11/25/2008 12:00AM

Top-shelf fillies meet in Playa Del Rey


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The winter meet at Santa Anita begins the day after Christmas, but why wait? Lovely Isle and Bsharpsonata are ready now, and Thanksgiving Day at Hollywood Park, the 3-year-old fillies begin their winter campaigns one month early.

Seven fillies and mares run six furlongs in the $65,000 Playa del Rey, including speedster Coco Belle and 4-for-5 allowance filly Peppermint Lounge. But the favorites are Grade 1-placed fillies expected to be among the heavyweights of winter - Bsharpsonata, second in the Ashland at Keeneland, and Lovely Isle, second in the Las Virgenes at Santa Anita.

Bsharpsonata won 6 of 12 for trainer Tim Salzman, including two Grade 2s, before she was transferred during the summer to Todd Pletcher. After training through fall in New York, she arrived in California late Monday.

"She has trained very well," Pletcher said, but he recognizes the challenge first start back at six furlongs. "She might want more ground, she drew inside, and she's top weight. She's got a lot to overcome," he said.

Thursday's stakes is a prep for the Grade 1, seven-furlong La Brea early in the Santa Anita winter meet. Garrett Gomez rides the 124-pound highweight, whose closing style and rail draw places her at a disadvantage at six furlongs.

As for Lovely Isle, she is fortunate to have survived the season. Bobby Frankel trains the 4-for-10 filly, whose successful summer campaign came to a screeching halt one morning at Saratoga when she got loose and ran off. She slipped, fell, and slid along the cement.

It could have been worse, but Lovely Isle suffered only a large abrasion to her stifle.

"She scraped it raw, it was ugly," Frankel said. "It took a month to get her back to the track, but she's good now," Frankel said, adding that the layoff is not an issue. "She's dead fit."

Lovely Isle drew outside front-runner Coco Belle, and figures for a great pace-pressing trip under Victor Espinoza. Lovely Isle and Bsharpsonata are Florida-breds, and after the Playa del Rey and La Brea, they could meet again in the Sunshine Millions Distaff.

Peppermint Lounge has won 4 of 5 and gets tested for class; Coco Belle will set the pace. Highland Torree, Tizzy's Tune, and Foxy Danseur are also in the field. The Playa del Rey is race 6; the $65,000 War Chant is race 7.

Jack o' Lantern needs surgery

The upset win by improving 2-year-old Jack o' Lantern on Sunday in Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue came at a price. Jack o' Lantern came out of the race with a condylar fracture in the right front and will miss the winter season.

"He was sore cooling out," trainer Richard Matlow said, adding that X-rays Monday revealed the break. Matlow said the colt will undergo surgery this week to insert screws.

Bone injuries such as condylar fractures are not considered career-threatening, but usually require at least six months to heal.

"It's only the second one I've had in 45 years of training. It's probably better than a ligament," Matlow said.

Jack o' Lantern, by Flatter, has won 2 of 3, and earned an 86 Beyer in the seven-furlong Prevue.

Albertus Maximus changes hands

Albertus Maximus has joined the growing list of U.S.-based horses purchased by Dubai racing interests. Marianne and Brandon Chase, who owned and bred Albertus Maximus, have sold the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner to Shadwell Stables; he leaves California on Monday, and will be trained in Florida by Kiaran McLaughlin.

"I hope we win a Grade 1 with him and continue to do as well with him as [former trainer] Vladimir Cerin," McLaughlin said, adding that the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Jan. 31 at Gulfstream Park will be his winter target before leaving the country.

"Obviously, the hopes are to go to Dubai. Whether that's the Godolphin Mile or the Dubai World Cup, we'll let him tell us," McLaughlin said.

Albertus Maximus has not won beyond 1 1/16 miles.

A 4-year-old by Albert the Great, Albertus Maximus won 3 of his first 12 for trainer Gary Mandella, and improved dramatically after joining Cerin's stable in summer. Albertus Maximus won 2 of 3 for Cerin, including the BC Dirt Mile, and earned triple-digit Beyer Figures all three starts.

"It was a pleasure to have him," Cerin said.

Albertus Maximus joins Grade 1 winners Midshipman and Vineyard Haven, Grade 2 winner Two Step Salsa, and Grade 3 winner Jose Adan as recent purchases by Dubai racing stables.

Hyberbaric's work lost in the fog

Heavy fog Sunday morning at Santa Anita explains an apparent gap in the work pattern of Hyperbaric, the co-favorite Friday in the Grade 1 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Hyperbaric, Sept. 28 winner of the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile, will enter the $400,000 Citation without a published workout since Nov. 16.

"He worked in the fog," trainer Julio Canani said, which accounts for the five-furlong work on Nov. 23 that did not make the official tab.

Canani said jockey Tyler Baze was wearing a timer on his wristwatch and clocked him in 59.80 seconds. Hyperbaric drew the inside post in the $400,000 Citation; he and Breeders' Cup Mile third-place finisher Whatsthescript share top weight at 120 pounds. Whatsthescript drew post 9 of 10 in the Citation on Friday, opening day of the three-day Autumn Turf Festival.

Chocolate Candy also worked Sunday in fog; his five-furlong workout was not recorded. Winner of the Real Quiet Stakes and a candidate for the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity on Dec. 20, Chocolate Candy will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano in the Futurity.

Baffert gets handful of good horses

Pioneerof the Nile, a contender for the Futurity, is one of several former Bill Mott trainees that owner Ahmed Zayat transferred last week to trainer Bob Baffert. Fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Pioneerof the Nile reportedly worked a half-mile Sunday at Santa Anita. Like many other Sunday drills, the work was not recorded.

The Mott-to-Baffert transfers include a handful of promising 2-year-olds: Zensational, a $700,000 son of Unbridled's Song who was fourth his only start; Jemmealey, a Malibu Moon filly who earned a 66 Beyer winning a maiden race Nov. 3 at the Meadowlands; Herr Mozart, a Mr. Greeley maiden with two thirds from three starts, all turf routes; and Mother Ruth, an unraced $425,000 Speightstown filly.

Baffert also received Riley Tucker, a Grade 2-placed colt who has not raced finishing last in the Preakness.