01/04/2013 1:17PM

Steve Klein: Likely pace a positive for Kindle in Monrovia

Benoit & Associates
Kindle won the Cool Air Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park in her last start.

Depending on how you look at it, Sunday’s Grade 2 Monrovia, a 6 1/2-furlong turf race down the hill at Santa Anita for fillies and mares 4 years old and up, is either a slam dunk for Mizdirection, a match race with Kindle, or a chance to upset those favorites with Broken Dreams or Byrama. A victory by either of the other two, Givine or Curvy Cat, would be a surprise.

Mizdirection ran a huge race when she flew home from 11th to beat males in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. She’s also a perfect 3 for 3 in sprints at this distance on this turf course. She lost a lot of ground when she rallied on the outside in that 14-horse field, but she should be able to get better early position and lose less ground in this race. The class drop to a Grade 2, with only five opponents to beat and facing females rather than males will make her formidable.

The argument for Kindle is that she has done her best running in her two turf starts and Sunday’s pace scenario should help her. She ran too fast early when she opened up as much as a five-length lead through torrid fractions of 20.97 seconds, 42.53, and 1:05.30 going 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill and can be forgiven for folding late and losing the Grade 3 Sen. Ken Maddy by a half-length. That was her first grass race. She ran a career-best race in her next start when she relaxed through 22.71, 45.85, and 56.97 splits en route to a decisive 2 3/4-length victory in the six-furlong, $66,000 Cool Air on turf at Betfair Hollywood Park.

The pace scenario in this race is likely to resemble the Cool Air, and under those circumstances, Kindle would have a legitimate chance to hold on to beat Mizdirection.

There is another factor to consider. Both Mizdirection and Kindle ran career-best races last time, and regardless of the pace scenario in this race, if either of them regresses much from that form, the other is the most likely winner.

They have both been freshened. Kindle last raced 44 days ago. Trainer Gary Mandella has won with 24 percent of 21 starters returning from breaks of 31 to 60 days, with a $2.90 return on investment. Mizdirection raced 64 days ago. Mike Puype has won with 20 percent of 35 starters coming back from layoffs of two to six months, a healthy win rate, but bettors have received only $1.34 back for their $2 bets.

Broken Dreams caught Kindle late with help from the fast pace two races ago, then was no match while finishing second, 2 3/4 lengths behind her, last time. She likes this turf course, with 2 wins and 2 seconds from 4 tries, but she’ll still have to improve to beat the top pair.

Byrama was helped by the fast pace set by Kindle in the Maddy, but still finished a neck behind that rival in third and was three-quarters of a length behind Broken Dreams. She likes the Santa Anita turf course, but she must continue on the upswing to beat the leading contenders. She last started Oct. 20. Simon Callaghan has won with 22 percent of 23 runners coming back from vacations of two to six months, with a $1.76 ROI.

I’ll give the call to Kindle on a win bet. There won’t be any value in using Mizdirection for second in the exacta, so I’ll skip that pool.

Cat Cay: Sunny Desert brings streak

The $75,000 Cat Cay is the feature race at Aqueduct on Sunday. A compact but competitive field of five 4-year-old fillies will run a mile and 70 yards on the inner track.

Sunny Desert raced against New York-breds in all 10 of her starts. She owns a five-race win streak that began March 12. She won four of those five races impressively and seems sharp enough to fit well with this field, if she doesn’t mind stretching out to two turns. Her largest win margins – 15 1/4 and 6 1/4 lengths – were earned in her two one-mile races, the farthest she has raced, so the hope is that she won’t mind the extra turn and the additional 70 yards as she tries open company.

Moon Philly finished a close second in an $80,000 stakes last time, her first race on the inner track. The 82 Beyer Speed Figure she earned is only about as good as the best recent numbers of most of the other contenders and a few points shy of the Beyers earned by Sunny Desert.

Wildcat’s Smile is 1 for 1 on the inner track following a win at this distance in the $78,000 Sarcastic and should be a major player. The concern is that she doesn’t win often. That was her first victory since April.

Los Ojitos finished third behind Wildcat’s Smile and Morrow Cove last time, in her first inner-track race. She’s capable of a better try.

Morrow Cove traded decisions with Wildcat’s Smile in their last two races. The concern is that her second-place finish behind that opponent was earned in her first race on the inner track.

I’ll bet Sunny Desert to win, and I’ll key her on top in the exacta over Moon Philly and Wildcat’s Smile.