03/08/2012 2:29PM

Santa Anita: Indigo River gets tested for stamina in China Doll

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Indigo River won the Sweet Life down the hill last month and now stretches out to a mile for the China Doll.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Indigo River had little difficulty winning her first two starts in the United States – an optional claimer in January and the Sweet Life Stakes last month. Those races were sprints on the hillside turf course, and they lead to her first start at a mile on turf in Saturday’s $70,000 China Doll Stakes at Santa Anita.

“This will see if she’ll settle and go two turns,” trainer Jeff Mullins said. “The pedigree says she will, but that doesn’t always mean everything.”

By the Danehill stallion Kodiac, Indigo River began her career in Ireland where she had one win in three starts – a maiden race over seven furlongs last August.

In her two California starts, Indigo River has stalked the pace and taken the lead in the final sixteenth, winning comfortably under leading rider Joel Rosario.

“The first time we basically gave her a race and she won,” Mullins said. “I told [Rosario] not to move until she crossed the dirt. She definitely moved forward the next race.”

Owned by Michael House, Indigo River has won 3 of 5 starts and $98,106.

The China Doll has nine 3-year-old fillies, two of which are stakes winners.

Lady of Shamrock won the Blue Norther Stakes over a mile on turf here on Dec. 30 and was third in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes on the main track a month later. Lady of Fifty won three consecutive stakes at Golden Gate Fields from November to late January and was sixth against males in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 18.

Brother Francis in maiden race

Brother Francis, third in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park in December, will be heavily favored to win a maiden race over a mile on turf in Saturday’s second race.

Trainer Jim Cassidy envisions Saturday’s maiden race as a prep for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7, whether Brother Francis wins or loses. Another option would have been the much tougher $300,000 San Felipe Stakes for 3-year-olds over 1 1/16 miles on Saturday.

“I think it’s a good spot for him, rather than the San Felipe,” Cassidy said. “If he takes to the grass like he does everything else, it will set him up perfectly for the Santa Anita Derby.”

Owned by Norman Cheng, Brother Francis was ill for three weeks in January, Cassidy said. The trainer’s confidence grew after Brother Francis worked six furlongs in 1:12 on Feb. 29.