03/09/2012 3:29PM

Santa Anita: Ultimate Eagle likely headed east for Charles Town Classic

Shigeki Kikkawa
Ultimate Eagle faded in the stretch of the 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita Handicap.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Ultimate Eagle, 10th as the 2-1 favorite in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 3, is likely to make his next start in the $1 million Charles Town Classic in West Virginia on April 14.

Trainer Mike Pender said the Charles Town race has appeal because of the race distance of 1 1/8 miles.

“A mile and an eighth is right up his alley,” Pender said. “I think he’s a mile-and-a-quarter horse, but he couldn’t show it.”

In the Big Cap over 1 1/4 miles, Ultimate Eagle was challenged for the lead by Gladding and faded through the stretch. Ultimate Eagle had won three stakes in his preceding four starts to earn the role of favorite.

Pender said that Ultimate Eagle emerged from the Big Cap in good condition and resumed galloping on Thursday.

The Charles Town race could attract the first two finishers of the Big Cap – Ron the Greek and Setsuko – their trainers said last weeked.

Apprentice regroups

In the Big Cap, apprentice jockey Eswan Flores rode Thirtyfirststreet and tried to guide his mount between Ultimate Eagle and the rail entering the stretch. There was insufficient room, causing Thirtyfirststreet to strike the rail.

Flores, riding his first Grade 1 race, was near tears after the race.

“It was one of those things,” he said. “What if . . . ? I had a lot of horse.”

Flores, 18, had two wins on Thursday to solidify his position in third place in the standings at the winter-spring meeting, trailing leader Joel Rosario (57) and Rafael Bejarano (44).

Flores reached a more dubious milestone on Friday: his first major fine. He was penalized $500 by track stewards for failing to ride Backwoods Belle to the wire in Thursday’s fifth race. Backwoods Belle finished fourth, beaten a nose for third by Belle Gallantey.

Bejarano picks up Dubai mount

Bejarano has been booked to ride The Factor for trainer Bob Baffert in the $2 million Golden Shaheen for sprinters in Dubai on March 31.

The Factor has won two seven-furlong stakes at this meeting, the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes in December and the Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes in February. The Golden Shaheen is run over six furlongs on a Tapeta Footings synthetic track.

In his last start on a synthetic track, The Factor won the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien Stakes over seven furlongs on Del Mar’s Polytrack surface last August. The Factor breezed a half-mile in 48.60 seconds at Hollywood Park on Thursday.

Martin Garcia has been the regular rider of The Factor but will remain in California to ride the Baffert-trained Eden’s Moon in the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks on March 31, according to his agent, Jim Pegram.

“We don’t want to give her up,” Pegram said.

Princess Arabella looking sharp

Baffert has a deep bench of 3-year-old fillies. Friday at Santa Anita, the unbeaten Princess Arabella worked five furlongs in 59 seconds, a visually impressive work in which she was not urged late. Baffert timed Princess Arabella in 1:11.40 for six furlongs.

Owned by Peachtree Stable, Princess Arabella, by Any Given Saturday, will make her stakes debut in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks over 1 1/16 miles in New Mexico on March 25.

Baffert won the 2011 Sunland Park Oaks with Plum Pretty, who later won the Kentucky Oaks. A three-time stakes winner for Peachtree, Plum Pretty has been working steadily at Santa Anita in recent weeks, including seven furlongs in 1:24.80 on Thursday.

Unraced since a fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs last November, Plum Pretty is scheduled to make her 2012 debut in the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on April 13.

Ellafitz heads Santa Margarita

Baffert will have the favorite for the $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational for fillies and mares next Saturday in Ellafitz, the winner of three consecutive stakes since December.

The Grade 1 Santa Margarita is run over 1 1/8 miles and is considered the championship of the meeting for the division. The field will not include Vision in Gold, who was third in the 2011 running. Trainer Ron Ellis said that Vision in Gold has suffered a bruised foot. “We’ll point her for something else,” he said.

His stable will have a starter in the Santa Margarita in Include Me Out, the winner of the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies on Jan. 22.

Vicki Victoria earns stakes spot

Vicki Victoria will make her stakes debut in the $200,000 Evening Jewel Stakes for California-bred 3-year-old fillies over 6 1/2 furlongs on March 31 after winning for the second time in her 10-race career in a $60,000 allowance race on Thursday.

Trained by Mike Harrington for Heinz Steinmann, Vicki Victoria won Thursday’s race over six furlongs by 2 1/2 lengths, closing from third in a field of five. Vicki Victoria needed seven races to beat maidens, finally doing so last December at Hollywood Park.

Harrington is optimistic that Vicki Victoria can eventually extend her speed, with a race such as the $300,000 Melair Stakes for California-bred 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/8 miles at Hollywood Park on April 28 as a springtime target.

“The way she ran [Thursday], I think she might stretch out,” Harrington said.