12/30/2011 4:07PM

Santa Anita: Rumor tops comebackers in Kalookan Queen Handicap

Benoit & Associates
Rumor (left) wins the CERF Stakes on Sept. 7. She returns to action in the Kalookan Queen.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Rumor, a stakes winner at Del Mar in September, makes her first start in nearly four months in Sunday’s $75,000 Kalookan Queen Handicap at Santa Anita.

The race is designed as a prep for the $300,000 Santa Monica Stakes, a Grade 1 over seven furlongs, but trainer Richard Mandella is somewhat reluctant to think that far ahead with Rumor.

“She’s just kind of delicate,” Mandella said.

Rumor has won half of her six starts since an impressive debut in a maiden race over six furlongs at Santa Anita on Dec. 31, 2010. She won that race by 6 3/4 lengths in 1:07.97, leaving high expectations for 2011.

“The track was not real that day,” Mandella said of the time.

Rumor has won two of her last three starts. In the CERF Stakes over six furlongs at Del Mar on Sept. 7, Rumor was near the lead throughout and won by a nose over Salty Sarah. Describing her absence in recent months, Mandella reaffirmed his previous thought.

“She’s delicate,” he said. “She’s run well most times.”

The Kalookan Queen is run over 6 1/2 furlongs, and Rumor will be tested by another filly returning from a break in Saint Isabelle, who is trained by Mike Puype. Saint Isabelle won both of her starts in 2011, including the minor Time to Leave Stakes over five furlongs at Hollywood Park on May 1, her most recent race.

There are two other prominent fillies and mares in the field of nine returning from layoffs. Equitana, trained by A.C. Avila, has not started since winning a Group 1 race against males on turf in Brazil last May. The talented Big Tiz also makes a comeback, having finished second in the Grade 3 Railbird Stakes at Hollywood Park last May.