09/28/2011 2:22PM

Santa Anita: Maddy no walk in park for Unzip Me

Benoit & Associates
Unzip Me is 5 for 7 over Santa Anita's downhill turf course and will be favored in Friday's Grade 3 Sen. Ken Maddy.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita buried the main attraction Friday way up in race 3. It is too bad, because the Grade 3 Sen. Ken Maddy is a good race with Breeders’ Cup ramifications, and would have been a terrific feature positioned in the traditional race-8 slot.

Instead the Maddy goes early, before the pick-six sequence, which begins a race later. The placement is odd. Unzip Me deserves favoritism, but she is not a lock against a tough rival in Tanda.

Santa Anita director of racing Mike Harlow expected to take heat for scheduling the Maddy early.

“Under most circumstances, I want to keep people here,” he said. “But it was a struggle where to put the race. [Unzip Me] dominates that field at those weights.”

From a business perspective, Harlow said the second-level turf allowance that is race 8 “seemed like a better betting race.” As for the perceived dominance of Unzip Me, others may disagree.

Six fillies and mares entered the 6 1/2-furlong race on the downhill course. The field includes likely pacesetter Separate Forest, first across the wire in three of four on the hill, in addition to stakes winners Broken Dreams, Waveline and Givine.

None has a course record that compares to Unzip Me’s 5-for-7 mark. She loves the layout.

“She does, but she’s pretty much run well over every course,” trainer Marty Jones said.

Unzip Me, 5, has won 12 races and $812,228 from 21 starts, and is trying to return to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, a race in which she finished a troubled third a year ago.

She does not have to win Friday to get there.

“She has to run a good race and come out of it well,” Jones said. “If something happens and she got beat, it wouldn’t change what we think about her. She’s already earned her way there. We know what she is.”

So does everyone else, and while her most recent win Aug. 14 marked a return to top form for Unzip Me, she is not the only sharp graded stakes winner in the field. The other is Tanda, also no stranger to the hill.

Trainer Dan Hendricks developed Tanda from maiden to graded stakes winner, but when her 4-year-old campaign stalled in summer, her owners changed trainers.

In her first start for Mike Mitchell on Aug. 21, Tanda won the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo on Polytrack at Del Mar. It was her first win in more than a year, and put her on target for the BC Filly and Mare Sprint on dirt. So why go back to turf?

“I don’t have to ship, and she’s already won two off the hill,” Mitchell said, conceding nothing. “It’s kind of funny that [Tanda] is giving weight to Unzip Me [123-120], but three pounds in a race like this doesn’t mean much. It’s going to be a good horse race.”

A 4-year-old, Tanda has won five races and $346,626 from 12 starts, and Mitchell said, “We’re trying to put the Breeders’ Cup in our sights; I want to get a good race in her.”

The likely pacesetter is Separate Forest, trained by Doug O’Neill. She crossed the wire first in three of her four starts on the hill; a medication violation led her to be disqualified once. Givine, 6 for 13, lost a shoe last out, and could rebound.