09/27/2012 2:53PM

Santa Anita: Include Me Out facing deep field in Zenyatta Stakes

Benoit & Associates
Include Me Out is vulnerable because of a habit of pulling herself up after making the lead.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Include Me Out is already in, and does not need to win.

As for others in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes Saturday at Santa Anita, they have plenty to gain in the $250,000 Win and You’re In Breeders’ Cup prep for the Ladies’ Classic.

It might be a good time to beat the favorite, even though Include Me Out emerged as California queen this year, winning four of five graded stakes, including the Win and You’re In Clement Hirsch last out. But the Zenyatta is a merely a means to an end. It is only a prep race.

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“We’re in a great situation, because it’s not do-or-die for us,” said Include Me Out’s trainer, Ron Ellis. “We’re already in, we’re already paid for. We’re looking for a good race out of her, but I haven’t killed her since her last race. I’ve taken it pretty easy on her.”

That is good news for others in a stellar field with six Grade 1 winners – Include Me Out; Switch, using the route race to prep for the BC Filly and Mare Sprint; Amani, a Chilean dropping from the Pacific Classic; Love and Pride, winner of the Personal Ensign at Saratoga; Love Theway Youare, who upset Include Me Out in June; and Star Billing, a turf filly.

Add to the mix Grade 2 winner Joyful Victory, Grade 3 winner Via Villagio, and graded stakes-placed Miss Mittagong, and the Zenyatta shapes up as the deepest race of the day.

Include Me Out blossomed in winter when she stretched out. She won two Santa Anita route stakes in a romp, and two others by smaller margins later in the year. She is vulnerable, however, because of a habit of pulling herself up after making the lead. Ellis wants jockey Joe Talamo to iron out that idiosyncrasy Saturday by waiting until late in the race to ask.

“I’d like to see him be a little more patient on her because I think he’s been moving way too early,” Ellis said. “Without the pressure of having to win, we can do that. And if we have to adjust at a mile and eighth [in the Ladies’ Classic], we can do that.”

Switch could get the jump Saturday, even if 1 1/16 miles is not ideal for the seven-furlong specialist. “She’s running in the Zenyatta,” trainer John Sadler said. “That doesn’t mean she is running in the Ladies’ Classic. We’ll probably end up in the seven-eighths.”

After two misfires in spring, Switch returned to form in July. She won the Grade 2 A Gleam, a sprint at Betfair Hollywood Park that was a Win and You’re In for the seven-furlong Filly and Mare Sprint, and improved further in her most recent at Del Mar, the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch, a race she lost. Switch set the fastest pace of the meet for 1 1/16 miles (1:10.63), and did not tire until deep stretch.

“She went a little too fast, and didn’t get beat too bad on a track you can’t go those splits on,” Sadler said, looking forward to a return to conventional footing. Santa Anita “is a good track for her, on dirt,” he said.

Garrett Gomez rides Switch, whose pressing style is complemented by a surface that generally favors speed. The last time Switch raced 1 1/16 miles on dirt she earned a 107 Beyer Speed Figure in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in spring 2011.

Amani won 10 of 11 starts in Chile before arriving in the U.S. barn of trainer Neil Drysdale. Third at Del Mar in her U.S. debut, she tried males in the Pacific Classic and finished sixth.

Rafael Bejarano takes over, and Drysdale is another trainer who looks forward to a change in surface. “I would think she would be better on the dirt,” he said. Amani worked a sharp five furlongs on the Santa Anita dirt on Sept. 21.

Two good shippers spice up the field. Todd Pletcher shipped Love and Pride from New York in order to keep her around two turns and familiarize her with the Santa Anita track.

Joyful Victory was sent to California for the same reason – two turns and a prep race over the track. Joyful Victory galloped Thursday at Santa Anita under trainer Larry Jones, who said “It was like galloping on air. She loves it, and I love it.”