01/27/2012 1:15PM

Santa Anita: Unzip Me hard to get past in Wishing Well

Barbara D. Livingston
Unzip Me was a dull third in her 2012 debut.

ARCADIA, Calif. – For the past two seasons, Unzip Me ruled the West Coast female turf sprint division like none other – winning eight stakes in California and one in Canada.

To win a turf sprint in California, particularly at Santa Anita, Unzip Me always was the horse to beat. At one point she won five straight down the hill, and appeared to regain top form in October with a sharp stakes victory over statebred fillies and mares.

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But when the standards are as high as those of Unzip Me, it does not take much to start doubting a 6-year-old mare. The uncertainty has grown. Unzip Me has lost 4 of her last 6 (three losses at odds-on), and recently finished a dull third in her 2012 debut.

John Harris, co-owner and co-breeder of Unzip Me, admits “I was a little disappointed in that last race, but she certainly was not disgraced. No apparent excuse, although she had been off a couple of months. It was a very fast race won by a top mare, Mizdirection.”

All will be forgiven on Sunday if Unzip Me wins the $70,000 Wishing Well, a 6 1/2-furlong turf stakes for fillies and mares in which Unzip Me gets favorable conditions – she is the lone front-runner from an advantageous outside post, facing a suspect field.

In fact, Unzip Me should win decisively. Nine entered the Wishing Well, the backup for Unzip Me after she entered a route Saturday. Unzip Me was expected to scratch from the $100,000 Valentine Dancer, a mile race that would have been Unzip Me’s first try around two turns. Her 13 wins and $902,228 in earnings were compiled from 24 starts in sprints.

Harris, co-owner-breeder Don Valpredo, and trainer Marty Jones discussed the two-turn Valentine Dancer before opting to keep her sprinting in the Wishing Well. Harris was particularly interested in the route race.

“I was personally leaning toward the Valentine’s Dancer – I would love to see how Unzip Me may handle going further,” Harris said via email. “She seems to have developed a better ability to lay off the pace and close . . . and we would have a bigger selection of races to choose from if we found out she can race well going two turns.”

For now, Unzip Me will stay short and start favored with Rafael Bejarano riding. Her main rivals are Catchy Tune, a recent allowance winner, and Givine, always close against better company but rarely a winner. Other entrants are Remit, Elle Special, Win for M’lou, Fifth Commandment, Dontbeshy I’ll Buy, and Teroda.

Harris was asked if consideration had been given to retiring Unzip Me from racing. “Our inclination is clearly to run her this year as long as she can compete at top levels. We are breeders, and any owner/breeder that also races looks at the breeding option down the road sometime, but I feel she has a potential big year ahead. Of course, if she has a setback, we’ll have to reconsider.”

The Wishing Well is race 8 on a nine-race card.