02/20/2012 5:02PM

Trip Notes: El Camino Real, San Vicente, Barbara Fritchie replays and more

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Saturday, Feb. 18

Gulfstream
Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (race 10)

Force Freeze, who nearly won the Grade 1 Vosburgh and Grade 1 BC Sprint last fall when 2nd in each, tried seven furlongs for the first time and off a layoff, but it didn’t matter as his quality shone through as he had an easy time of it. The 7-year-old dogged pacesetter Amanecer de Oro from the start, took over easily from that rival on the far turn and drew off to win with ease. Proving his effectiveness at this longer sprint trip gives him even more options. His next target will reportedly be the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap May 5, on the Kentucky Derby undercard, and it’s also at seven furlongs. Another crack at the Grade 1 BC Sprint is his ultimate goal. Troilus, who came into this riding a 3-race win streak, did himself proud with the big step up in class as he stalked the pace, made a run at the winner into the lane but couldn’t keep up while clearly 2nd best. Capt. Candyman Can brought some of his back-class to bear as he lagged back early and came with a run to look dangerous for a moment into the lane, but couldn’t sustain it.

Laurel
Barbara Fritchie Handicap (race 8)

Most of the attention focused on New York raiders Nicole H and C C’s Pal, with good reason, but it was another recent invader from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Magical Feeling, who spoiled their party, posting a big upset in the biggest win of her career. A stakes winner at Monmouth and most recently 3rd (behind today’s foe Red’s Round Table) in an optional claimer here Jan. 21, Magical Feeling was last early, steadily advanced while saving ground, continued her momentum into the lane when she angled to the outside and kept on resolutely for the 27-1 upset. She’s now won 11 of 19 so you know she’s a pro. Nicole H, the heavy favorite having won 5 of her previous 6, all 5 being stakes including the Grade 2 Distaff, did everything right. She used her speed to stalk the early pace, moved up while well in hand to take command going to the far turn, opened up into the lane looking as if the issue was closed, but just got nailed in the final stride as she tired late. C C’s Pal sat 4th early, doggedly chased after Nicole H into the lane, kept on gaining but couldn’t quite outfinish Magical Feeling and just failed to catch Nicole H. Red’s Round Table, who beat the winner here Jan. 21, stumbled badly at the start, going to her nose, to lose all chance.

Golden Gate
El Camino Real (race 8)

Invaders carried the day as Daddy Nose Best and Lucky Chappy put on quite a battle with the former only just prevailing. Daddy Nose Best, whose 2 prior wins came on turf, was coming off a 5th in a grass stakes at Santa Anita, and he handled the move to synthetic footing nicely. From his rail draw he got position midpack while saving ground, moved up just behind the leaders turning for home, was blocked briefly but shifted out, found room between horses and came home resolutely to get the nod. Lucky Chappy, a winner on turf in Italy and coming off some good turf, also handled the synthetic footing well. He sat last early, was still well back on the far turn when he started a very wide run, came home strongly to grab the lead in midstretch but just couldn’t quite outduel the winner while much the best of the rest. Handsome Mike, another invader. dueled on the pace and stayed on for 3rd, though this was basically a two-horse race in the lane. Unveiled Heat, only 5th in the Cal Derby here Jan. 14, did the best of the local contingent. The filly Lady of Fifty sat back, made a smart early run to be a factor but couldn’t sustain it. Not sure this race will have any real Ky. Derby implications as the top 3 have previously done all their best work on turf.

Santa Anita
Santa Maria (race 8)

Using her speed once again, Ellafitz controlled things from start to finish and notched her third straight stakes win. After winning Holywood’s Grade 2 Bayakoa, she won the Paseana here and continued to work in splendid fashion. She backed up that form and those. Unlike her previous tallies she took pressure as Spirit Seeker and then Great Hot applied heat from the start. Still, Ellafitz rebuffed those challenges and actually was edging away in the final furlong. The Grade 1 Santa Margarita March 17 figures next, and with Zazu and Plum Pretty yet to appear this year, this gal is the ranking distaffer out West. Vision of Gold, no factor in her comeback in the Paseana when 6th to Ellafitz, looked more like her old self here in her title defense. She bided her time in 4th, made a run at the winner into the lane but couldn’t quite get to her. Miss Mittagong, 2nd to Ellafitz in the Bayakoa, sat back and made some headway late but was no threat. Great Hot dogged the winner to the top of the lane before giving way.

Sunday, Feb. 19

Gulfstream
Hurricane Bertie (race 10)

The Pletcher Express continues as his R Holiday Mood used her speed to upset former Pletcher pupil Her Smile. R Holiday Mood went right out to the lead, was immediately pressured by Funny Sunny, and fended her off. This may have earned her a shot at the Grade 2 Inside Information here March 17. Funny Sunny, coming off a big win over this track Jan. 8, validated that form and showed she’s not out of her element vs. this kind as she hounded the winner all the way around in a super effort. Her Smile, favored for new trainer Brown in her first start since finishing 3rd in the Grade 1 BC Filly & Mare Sprint, stalked the pace, tried to make a run into the lane, plugged along to get 3rd though she never really was a danger to the top 2. Pica Slew sat back and never really mustered a run.

Santa Anita
San Vicente (race 7)

You’re never quite sure which Drill is going to show up – the guy who won the Grade 1 Norfolk or the one who’s been no factor in his last 4 starts. But the good version showed up today and he posted a mild upset, showing that he prefers to sprint, and giving Derby hopeful Creative Cause a mildly rocky start to his trip on the Derby path. Drill pressed American Act from the start, moved up to challenge that rival into the lane, battled gamely to the line and just got the desperate decision. Apparently one turn is the game he wants. American Act, coming off a smart maiden win, showed his quality with a strong effort. He went right out to the lead, took heavy pressure from Drill, battled back gamely every step but lost a heartbreaker. He’s apparently the real deal. Creative Cause, making his first start since a smart 3rd in the Grade 1 BC Juvenile, was last early in the small field, but not far away. He made a bit of a run in the lane but while he got closer to the top 2 he never once looked as though he would catch them. In his defense, it was just his first step back and the top 2 came home awfully fast (final three furlongs in 35.45), so the effort may be better than it first looked.