02/08/2013 1:31PM

Santa Anita: Wishing Well's surface, conditions stamp Nechez Dawn, Rumor as contenders

Barbara D. Livingston
Rumor, unraced since finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on dirt, will make just her second lietime start on turf in Sunday's Wishing Well.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Sunday at Santa Anita is the right time for good female sprinters to be practical, a statement not intended as a poke at either Nechez Dawn or Rumor.

But the truth is that they were ambitiously placed last out. Nechez Dawn was 34-1 in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes; Rumor was considered an outsider in the Grade 2 Santa Monica Stakes. Things did not go well for either.

Nechez Dawn pressed the La Brea pace Dec. 26, and weakened to fifth.

“Seven furlongs might have been a little far for her at that level,” trainer Jeff Bonde said.

She made it farther than Rumor, who was scratched from the Jan. 26 Santa Monica.

“I wasn’t happy with the way she was acting,” trainer Richard Mandella said. “She’s a delicate little thing. Sometimes she is happy, and sometimes she is not.”

Rumor and Nechez Dawn both should be in good spirits Sunday, thanks to a class drop and surface switch. They are prime contenders in the restricted $75,000 Wishing Well Stakes, a downhill turf sprint for fillies and mares with several legitimate contenders.

Byrama won a stakes on the course in autumn; Givine placed last time out in a Grade 3. Jet Blue Girl, Purim’s Dancer, and Schiaparelli are allowance-caliber course specialists; Dancingtothestars shortens up while in peak form. From the 13 entrants, none is more qualified than Nechez Dawn, Dancingtothestars, and Rumor.

A return to grass should benefit Nechez Dawn, whose five starts on turf produced four wins.

“I think she is a little better on grass,” Bonde said.

Although her training schedule was interrupted by weather, Bonde stated unequivocally that Nechez Dawn “is a fit horse.” She also has a versatile style that provides options for new rider Garrett Gomez.

Nechez Dawn is owned by Dave Mowatt, who races as Ten Broeck Farm.

Bonde said Mowatt had the idea to “give Gomez a try because he is doing so well on grass.” Gomez entered Friday as the second-leading turf rider at the meet with 10 wins from 46 grass races. Byrama’s jockey, Rafael Bejarano, has won 16 of 48 on turf.

Dancingtothestars finished second Jan. 26 in the $100,000 Valentine Dancer for California-bred fillies and mares, and shortens to a sprint under Mario Gutierrez, the runner-up jockey in six of his last seven turf races. Doug O’Neill trains 4-for-10 Dancingtothestars.

Rumor has won 5 of 12, and will start for the first time since a commendable fifth-place finish Nov. 3 in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. The Wishing Well became an option only after she scratched from the Santa Monica.

“After I took her out of the Santa Monica, I realized I didn’t have anywhere to go,” Mandella said. “Her only turf start, she did not run bad. She runs on synthetic, dirt. I don’t know that it matters.”

Mike Smith rides Rumor, whose only start on turf was a runner-up finish on the hill in April 2011. And though Mandella was not satisfied with her condition into the Santa Monica, he assured that all is well for the Wishing Well.

“She’s doing really good right now,” he said.