03/07/2013 3:30PM

Santa Anita: Sarach ready for stakes debut in $75,000 China Doll

Shigeki Kikkawa
Flashy Ways, the winner of the Surfer Girl Stakes last October, will make her 2013 debut in Saturday's China Doll Stakes.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The success this year of the 3-year-old filly Sarach is reflective of trainer Richard Mandella’s season at Santa Anita’s winter-spring meeting: The results are well ahead of expectations.

Through Wednesday, Mandella had 11 wins from 34 starters since the meeting began Dec. 26. Sarach has won twice – a maiden race and an allowance race. She makes her stakes debut in Saturday’s $75,000 China Doll Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over a mile on turf.

Owned by Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, Sarach is a top contender in a strong field of 12.

“She’s running better and better,” Mandella said. “Her allowance race was a better race than her maiden. She’s doing well.”

Mandella’s 11 wins have been a surprise. He has won two Grade 1 stakes – the Malibu on Dec. 26 with Jimmy Creed and the Las Virgenes last Saturday with Beholder. The stable has won five allowance races or optional claimers and four maiden races.

“The stable got a little lower than we expected last summer, about 25 horses,” he said. “It’s building back up again. We’ve got about 32. The ones we’ve got are pretty good. We’re about to bring the 2-year-olds in, so that will get going.”

Sarach has an excellent chance to join the list of Mandella’s stakes winners. In both of her wins at the meeting, both in one-mile turf races, she stalked the pace under leading rider Rafael Bejarano before taking the lead in the final furlong. Bejarano has kept the mount for Saturday’s race.

The China Doll drew 13 entrants but will be limited to 12 starters.

Trainer Jim Cassidy starts Seolan, an unbeaten Irish-bred filly who makes her American debut. Owned by Deron Pearson, Seolan won the minor Staffordstown Stud Stakes over a mile at The Curragh in Ireland on Oct. 14. She was purchased for approximately $500,000 later that month.

Cassidy said Seolan has shown enthusiasm in recent workouts.

“She’s really picked it up of late,” he said. “I wasn’t too happy with her early on. Her works weren’t what you would call stellar. She’s a lot more aggressive.”

Cassidy’s winter meeting is a contrast to Mandella’s. His stable is winless from 34 starters.

“I could have had three wins the other day,” he said. “I was beat a half-length, a half-length and a half-length. It’s been tough.”

The China Doll, a prep for the $150,000 Providencia Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf April 7, includes three stakes winners on this course – Flashy Ways in the Surfer Girl Stakes last October, Judy In Disguise in the Sweet Life Stakes on the hillside turf course Feb. 16, and Sky High Gal in the Blue Norther Stakes on Jan. 1.

Flashy Ways has not started since finishing third in the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park last November.

“I think she’s ready,” trainer Richard Baltas said. “She’s pretty fit, and she’s the type of horse that puts a lot into her training. I gave her a break after four hard races as a 2-year-old. Hopefully, she’ll show up.”

Sky High Gal is owned by Kosta Hronis and trained by John Sadler. Sky High Gal made her California debut in the Blue Norther, winning by a nose as the favorite.

The Hronis-Sadler team is seeking its second consecutive win in the China Doll. They won in 2012 with Lady of Shamrock, who later won two Grade 1 races in the summer – the American Oaks and the Del Mar Oaks. Lady of Shamrock is in training for a start later at this meeting.