04/14/2011 2:19PM

Santa Anita: Cozi Rosie stretches out in Santa Barbara Handicap


ARCADIA, Calif. – It is not just 3-year-olds colts and geldings who are being tested over 1 1/4 miles this spring.

In Saturday’s $150,000 Santa Barbara Handicap for fillies and mares at Santa Anita, Cozi Rosie will try 1 1/4 miles on turf for the first time. If the 4-year-old filly is successful, she is likely to be campaigned in some of the nation’s leading turf races for older females this year.

“I’m anxious to see how she runs,” trainer John Sadler said. “I think she can handle the distance.”

Cozi Rosie is so highly regarded by jockey Mike Smith that he has remained in California for the race and will not ride important 3-year-old stakes at Keeneland (Blue Grass Stakes) or Oaklawn Park (Arkansas Deby) on Saturday.

Cozi Rosie earned Smith’s respect last year when he rode her to a win in the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes and a second in the Honeymoon Handicap, losing by a head to the multiple Grade 1 winner Evening Jewel. Cozi Rosie was the morning-line favorite for the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park last summer but was withdrawn the day before the race because of injury.

Owned by breeders Jerry and Ann Moss, Cozi Rosie made her 2011 debut in the Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap over a mile on turf here Feb. 21, rallying from seventh to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

“She came back better than expected from the break,” Sadler said.

Cozie Rosie could have run in the Grade 2 Santa Ana Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf on March 18. The first two finishers of that race – Malibu Pier and Turning Top – also are contenders in the six-runner Santa Barbara.

Malibu Pier won by a length while racing on or near the lead throughout the Santa Ana, while Turning Top closed from third to be second, despite bobbling severely when she lost her footing on the turn.

Jockey Rafael Bejarano rode Malibu Pier in the Santa Ana but has opted to ride Turning Top. Brice Blanc will ride Malibu Pier for the first time Saturday.

Trainer Simon Callaghan thinks the trouble cost Turning Top in the Santa Ana. Last summer, the 5-year-old mare won the Grade 3 Beverly Hills Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Hollywood Park.

“Maybe we were the just winner of the last race, that’s down to opinion, and we’re proven at the distance,” he said.

Trainer Carla Gaines insists that Malibu Pier is ready for her start over 1 1/4 miles. Earlier this week, Gaines said she was delighted by Malibu Pier’s “demeanor.”

“Her breezes have been super,” Gaines said. “She’s a small, light filly, and she doesn’t need a lot of training. I’ll give it a try.”