01/12/2009 12:00AM

Turf rails positioned for speed


ARCADIA, Calif. - Second place is up for grabs Wednesday in the race 7 feature at Santa Anita, a third-level allowance on the turf that Moonshine Alice should win.

Seven fillies and mares entered the 6 1/2-furlong race, and bettors face an easy choice - back deep closer Royal Taat, who was blocked through the stretch last out, or front-runner Moonshine Alice, who was compromised by a slow start in her runner-up comeback.

It does not take a genius to figure the correct answer. With the turf rails positioned at the outermost 30-foot setting, the narrow configuration of the turf course plays to the strength of front-runner Moonshine Alice, a Bobby Frankel-trained filly who should have won her Nov. 21 comeback at Hollywood Park.

Moonshine Alice had been off more than seven months, she was trying grass for the first time, and the rust showed. Moonshine Alice broke slowly under Chantal Sutherland, veered inward, and for the first time in her career she was forced to come from behind.

A slow start normally dooms a front-runner, but Moonshine Alice rallied three wide, took over at the quarter pole, opened up, then tired and finished second in a super comeback. Moonshine Alice previously won three straight at Tampa Bay Downs before transferring to Frankel.

Moonshine Alice meets only one other pace rival Wednesday, and if she avoids a duel with Lettre Spirituelle, Moonshine Alice can add to the formful nature of turf sprints. Through Sunday, favorites were 6 for 10 down the hill.

Royal Taat was blocked through the lane 11 days ago in the Grade 3 Monrovia Handicap, finishing sixth by three lengths while unable to find a clear path. Though her closing style places her at a tactical disadvantage, she has won down the hill, and will be finishing under Rafael Bejarano.

w In race 3, graded-stakes-placed Grace Anatomy tries to overcome the downhill configuration by rallying from behind in a first-level allowance that is her first start since July.