01/22/2013 3:19PM

Santa Anita: Gladding a worthy favorite in first start for Mitchell

Marcel Langevin/Vassar Photography
Gladding is one of three graded stakes winners in Thursday's seventh race at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Cautious bettors can play it safe Thursday at Santa Anita by wagering on Gladding, an honest 6-year-old who is as real as real can get.

“What you see is what you get,” trainer Mike Mitchell said.

That might be good enough. Runner-up 12 days ago in a fast sprint from which he was claimed for $62,500 by Mitchell and owner Jeffrey Sengara, Gladding wheels back as one of the favorites in race 7, a second-level optional claiming mile race.

“He should be [a favorite], because you can see what he does long,” Mitchell said. “I would think he would mile better than short. But it’s a real tough race to handicap.”

Gladding is one of three graded stakes winners in the field. Gladding won the Grade 2 San Antonio at Santa Anita, Blueskiesnrainbows won the Grade 2 Swaps at Betfair Hollywood Park, and Castaway won the Grade 3 Southwest at Oaklawn Park.

Blueskiesnrainbows recently was transferred to Jerry Hollendorfer, who also entered Kate’s Event. Bob Baffert entered Castaway and Sky Kingdom. John Sadler entered Phantom Lover and Java Man. Boxeur des Rues is also entered.

The horse to beat is 4-for-19 Gladding, runner-up to Midnight Transfer Jan. 12. Sengara, whose best horses were claimers-turned-graded-winners Budroyale and Bluesthestandard, thought Gladding was worth the $62,500 claim price. Mitchell agreed.

“He’s a racehorse,” Mitchell said, “He was a racehorse without me having him. And he was running great for [Sadler].”

Gladding made nine starts for Sadler and owners Lee and Susan Searing, winning three, including the 2011 San Antonio. This winter at age 6 it made sense to run the gelding for a claiming price. Sadler said he was not surprised Gladding was claimed.

“I wasn’t shocked, because he’s a good horse,” Sadler said. “I was disappointed to lose him only because I like him, but from a management [perspective] I am okay with it. He’s not particularly good on synthetic, and we have two meets after this on synthetic.”

Meanwhile, Gladding has three months of dirt racing ahead of him until the spring meet at Betfair Hollywood Park begins in late April.

Thursday, Aaron Gryder rides Gladding, a front-runner facing at least two other front-runners – Castaway and Blueskiesnrainbows.

Gladding is the only Thursday entrant who has earned a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure on dirt, something he has done twice including the sprint 12 days ago. As for wheeling back on short notice, no problem according to Mitchell.

“I told Jeff, I wouldn’t enter if I thought he wouldn’t run really well,” Mitchell said.

Blueskiesnrainbows has been training super since joining the Hollendorfer stable, and will be racing on the Santa Anita dirt for the first time since finishing third in the Santa Anita Derby last April. Rafael Bejarano rides Blueskiesnrainbows.

Baffert’s two Thursday runners have complementary styles. “Castaway, he’s speed. Sky Kingdom, he’s a closer,” Baffert said. Castaway makes his first start since April, while Sky Kingdom has not raced since February. Baffert said “Castaway is doing really well” for his comeback.