02/22/2013 4:51PM

Santa Anita: Bargain claim Stoney Fleece cuts back to turf sprint in Sensational Star


ARCADIA, Calif. – Thinking about the $100,000 Sensational Star Stakes on Sunday at Santa Anita gave trainer John Sadler a chance to recall a tough beat that occurred 20 years ago.

Sadler still finds it hard to believe Gold Fleece lost the Grade 1 Gamely Handicap in 1993 at Hollywood Park.

“My mare ran [1:45-and-change] for a mile and an eighth, and Toussaud beat her,” Sadler said, shaking his head. “Toussaud – remember how good she was?

Toussaud was timed in 1:45 in the Gamely, which was the final start for Sadler-trained Gold Fleece, a 6-for-17 graded stakes winner who finished a length back. Even now, Sadler admits, “I have a soft spot for [Gold Fleece].”

Following her racing career, broodmare Gold Fleece produced nine winners, including seven multiple winners and two graded stakes. That includes Sensational Star entrant Stoney Fleece, who started out in a maiden claiming race at Del Mar in the summer of 2011.

Sadler recognized the colt’s dam was Gold Fleece and knew he had to claim him. He took Stoney Fleece for $40,000 for owners Gary and Cecil Barber. Stoney Fleece won first out, went to Sadler afterward, and has made 15 starts for his current connections, including four wins, and has career earnings of $319,058.

“He’s been a great claim for us,” Sadler said. “We ran him a lot, and made a lot of money.”

Stoney Fleece might add to the total Sunday at Santa Anita. A 4-year-old by Decarchy, he is among the contenders in the $100,000 Sensational Star Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong turf sprint for California-breds that is the second start back for Stoney Fleece.

“Last summer, he kind of told me he’d had enough,” Sadler explained as reason for a layoff from August to January. Racing 1 1/8 miles in his Jan. 26 comeback, Stoney Fleece finished four lengths behind John Scott in the $100,000 Crystal Water. He shortens to a sprint in race 8 Sunday.

“Even though he went long the other day, he’s very versatile on grass,” Sadler said. “He got beat four lengths off the long layoff, and he was second down the hill once.”

That was a year ago in a stakes for 3-year-olds.

On Sunday, Stoney Fleece and jockey Edwin Maldonado face a decent group of veterans in the Sensational Star. Eight entered; a case can be made for most in the field.

Circa’sgoldengear is the tepid 7-2 favorite on Santa Anita linemaker Jon White’s odds line. He benefits from a recent prep against open company, and his front-running/pace-pressing style puts him at a tactical advantage over Stoney Fleece.

The downhill course recently has favored horses with tactical speed; Circas’sgoldengear will be forwardly placed under Joe Talamo. The gelding is trained by Blake Heap.

Ain’t No Other and Cat Talk are co-second choices at 4-1, along with Stoney Fleece. Ain’t No Other finished fifth behind Circa’sgoldengear last out; Cat Talk upset a second-level allowance last out in 1:11.17, the second-fastest turf sprint of the meet.

Maui Mark is an 11-for-29 pro; A Toast to You has a win and a second in two allowance turf sprints this winter; Starspangled Heat will roll late; Northern California-based front-runner Coach Bob helps ensure an honest pace.