01/26/2012 4:10PM

Santa Anita: Halo Dolly looks like new favorite in Valentine Dancer

Benoit & Associates
Halo Dolly, with Joe Talamo riding, wins the Solano Beach.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Unzip Me is expected to skip Saturday’s $100,000 Valentine Dancer Stakes at Santa Anita in favor of Sunday’s $75,000 Wishing Well Stakes on the hillside turf course, trainer Marty Jones said on Thursday.

A nine-time stakes winner in turf sprints, Unzip Me would have been favored in the Valentine Dancer, which is run over a mile on turf for California-bred fillies and mares. Her absence makes the race easier for the remaining nine runners, and arguably a better wagering race.

Jones said the decision to miss the Valentine Dancer in favor of the Wishing Well was made because “it looked like there was a lot of pace in there on Saturday.”

Without Unzip Me, Halo Dolly, the winner of two stakes in the last year, is likely to go favored. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Halo Dolly won the Solana Beach Stakes for California-bred females as a 3-year-old last August. She won her 2012 debut in an allowance race over a mile on the Tapeta Footings synthetic track at Golden Gate Fields on Jan. 15.

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Aside from Halo Dolly, there is further Northern California influence with Antares World, a 5-year-old mare who has won three stakes. Trained by Steve Specht, Antares World and Halo Dolly were first and second in the Pacific Heights Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Golden Gate Fields on Dec. 17.

That distance, and not the one-mile trip of the Valentine Dancer, best suits Antares World, Specht said.

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“She ran a big race,” Specht said of the Pacific Heights. “A mile and a sixteenth to a mile and an eighth is better for her. She’s got the one cruising speed. In a mile race, you get sprinters stretching out. I hope she gets an ideal trip out of it.”

Antares World was second in the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park in July 2010, but is seeking her first win in Southern California in her eighth start on this circuit. Owned by breeders Larry and Marianne Williams, Antares World has won 7 of 21 starts and $378,288.

The pace should be strong in the Valentine Dancer. La Sombre, the winner of an optional claimer for California-breds over about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf on Jan. 7, makes her first start at a mile. California Nectar, the winner of the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes on dirt in January 2011, races near the front. She was seventh in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes here on Dec. 31.