02/14/2012 1:46PM

Santa Anita: Twelve Folds looks fastest in stakes prep

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Twelve Folds was a distant fifth in a turf route.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The expansion of the California-bred stakes program commences March 31 at Santa Anita with a pair of $200,000 sprints for statebred 3-year-olds – the Evening Jewel Stakes for fillies, and the Echo Eddie Stakes for either gender.

Though now is only the middle of February, it is appropriate to consider both 6 1/2-half furlong sprint stakes next month. That is because key prep races for the Evening Jewel and Echo Eddie will be run this week at Santa Anita.

An allowance sprint for California-bred 3-year-old fillies is the race-7 feature Thursday; a similar allowance with colts and geldings is race 2 Friday.

Twelve Folds is the fastest filly Thursday in race 7, a first-level allowance sprint. Her name should be familiar, because she ran just two weeks ago in a turf route. She bombed. Twelve Folds set the pace and surrendered in the lane, finishing a distant fifth.

Trainer Mike Machowsky said jockey Martin Pedroza told him surface was the culprit. “Marty said she wasn’t handling the grass, and he just took care of her. He said she just wasn’t comfortable on the grass.”

Machowsky is already looking beyond Thursday. “Hopefully she comes out of this race good, and then we’ll look at the [Evening Jewel on March 31],” he said.

Twelve Folds returns to her element Thursday, a dirt sprint in which she faces six others. Runner-up in her first two starts, Twelve Folds put it all together Jan. 8 when she won a main-track maiden sprint by more than eight lengths. Based on that 97-Beyer Figure crusher, Twelve Folds is the likely winner Thursday even while wheeling back in two weeks.

The race, however, includes a sharp Northern California shipper who can give the local filly a battle. Steve Sherman trains Habit Forming, whose 4 starts produced 2 wins and 2 seconds. Her most recent start was her best yet.

Favored at 9-10 in a Golden Gate allowance, Habit Forming broke a half-step slow. She recovered to press the pace inside, sucked back to chase from second, re-rallied outside the pacesetter, made the lead, then lost by a head. The winner, I’m Tops, was taking her third straight.

Belloma drew the rail and will be forced to use her speed to establish position. A debut winner Nov. 26, she tired in her next start after dueling with undefeated and currently sidelined Ismene.

Almost a Lady finished third as the favorite in a similar spot one month ago. Vicki Victoria will be rolling late. Backwoods Belle is a claiming-caliber filly with speed. Babyneedsnewshoes won a low-rated maiden-claimer last out.