10/02/2008 11:00PM

Tutta Bella back on favored course

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ARCADIA, Calif. - A return to racing about 6 1/2 furlongs on Santa Anita's hillside turf course may be what Tutta Bella needs to end a three-race losing streak in Sunday's $150,000 California Cup Distaff.

Tutta Bella won the Fran's Valentine Stakes at Hollywood Park in April, a win preceded by two victories in optional claiming races on the hillside turf course. Since the Fran's Valentine, Tutta Bella has lost three starts at a mile and 1 1/16 miles on turf at Hollywood Park and Del Mar.

"Her distance is down the hill," said trainer John Sadler. "She went up in class, and at a mile she's not that effective. She didn't run badly in the other races, but she's more effective going short.

"She's not going to beat the upper-type stakes horses. I think she fits in there."

Tutta Bella is in a field of 14 fillies and mares in the Distaff, the largest field of the 11 races on California Cup Day. The Distaff will be Tutta Bella's first start since a fourth-place finish in the Solana Beach Handicap over a mile on turf against statebreds at Del Mar on Aug. 17. In that race, she was near the front to the eighth pole and faded, losing by four lengths to race winner America's Friend, another top contender in the Distaff.

America's Friend is one of two runners in the Distaff trained by Barry Abrams. He also starts Lightmyfirebaby, who was entered for Saturday's Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap but will go in the Distaff, Abrams said.

"The race Saturday is tough," Abrams said. "This race on Sunday is much easier."

Alex Solis rides America's Friend, while Joel Rosario has the mount on Lightmyfirebaby.

"Alex had a choice, and he chose America's Friend," Abrams said. "He knows both horses."

Lightmyfirebaby was promoted from second to first via disqualification in the Grade 3 Las Cienegas Handicap on the hillside turf course last April. In five subsequent starts, all stakes, she is winless but has finished second three times. On Sept. 3, she was second by a head to Synnin and Grinnin in a division of the Daisycutter Handicap over five furlongs on turf at Del Mar.

"She ran a great race," Abrams said. "She lost more ground on the turn than she got beat. She got beat by a sharp horse."

The race has drawn two stakes winners from the recent Fairplex Park meeting - Kalookan Year, who won the Pio Pico for statebred females on Sept. 12, and Gambler's Justice, who won the CTBA Marian Stakes on Sept. 20.

With so large a field running over a quirky course, luck is likely to play a role in the outcome. Kalookan Year, claimed for $40,000 at Del Mar in August, will be coming from off the pace, a concern for trainer Victor Garcia.

"I think she'll do okay," Garcia said. "I'd like to see her in the middle of the pack in a nice position, and stay out of trouble."