04/09/2013 12:44PM

Santa Anita: Ex Lover fresh for featured turf mile

Benoit & Associates
Ex Lover is the only entrant in Thursday's feature without a start this year.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Ex Lover has not raced in a year, and at age 6 she is the veteran of the field. Thursday at Santa Anita, the old flame will try again to bang out the first condition.

Ex Lover cannot be ignored in the race-7 feature, a one-mile turf race for first-condition fillies and mares. Ex Lover’s most recent start was last April 22, yet trainer Blake Heap and jockey Tyler Baze both say she is ready to fire first start back.

“On the dirt, her works are bad,” Heap said. “On the grass, she has some nice works.”

That includes a five-furlong turf work April 4. At the finish of the work, Baze had his hands full pulling her up. “Tyler said she wanted to take off, and that was after working five furlongs,” Heap said. “He says she is ready.”

By now, she should be. Ex Lover was injured last spring and spent the final six months of 2012 in Utah, first recovering and then training.

When she returned to Santa Anita in the middle of January, Heap said Utah-based trainer Dave Marshall already had her halfway fit.

“He had her up to a half-mile,” Heap said. “She’s doing very well.”

While Ex Lover’s career has been peppered by layoff lines, one key attribute is that she always fires fresh. She won her debut in 2010, finished third in a comeback race in 2011, and ran second in a comeback in 2012. Previously trained by Jeff Mullins, 1-for-6 Ex Lover will make her first start Thursday for Heap.

Eleven fillies and mares entered the race-7 feature; Ex Lover is the only entrant without a start this year. The $58,000 allowance is a handicapping scramble that seems likely to unfold at an honest pace. Six of the 11 entrants are either front-runners or pace-pressers.

One of the favorites is Top Kisser, an improving California-bred trained by Jerry Hollendorfer. Top Kisser has 2 wins and 2 seconds from 4 starts, including back-to-back front-running wins over maidens and California-bred allowance fillies. Rafael Bejarano rides.

Upset candidates include stretch-runners Dime Piece and Miss Well Molded. Miss Well Molded stretches to two turns after a seventh-place finish in a turf sprint stakes. Trained by Paddy Gallagher, she reunites with Mike Smith, whose five rides on Miss Well Molded produced two wins, two seconds and a third.

Dime Piece finished a better-than-looked fifth last out. A deep closer, she rallied from ninth to fifth in a race won by the pacesetter. Assuming an honest pace Thursday, this John Shirreffs trainee might score an upset under jockey Corey Nakatani.

Other entrants include Melanistic, Thermal Nermal, Nina Nicole, Candy Trophy, Ghost of a Chance, Sassy Suances and Miss Pippa.