02/18/2013 4:48PM

Trip Notes: Sabin, Barbara Fritchie, El Camino Real, Santa Maria and more

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Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013

Gulfstream
The Very One (race 8)

Not that there was much doubt but another big win by Starformer completely validated her status as a top stayer in the distaff turf division. She got a dream trip, rating within striking distance of pacesetter Seanchai. She moved up on her own power to challenge on the far turn, took command, drew off and really didn’t have a nervous moment in the lane. Considering it was her first start since winning the Grade 3 Long Island at Aqueduct Nov. 10 she stamped herself one to watch in the division this year. The Grade 3 Orchid at 1 1/2 miles here March 30 is reportedly next. Angegreen, a one-time Italian hotshot who showed little in her first 3 U.S. tries last summer/fall, ran much better and may be getting acclimated to her new surroundings. She lagged back early and came with a smart run, though she was never really on the winner’s radar. Beijoca sat midpack, made a mild move into the lane but didn’t sustain it. Kadaya, the 2nd choice off 2 big wins here since coming from France, broke slowly to be last, was still there going to the backside and never got involved.

Gulfstream
Mac Diarmida (race 10)

Amira’s Prince continued his ascent as the former European made it 3 straight wins, all on this course, since coming to the U.S. in the fall. He also continued the hot run for trainer Bill Mott, who won both graded stakes on the card. The favorite, Amira’s Prince stalked the pace of Teaks North, moved up to challenge that foe on the far turn, took over and drew off to win easily. Mott mentioned the Grade 2 Pan American here March 23 as his next possible start. Teaks North, a tough veteran who was a Grade 1 winner in July 2011, continued his rejuvenated form as after winning the Sunshine Millions here Jan. 19. He went right out to the lead, set modest splits, battled back when engaged by the winner but just couldn’t keep pace in the lane. The Pan American seems a logical spot for him as well. Ioya Bigtime was right there with the top 2 from the start but couldn’t keep up in the lane. Twilight Eclipse, smart winner of the Grade 2 McKnight at Calder Nov. 24, stalked in 4th but never really mustered a run.

Laurel
Barbara Fritchie Handicap (race 8)

Funnys Approval, the queen of Mountaineer off 3 romping wins there, showed she’s not just some one-track pony as she shipped here and notched her first stakes win. She went right out to duel with Celtic Chant, got the better of that rival, seemed in trouble when favorite My Wandy’s Girl poker her head in front turning for home, but gamely persevered to retake the lead and keep My Wandy’s Girl at bay. This also shows she loves the mud. My Wandy’s Girl, maybe the best horse to come out of Puerto Rico in years, stalked in 3rd, doggedly kept after the winner in the lane, was closing the gap but just couldn’t get to her. Withgreatpleasure was well back early, came with a smart run into the lane but didn’t sustain it. Nicole H, a tough-luck 2nd in this last year and seemingly still sharp having won 3 of her last 4, was fractious in the gate, lagged back early and made minimal headway. This may be a sign she’s due for a break, and it was after this race last year she got a vacation.

Tampa Bay Stakes
Tampa Bay (race 9)

Swift Warrior had always hinted at ability but may be putting it all together. Coming off a super win in the Grade 3 John B. Connally at Houston Jan. 26, he backed it up with another fine performance. He stalked the pace early in 4th, steadily advanced to the top of the lane while staying wide and in the clear, and outkicked his rivals for the win. Alley Oop Oop dogged pacesetter El Commodore from the start, moved up to challenge for the lead in midstretch, battled with the winner but couldn’t quite finish with him, ending up in a dead heat for 2nd with Doubles Partner. That foe, the favorite, lagged back, swung wide into the lane and finished well. Tiz Sardonic stalked the pace while seemingly in a good spot, was in a bit snug in the final furlong, and was unable to overcome those traffic woes.

