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Santa Anita: Vionnet stuck in tough post for Thursday feature
By Brad Free
ARCADIA, Calif. – As a handicapping factor, post position is less relevant than the basics of condition, class, speed, and pace.
Try telling that to trainer Mike Puype and jockey Garrett Gomez, whose chance to win the race-7 feature with comebacker Vionnet on Thursday at Santa Anita was significantly compromised at the draw.
The 3-year-old filly is the “class” of the field in the mile turf race for first-level allowance fillies and mares, but Vionnet drew post 11 in the 11-horse field.
“From a value perspective, can you take a short price from that post?” Puype said. “It’s a terrible post.”
True, the outside post in a one-mile turf race is not a good spot from which to start. But it is not impossible. Over the past decade at Santa Anita in one-mile turf races, post 11 produced 13 winners from 162 starters, an 8 percent win rate. Not great, not an automatic elimination.
Puype acknowledged other factors also may work against stakes-placed Vionnet, who will make her first start in seven months. “The rails are out, the course is fast, and they’re not closing from downtown,” Puype said. “Those variables all work against her.”
A Street Sense filly owned and bred by the Ran Jan Racing stable of Jan Vanderbos, Vionnet has 1 win from 5 starts. After winning a maiden sprint on the downhill in January, she finished second in successive stakes, including a mile race in which she finished only 1 1/2 lengths behind subsequent Grade 1 winner Lady of Shamrock.
Vionnet has trained well for her comeback after being sidelined with a bone chip. She entered a Sept. 29 stakes, but the race overfilled and Vionnet did not get in. The allowance race Thursday was the backup.
Meanwhile, the family of Vionnet is hot. A 2-year-old half-sister to Vionnet, the Richard Mandella-trained Moulin de Mougin, won a maiden turf sprint Sunday for Vanderbos and will be pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
As for the Thursday feature, if circumstances conspire against Vionnet, two others enter with winning credentials. They are Ricspretentiousgal, runner-up in four successive allowance turf routes this summer at Del Mar, and likely pacesetter Highly Rated.
Doug O’Neill trains Ricspretentiousgal, whose most recent start was a fourth-place finish in a highly rated race on Polytrack. She entered the Las Madrinas Handicap on Sept. 22 at Fairplex but scratched. Kevin Krigger rides.
Highly Rated is the one to catch. Carla Gaines trains this California-bred, who has won 2 of 5. Joe Talamo rides Highly Rated, making her first start since Aug. 28.
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