07/18/2013 1:24PM

Sacramento: Marks Mine tries older in California State Fair Fillies and Mares Sprint Handicap

Vassar Photography
Marks Mine used her speed to win the Golden Gate Debutante (above), but seems more relaxed entering the $75,000 California State Fair Fillies and Mares Sprint Handicap.

Trainer Steve Specht was surprised when Marks Mine did not grab the lead at the start in the California Wine Stakes at Pleasanton on June 22, but he was not surprised by her strong second-place finish.

On Saturday, 3-year-old Marks Mine will face older fillies and mares for the first time, in the $75,000 California State Fair Fillies and Mares Sprint Handicap in Sacramento. She has seven rivals in the six-furlong race, including fellow 3-year-old Fighting Mean Mad and five-year-old mare English Royal, last year’s runner-up in the race.

“She ran a great race,” said Specht of Marks Mine’s effort in the California Wine Stakes, her first start in 11 weeks.

Tribal Gal outsprinted Marks Mine for the lead, and Frank Alvarado settled Marks Mine just off the pace-setter. Marks Mine took the lead in the stretch but was caught by Let Faith Arise.

Marks Mine earned a career-high 86 Beyer Speed Figure, 6 points higher than she earned in a second-place finish in an optional claimer last year and 8 points higher than she earned in winning the Golden Gate Debutante.

Primarily a sprinter, Marks Mine really had only one other stakes opportunity this summer against her own age group, next Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Wine Country Stakes on the turf at Santa Rosa.

Specht chose the sprint against older rivals, although he would have preferred to have Marks Mine run against her own age group. He said distance and surface played into his decision, not to mention the additional $25,000 in the Sprint purse.

But he is also hoping that Marks Mine’s stalking effort last time marks a shift in style for her.

“When you’re the speed, everyone’s gunning for you just like gunfighters challenging the fastest gun in the old West,” Specht said.

He has had jockeys Alvarado and Abel Cedillo slow her down early in works to work on finishing stronger.

Cedillo, who incurred Specht’s displeasure with a too-fast six-furlong work in 1:11.80 before the California Wine, gave the trainer what he wanted in the filly’s final work for the Sprint.

“I made it clear I did not that I did not want her to fly down the backstretch, and she worked her first three-eighths in 40,” Cedillo said.

Marks Mine, who worked five furlongs, went her final quarter-mile in 22.80 seconds, Specht said.

Specht says older runners such as English Royal, Distinctive Yolie and Going for a Spin will be tough on Saturday. Going for a Spin is a multiple stakes winner, while both English Royal and Distinctive Yolie are stakes-placed, as is Paris in April, who was third behind English Royal in last year’s race.