Golden Gate
El Camino Real Derby (race 8)

The race was turned on its head as none of the 3 favorites (local kingpin Zeewat, two Baffert raiders Manando and Carving) figured in the result. Dice Flavor, making his first non-turf start, posted the upset. Like the 2 Baffert runners he was invading from Southern California. The son of Scat Daddy was trying synthetic and stakes for the first time. He sat well back early, steadily advanced to the far turn, had to wait for room into the lane, and when it materialized blasted through and won easily. He may be best suited to turf/synthetic. Nina’s Dragon, coming off a 3rd in his first route here Feb. 1, likewise sat well back and came with a nice run, though he was no match for the winner. Counting Days, whose only prior try on synthetic footing came on Keeneland’s Polytrack last fall and resulted in a 10 1/4-length maiden win, moved back to synthetic here, stalked the pace, loomed a threat into the lane but couldn’t go with the top 2. Carving, whose only 2 prior losses came in Grade 1 races, stalked the pace, got shuffled back into the lane, raced erratically and plugged along to be a non-factor 4th. Zeewat, previously the leading 3-year-old on this circuit after winning the Gold Rush and California Derby, sat midpack while saving ground but never really mustered a run. Manando, a strong 3rd in Santa Anita’s Grade 3 Sham, surged out to a clear lead, was still clear turning for home, but hit the brakes hard. His run didn’t exactly flatter Sham winner Goldencents.

Santa Anita
Santa Maria (race 4)

Great Hot has shown she’s capable of big things when in the mood. Well, this was one of those days as the mare, who had finished behind Snow Fall in her last 2 starts, turned the tables on that foe and the others with a front-running win. She went right out to the lead, seemed in trouble when she seemed to prop a bit in the final furlong (rider Gary Stevens said she saw tracks from where the starting gate had been) but had enough to get to the line before a hard-trying Book Review. The Grade 1 Santa Margarita March 16 is her next target.  Book Review bided her time early, came with a smart run into the lane, kept after the winner but just couldn’t get to her. She can certainly route but she doesn’t seem to possess quite the same punch as when she’s going around one turn. The Santa Margarita may still be next for her. Lady of Fifty chased the winner from the start but weakened a bit from those efforts. Snow Fall stalked in 3rd but didn’t produce a run.

Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013

Gulfstream
Sabin (race 10)

COMMENT: Royal Delta got beat in this race last year when starting her campaign but there were no such hiccups this time as the 2-time champion dominated the proceedings, reaffirming her status as the game’s top distaffer and punching her ticket to try males in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup March 30. She hopped at the start but recovered quickly to duel early with All for Thee, assumed the lead going to the backside, and basically just widened her advantage from there without really breaking a sweat. The boys in Dubai better look out because she looks even bigger and badder as a 5-year-old. All for Thee dueled early with the winner, gamely chased her the rest of the way and while no match for that foe was well clear of the others. Grace Hall, making her first start since chasing Royal Delta in the Grade 1 BC Ladies’ Classic Nov. 2, stalked in 3rd but never really got involved. Still, this likely serves its purpose to prepare here for a shot at the Grade 3 Rampart here March 30.

Santa Anita
San Vicente (race 7)

COMMENT: Shakin It Up, freshened since a sharp 3rd in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue, came back firing but he had to work hard in a wild finish to capture this. He bided his time early, moved through between horses to challenge pacesetters Belvin and Caballo Del Cielo going to the far turn, got the better of those 2 and held off a hard-charging Treasury Bill. Nice as this was, less than 3 lengths covered the entire field so you get the impression if you ran this race several more times you’d get several different winners. Treasury Bill, making his first try vs. winners, was last early but finished strongly for 2nd. Being by multiple Grade 1 route stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid with Grade 1 router Menifee as his damsire, he’s bred to relish more ground. Caballo Del Cielo dueled with Belvin and hung on gamely. Mudflats stalked and had to steady in midstretch. Belvin dueled and weakened.