01/23/2013 2:46PM

Santa Anita: Ismene the one to catch off long layoff

Shigeki Kikkawa
After missing 2012 because of a knee injury and hind end soreness, Ismene has posted six-furlong workouts in 1:12.40 on Jan. 5 and Jan. 11.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Since the summer of 2011, Ismene has impressed trainer Bill Spawr with nearly all her actions, particularly her workouts and her unbeaten three-race campaign that year.

“I couldn’t believe when we got her at Del Mar,” he said, recalling that season. “I thought something was wrong with my watch.”

Spawr’s watch was fine. Ismene was plain fast, a point proven with two stakes wins in 2011. She missed 2012 because of a knee injury and hind end soreness and makes her 4-year-old debut in an optional claimer over six furlongs at Santa Anita on Friday.

Once again, Ismene has worked quickly in recent weeks, including six-furlong workouts in 1:12.40 on both Jan. 5 and Jan. 11. The works have left Spawr anticipating a top performance from Ismene, who is owned by breeder Stephen Ferraro.

“She was just cruising,” Spawr said. “She’s a natural runner.

“Coming back, she’s more mature. She relaxes and she’s not so tough on herself.”

By Tribal Rule, Ismene beat maidens at Del Mar in her debut and won two stakes at Santa Anita in the fall and early winter of 2011 – the Anoakia Stakes against open company and the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes against California-breds.

In early 2012, she was diagnosed with a bone chip in an ankle. After returning to training, she was diagnosed as sore, which led to another layoff.

Friday, Ismene will be ridden by Mike Smith and will be favored in a field of six. She is likely to race on the lead and could prove difficult to catch.

The optional claimer will be the comeback of Shumoos, who was second against males in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint at Churchill Downs in November 2011. Now trained by Ben Cecil, Shumoos did not start in 2012.

“There were a lot of little issues,” Cecil said, explaining the layoff. “It was a lot of little niggling things. It meant a lot of starting and stopping. I think she will need a race.”

Racing in England in 2011, Shumoos won the Group 3 Sirenia Stakes over six furlongs on a synthetic surface at Kempton Park and was second by a nose in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes over five furlongs on turf at Royal Ascot.

The field includes two fillies who won allowance races in their last starts – Quizzical, trained by Mark Glatt, and Belloma, trained by Dan Hendricks.