be within reasonable striking distance. I'll pick him third.