04/04/2013 3:04PM

Santa Anita: O'Neill has two serious Providencia threats


ARCADIA, Calif. – Birdlover is a threat from the front, and Wittgenstein can win from off the pace. Trainer Doug O’Neill has two formidable starters in Saturday’s $150,000 Providencia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita, but is not willing to choose which of the fillies he prefers in the Grade 3 Providencia over 1 1/8 miles on turf.

“I’m not going to touch that,” O’Neill said. “They’re both coming off wins.”

Birdlover led throughout the China Doll Stakes over a mile on turf on March 9, winning by 1 1/2 lengths in her 2013 stakes debut. The Providencia is her first start in a graded stakes since a fourth in the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park last November in her American debut. Birdlover won a maiden race in England last October.

Birdlover, who will be ridden by Edwin Maldonado, led by as many as two lengths in the China Doll and outran runner-up Magnificent Shirl, another starter in the Providencia .

“I don’t think she needs to be in front,” O’Neill said. “I think we’ll go for it. Edwin is confident that she can [lead] if we can get it.”

Wittgenstein, who will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez, was a maiden when she arrived from England last summer. She was an unlucky third in the Blue Norther Stakes over a mile on turf here on Jan. 1 and won a first-condition allowance race over 1 1/8 miles on turf here on March 21 in her fourth start of the year.

O’Neill has focused on turf with Wittgenstein this year after running her on dirt and synthetic main tracks in three of her first four starts in the country.

“She came here highly rated,” O’Neill said. “She worked so well (on the main track) that I kept thinking that was an option for her. I think she’s a two-turn turf horse.”

The Providencia drew a strong group of fillies. Sarach is likely to race closer to the pace than in her fifth-place finish in the China Doll, trainer Richard Mandella said. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer starts Magnificent Shirl and Scarlet Strike, who was beaten a nose in the Blue Norther and has been third in her last two starts on dirt – the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes on Jan. 26 and the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes on March 2.

Fed Biz eyes turf stakes win

Fed Biz, the winner of the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes on the main track in January, can win the first turf stakes of his 10-race career in Saturday’s $75,000 Thunder Road Stakes over a mile.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Fed Biz was third in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf on March 2 in his career debut on the surface. A 4-year-old, Fed Biz is part of a field of 10 in the Thunder Road, which is Saturday’s sixth race, the first leg of the pick six.

The field includes Battle Force, second in the Grade 2 Sir Beaufort Stakes over a mile on Dec. 26, and Wilkinson, who won the Grade 2 American Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park last May but is winless in his last three starts. Wilkinson was seventh in the Kilroe Mile.