02/15/2011 5:36PM

Santiva ready to start year in Risen Star

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Santiva, Shaun Bridgmohan, wins the Kentucky Jockey Club.

NEW ORLEANS – Continuity did not figure strongly into Santiva’s 2-year-old season. Santiva made four starts on three track surfaces and at three venues in 2010. In the span of three months, he was under the care of three different trainers. And through all the minor upheaval, Santiva comes into the 2011 season a legitimate hopeful to move firmly onto the Triple Crown Trail in the Risen Star Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Santiva is one of 10 horses entered Monday in the Grade 2, $300,000 Risen Star, and one of five 3-year-olds shipping from Florida for the race. Trainer Eddie Kenneally – Santiva’s third trainer – said he opted for the Risen Star rather than a race in Florida, where Kenneally is based, because of timing.

KENTUCKY DERBY NEWS: Track all the 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail

“We gave him some time off in December, and he’s just now ready to run,” said Kenneally. “We thought the timing of this race was ideal to make his first start. There was a plane going over, and it’s not a difficult ship.”

Santiva, a son of Giant’s Causeway out of the Smarten mare Slide, was privately purchased as a weanling by owner Tom Walters from breeder Paget Bloodstock. Walters, an Indianan in the insurance business, started Santiva off with Ken McPeek, who unveiled him at Saratoga, where Santiva finished third in a short dirt sprint and second in a two-turn turf race. When Santiva next appeared at Keeneland, finishing second in the Breeder’s Futurity over Polytrack, he was under the care of trainer Todd Pletcher, but by the end of October, Santiva had been moved to the Kenneally shed row.

“It just wasn’t the right fit for the horse, but we feel we have that now with Eddie,” said Walters. “That was way back in October, and the way I look at that, it’s sort of old news.”

Santiva, picked out for purchase by Walters’ son, Chris, is the only horse Walters currently has in training. But if things go well, the one-horse stable could find its way to the Kentucky Derby.

Santiva still was a maiden in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 27. Racing closer to the pace than in his first three starts, Santiva made the lead off the far turn, got stuck between Astrology to his outside and Major Gain on the fence for much of the stretch run, and pulled clear in the final half-furlong to win by a half-length.

“He’s just a grinder, a tough little horse,” said Kenneally, who said he believes Santiva favors dirt over turf or synthetics. “He fought hard that day in the Kentucky, and I think that’s the kind of horse you need for these 3-year-old races.”

Santiva has logged five published workouts – most in company, Kenneally said – at the Palm Meadows training center, and turned in a bullet five-furlong drill there on Saturday, going in 1:00.40. Santiva’s day-to-day routine has remained stable for several months, but there remains one area of change: Mike Smith, named to ride in the Risen Star, will be Santiva’s fourth different jockey in his last four races.

Lilacs and Lace goes sight-unseen

Trainer John Terranova finds himself in an unusual spot with the 3-year-old filly Lilacs and Lace. When Lilacs and Lace starts in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes here Saturday, she will do so without Terranova ever having laid eyes or hands on her. And with another stakes horse racing over the weekend on the East Coast, Terranova won’t get a first-hand look at his charge until she ships into his stable after the Rachel Alexandra.

Lilacs and Lace made her first six starts for trainer Duane Offield in northern California, winning the California Oaks on Jan. 1 at Golden Gate in her most recent start. That performance led owner James Covello to purchase a majority share in the filly from breeders Judy Hicks and Kathryn Nikkel, and has brought Lilacs and Lace to Fair Grounds, where she was to take up lodging in trainer Al Stall’s barn sometime Tuesday.

“She looks like a talented filly that certainly is going in the right direction, and as the distances have gotten longer, she’s gotten better,” said Terranova, who has seen Lilacs and Lace race on video. “Out of the options coming back East, this looked like the right one to start out in, and we’ll go from there.”

Lilacs and Lace drew the outside post in a seven-horse edition of the $150,000 Rachel Alexandra. Kathmanblu, who was due to arrive Wednesday, should be a strong favorite in the Grade 3 race.

Not pushing Wilkinson too hard

Lecomte Stakes winner Wilkinson worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 to the satisfaction of trainer Neil Howard on Monday morning, but Howard and owner Ed Gaylord’s Gaillardia Racing elected not to enter Wilkinson later in the day for Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes.

Howard said the fact Wilkinson already has started three times at the Fair Grounds meet, and had worked hard to score a rallying win in the Lecomte, led him to pass Saturday’s race.

“You keep playing that race over and over in your head, and you’re hedging, and you know if you’re hedging, you’ve already made the decision,” Howard said. “With these 3-year-olds, when in doubt, stay in the barn.”

Howard said that stakes races at Oaklawn Park remain an option for both Wilkinson and the 3-year-old Prime Cut, but that Wilkinson also will be considered for the Louisiana Derby here March 26.