02/09/2011 5:28PM

Rumor finds a spot against the boys at Santa Anita

Benoit & Associates
Bench Points will make his first start in open company and first start since September on Friday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Rumor won so impressively in her debut Dec. 31 that just about every trainer and jockey agent who might have had to run against her in a first-level allowance for fillies has avoided her, the result being that female races for which she was eligible have not been carded. So when a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds came up on Friday at Santa Anita, trainer Richard Mandella decided to stop waiting around.

Rumor will take on five males in the day’s featured seventh race, a six-furlong $56,000 optional claimer that also includes another recent maiden winner – the colt Da Ruler – and the comebacking Bench Points, a stakes winner against California-breds last year.

Two of the entrants, El Gaucho and Polished Nickel, are eligible to be claimed for $80,000. The other four are using their allowance conditions.

Rumor overpowered her six rivals first time out, winning by 6 3/4 lengths while zipping six furlongs in 1:07.97. She was geared down late, earned an 85 Beyer Figure, and looked worth every bit of the $440,000 she cost as a yearling. Trouble was, everybody saw the race and knew where she was likely to run next, so they stayed away.

“I couldn’t get a filly race to go,” Mandella said. “This race against colts came up at the last minute. It’s out of desperation. But I expect she’d run well anywhere.”

Rumor figures to be challenged on the front end by Da Ruler, who scored a similar front-running victory against maidens in his debut Jan. 16, earning a 92 Beyer.

Also figuring to be part of the pace is Polished Nickel, who showed improved speed when blinkers were added for a victory against maiden claimers in his last start.

If they go too fast too soon, Bench Points could be along in time. He used his late-running style to win all three of his starts last year, all against Cal-breds, including the Graduation Stakes and the I’m Smokin Stakes at Del Mar. This will be his first start in open company. He has not raced since September because of surgery to remove a chip in his left knee.

“Touch wood, everything has come along great,” said Tim Yakteen, who trains Bench Points. “I like the maturity I’ve seen.”

Yakteen acknowledged that the race came up stronger than normal.

“It’s a great race,” he said. “There are some very talented individuals in there. It’s a great spot for us to come back in. We’re looking at this as a stepping-stone to trying two turns.”