09/26/2013 11:21AM

Stockton: Marks Mine has all the speed in Harvest Stakes

Shigeki Kikkawa
The 3-year-old Marks Mine comes into the $50,000 Harvest on Saturday off two victories over older fillies and mares.

Trainer Steve Specht’s biggest concern about Saturday’s Harvest Stakes at the San Joaquin Fair was whether the race would fill for his star sprinter Marks Mine. Specht got his wish as six fillies and mares signed up to challenge Marks Mine in the $50,000 race at the Stockton, Calif., track.

And just to make things better, Marks Mine drew the outside post, from where she can use her speed to full advantage.

Since running second against fellow 3-year-olds in the California Wines Stakes at Pleasanton, Marks Mine has beaten older in two straight races, the $75,000 California State Fair Sprint at Sacramento and a stakes-quality allowance race at Golden Gate Fields on Sept. 7.

As in the allowance race, Marks Mine doesn’t have much speed lined up against her Saturday. Specht said that the strategy will be the same Saturday as it was at Golden Gate Fields when he told jockey Frank Alvarado simply to go for the lead.

“Frank’s ridden her enough, so I really won’t have to tell him anything,” Specht said. “She can sit off them if he wants, and he knows she’s fast enough to take the lead.”

Another 3-year-old, the Billy Morey-trained 3-year-old Happybirthdaybaby, could prove Marks Mine’s primary rival. She has 3 wins and 2 seconds in 5 starts and is coming off an optional-claiming victory. She was shuffled back in that race before rallying six wide to get up for the victory last month at Golden Gate Fields.

Happybirthdaybaby does not have much early speed but could make things interesting in the stretch.

“She’s a fine filly with fine breeding,” said Morey of Happybirthdaybaby, a $20,000 Keeneland yearling purchase by Successful Appeal who makes her first start in five weeks. “She’s ready to run.”

She’ll be joined by stablemate English Royal, who won back-to-back starts this year before running third behind Marks Mine in the State Fair Sprint.

Twitter Pie, an even fourth in her stakes debut in the $111,000 Daisycutter at Del Mar this summer, could prove a contender for trainer Jeff Bonde, who has signed up Russell Baze to ride.

“She’s been working real well,” said Bonde, who has Twitter Pie stabled at Santa Anita with his star 2-year-old She’s a Tiger, who will seek her second straight Grade 1 win Saturday in the $250,000 Chandelier there.

Butterfly Soul, the only other stakes winner in the field, will make her first start since the California Oaks in February.

Argentine-bred Journaliste will be shooting for her first U.S. win after setting the pace in the Grade 2 John C. Mabee at Del Mar.

Kitty Marie, fifth behind Marks Mine in the California Wines, rounds out the field.