04/13/2011 3:01PM

Santa Anita: Bejarano chooses Turning Top for Santa Barbara Handicap

Shigeki Kikkawa
Rafael Bejarano rides Malibu Pier to victory in the Grade  2 Santa Ana Stakes at Santa Anita on March 19. Bejarano has opted to ride the second-place finisher in that race, Turning Top, in Saturday’s Santa Barbara Handicap.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Jockey Rafael Bejarano rode Malibu Pier to a victory in the Grade 2 Santa Ana Stakes at Santa Anita last month but will ride the runner-up from that race, Turning Top, in Saturday’s $150,000 Santa Barbara Handicap.

Bejarano’s decision stunned Carla Gaines, who trains Malibu Pier for Spendthrift Farm.

“No one gives my horse any credit,” she said Wednesday. Regarding Bejarano, she said, “He’s pretty much my stable jockey.”

In the Grade 2 Santa Barbara, which is run over 1 1/4 miles on turf, Malibu Pier will be ridden by Brice Blanc. It will be the first time Blanc has ridden the 4-year-old filly.

Bejarano will ride Turning Top for the first time in the Santa Barbara, a decision reached after he worked the mare earlier this month, according to his agent, Joe Ferrer.

“It’s tough to take off a filly that you just won on,” Ferrer said of Malibu Pier. “We weren’t sure that Carla was going to go. I think they’re both equally good fillies. Turning Top is proven at a mile and a quarter.”

Malibu Pier won the Santa Ana Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf by a length over Turning Top, who bobbled on the final turn when she lost her footing for a few strides. Simon Callaghan trains Turning Top and said the Santa Barbara distance is a good fit.

“A mile and a quarter is probably our best distance,” he said.

The Santa Barbara is the championship race of the meeting for turf females. The race also will include the highly regarded Cozi Rosie, who won the Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap over a mile on Feb. 21, as well as the optional claiming race winners Andina and Calle Vista; and Restless Soul, who won the Yerba Buena Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in 2009.

Gaines said that Malibu Pier has excelled since the Santa Ana, which makes the longer Santa Barbara Handicap an achievable goal.

“My filly has just turned upside down, she’s training so well,” Gaines said. “This is the time to try it.”

San Juan Capistrano lacks standout

Sunday’s $150,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap over about 1 3/4 miles on turf lacks a standout. Bourbon Bay, who won the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes in January, and Champ Pegasus, who won the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Stakes in February, were unplaced in the $5 million Sheema Classic in Dubai last month and will not start.

Haimish Hy, winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby but winless in three starts at this meeting, is the 119-pound highweight. Trained by Art Sherman, Haimish Hy is expected to face Dahoud, Falcon Rock, Imponente Purse, Interpatation, Juniper Pass, Power Series, and Quindici Man.

Santa Anita’s turf course underwent a procedure Monday to improve footing on the turn where three horses slipped or bobbled during races Sunday.

Director of racing Mike Harlow said the procedure, which aerates the surface, was designed to “soften the base” and allow the horses “to get into it a little bit more.”

A similar procedure was conducted on the week of March 21 after the Santa Ana Stakes when Turning Top and another mare had trouble with footing on the turn. There are three turf races Friday, with the temporary rails set 15 feet from the inside of the course.

◗ Twirling Candy, fifth as the favorite in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 5, popped an abscess in a foot earlier this week and will miss the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood Park on May 7, trainer John Sadler said. Sadler said the injury was not severe and that Twirling Candy remains a candidate for the $500,000 Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park on May 30.

“The race is still possible,” he said.

◗ Trainer Robert Troeger was fined $500 by Santa Anita stewards last weekend after one of his starters, Papa Terry, tested positive for the muscle relaxant Methocarbamol following a win in a maiden claimer for sprinters on Feb. 25.

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