01/26/2012 1:03PM

Santa Anita: Killer Graces tries to transfer form to dirt in Santa Ysabel


Uneasy lies the crown atop the head of Killer Graces, who ascended to the throne with her victory in the Hollywood Starlet last month.

That win made Killer Graces the West’s top-ranked female among the 3-year-old class of 2012, but when she makes her first start of the new year on Saturday, in the Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes, she will have to prove that she is as effective at Santa Anita as she was at Hollywood Park, where she won three times and finished second twice in five starts last year.

In addition, Killer Graces will have to spot five pounds (123-118) to her six rivals, which include a filly who has beaten her, Charm the Maker, and another, Eden’s Moon, who comes off a maiden win that earned a Beyer Speed Figure faster than anything Killer Graces has recorded in her eight starts.

[SANTA ANITA: Watch video previews and see Saturday's full card live]

To prepare Killer Graces for the new challenge, her trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, brought her over from his usual base at Hollywood Park to Santa Anita, where Killer Graces has turned in a series of sharp works for the 1 1/16-mile Santa Ysabel.

“We’ll see if she likes the racetrack, but, from her works, she handles it fine,” Hollendorfer said Thursday morning. “The test comes when the gate opens. You never know. But if she’s going to run in the major races we have planned for her later on, she’s going to have to transfer to dirt.”

Killer Graces excelled at Hollywood Park, whose Cushion Track surface far more approximates dirt than the Polytrack at Del Mar, where Killer Graces turned in her two worst performances. She has been reliable, starting once a month since her debut in May.

“She’s holding up well,” Hollendorfer said. “She’s very enthusiastic in the mornings, a little on the aggressive side, which we like.”

Charm the Maker has a budding rivalry with Killer Graces. In the Starlet, Killer Graces prevailed by a half-length, but in their prior match, the Sharp Cat, Charm the Maker got the best of Killer Graces. With Garrett Gomez, the regular rider for Charm the Maker, on the sidelines, Rafael Bejarano will take over, and he will have specific instructions.

“She was too close last time,” said Ron McAnally, who trains Charm the Maker for his wife, Debbie. “I want him to rate her.

“Last time, she worked too fast before the race and she was too aggressive. She blew out this morning,” McAnally said, referring to a three-furlong breeze in 36.60 seconds on Thursday, “and went real easy.”

Eden’s Moon jumps into stakes competition following a runaway, 11 1/2-length victory against maidens going one mile on Jan. 8 in her second start. She was defeated sprinting in her debut, but only because she ran into the speedy Reneesgotzip, who came back to win last week’s Santa Ynez Stakes.

“She’s been doing well since her race. We’re looking forward to seeing where she fits,” said Bob Baffert, who trains Eden’s Moon. “She ran a pretty impressive race. All the top fillies in the state of California are in this. There are no easy spots. There’s nowhere else to run.”

Of the other four entrants, the most notable is Willa B Awesome, who was third to Charm the Maker and Killer Graces in the Sharp Cat and comes off a second-place finish to the fleet Ismene in the filly division of the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes on Dec. 26.