12/28/2012 2:47PM

Santa Anita: Tiz Flirtatious primed for Frankel Stakes


ARCADIA, Calif. – The winter turf division in California will gain clarity Sunday at Santa Anita, where a good field of fillies and mares races 1 1/8 miles in the Grade 3 Robert J. Frankel Stakes.

The $150,000 stakes is led by three principals – Tiz Flirtatious, Halo Dolly, and Qaraaba. There is little doubt Tiz Flirtatious would be a deserving favorite after missing by a length last month in the Grade 1 Matriarch at Betfair Hollywood Park.

“We were proud of her, it was a lot to ask,” trainer Marty Jones said.

The Matriarch was just her second start following an eight-month break. Stretching from a restricted sprint to a Grade 1 mile, Tiz Flirtatious was forced wide into the backstretch of the Matriarch, rallied from nine back, and galloped out powerfully after the wire.

“With a little luck, she might have won,” Jones said.

Tiz Flirtatious, owned by breeder Pamela Ziebarth, will have plenty of winning chances in the months ahead. A fresh filly with four wins from six starts, Tiz Flirtatious should have her best year in 2013, at age 5.

“She seems like she has matured a lot,” Jones said. “She’s more relaxed and happier in what she is doing.”

Early in her career, Tiz Flirtatious pulled hard and was unsettled. With experience, she has learned to settle early and kick late.

Rafael Bejarano rides Tiz Flirtatious, who shipped Thursday from her Hollywood base.

The top two Frankel choices are California-breds. Tiz Flirtatious was sired by Tizbud; Halo Dolly is a 14-for-24 pro sired by Popular. Jerry Hollendorfer trains Halo Dolly, whose last start was a minor stakes win Oct. 20 at Golden Gate.

Joe Talamo rides Halo Dolly, a Grade 2 winner with a pressing style that should lead to a good trip near a potentially soft pace. Halo Dolly carries top weight of 124 pounds.

The deepest turf roster in California is housed in the Simon Callaghan stable. His three Frankel runners are Qaraaba, Camelia Rose, and Imperialistic Diva. In coming weeks, Callaghan turf stakes starters will include Byrama, Slim Shadey, Strong Suit, and Rhythm of Light.

Callaghan hopes longshot Imperialistic Diva can hit the board.

“Our aim is to achieve graded black type,” Callaghan said. “She runs her best races fresh.”

Imperialistic Diva will race for the first time since late October. David Flores will ride.

Camelia Rose was billed as a top prospect when she made her U.S. debut for Callaghan in March. Eight starts later, she is still looking for her first stateside win.

“Frustrating is the right word,” Callaghan said. “She absolutely fits [in the Frankel]. We probably ran her back a tad quick in the allowance race, and she didn’t bring her ‘A’ game.”

Camelia Rose finished third at odds-on Oct. 19 in a second-level allowance. Freshened since, Callaghan expects a top effort first start back. Mario Gutierrez will ride.

Qaraaba, 6 for 14, looks best of the Callaghan trio, though the Frankel represents a major class hike after a second-level allowance win in her U.S. debut Nov. 15.

“She’d been working like a really good filly and did what we hoped she would do,” Callaghan said.

Qaraaba broke slowly, trailed by 13 lengths, and unleashed an impressive turn of late speed to win going away. Targeted for the Frankel since then, Qaraaba has had six weeks between starts and should reproduce top form.

Others starters in the Frankel, race 8, include Hard to Resist, I Dazzle, Vivo Per Lei, and More Chocolate.