01/24/2013 5:54PM

Santa Anita: Escape Act, Heir Kitty switch to dirt for Santa Ysabel


ARCADIA, Calif. – Escape Act and Heir Kitty will aim for better racing luck Saturday at Santa Anita, where they switch from turf to dirt for the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Six entered the Santa Ysabel, race 4, including impressive maiden winner Branding and Grade 1-placed Scarlet Strike. Branding wheels back in 14 days and stretches to two turns, while Scarlet Strike missed by a nose last out in the $82,000 Blue Norther, a turf race that Escape Act and Heir Kitty would just as soon forget.

Escape Act stumbled at the start and was wide throughout in the $82,000 Blue Norther, finishing fourth by a neck. It was legitimate trouble for a well-bred filly expected to push the pace.

“She stumbled at the start, otherwise she would have,” trainer Gary Stute said. I thought she ran a winning race.”

Escape Act, by Medaglia d’Oro and out of Del Mar Debutante winner Miss Houdini, could get an easy trip Saturday with a clean takeoff. The field for the Santa Ysabel is short on speed. Escape Act, 1 for 4, and jockey Martin Garcia could potentially be loose.

While Escape Act lost her chance early in the Blue Northern, Heir Kitty lost her chance late. She was blocked from the quarter pole to the wire in the one-mile turf race. Garrett Gomez never had a chance.

“He had nowhere to run the whole way down the stretch,” trainer Peter Miller said. It was not an exaggeration. Heir Kitty finished fifth by one length. Saturday she switches to the main track for the first time.

“She’s run well on turf, at Hollywood and at Del Mar,” Miller said.

“She might be the type that will run on everything. And mud shouldn’t hurt her.” Heir Kitty was sired by Wildcat Heir and is out of a Silver Buck mare. Bred for wet, she is not likely to have trouble from the outside post in the small field.

Gary Stevens, who rode Escape Act’s dam, Miss Houdini, in the 2002 Del Mar Debutante, rides Branding in the Santa Ysabel. She returned from a layoff of more than six months with a dominating maiden victory Jan. 12, the first win for Stevens since resuming his career.

Branding is trained by Tom Proctor, and is the only Santa Ysabel starter who has won on dirt. Sired by Street Sense, and from a top female family, the challenge facing Branding is reproducing her performance while wheeling back in 14 days.

Fiftyshadesofhay and Switch to the Lead also entered.