02/01/2009 12:00AM

Ventura returns sharp in Santa Monica


ARCADIA, Calif. - By any name, Ventura was brilliant in Saturday's $300,000 Santa Monica Handicap at Santa Anita.

Even though her orange saddle towel read "Venture," Ventura ran as expected, winning by a comfortable length over stablemate Jibboom. The Grade 1 Santa Monica was Ventura's first start since a four-length victory in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint here in October.

Ventura won the fifth stakes of her career in the Santa Monica.

Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Ventura ($2.60) ran seven furlongs in 1:21.61. Gomez had Ventura in fourth place on the backstretch, tracking pacesetter Baroness Thatcher, who set early fractions of 23.22 and 45.81 seconds. Baroness Thatcher faded from contention on the turn, leaving Jibboom and She's Cheeky, fighting for the lead.

The tussle did not last long. Ventura rallied around both in early stretch to take the lead before the eighth pole. It was not until the final sixteenth that trainer Bobby Frankel relaxed.

"I was comfortable 10 jumps from the wire," Frankel said. "She'd been away for three months."

Ventura and Jibboom, both 5-year-old mares, are owned by Juddmonte Farms. Jibboom won the Grade 3 Monrovia Handicap on the hillside turf course here on Jan. 3. "I was glad the gray mare ran second," Frankel said of Jibboom.

She's Cheeky, making her stakes debut, finished 3 1/4 lengths behind Ventura in the field of six. The race was diminished by the withdrawal on race morning of Indian Blessing, who won the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding female sprinter of 2008. Trainer Bob Baffert had stated on Thursday that Indian Blessing would not run against Ventura.

Ventura has won 8 of 16 starts and $1,539,470. She won the Madison Stakes at Keeneland last spring, and will be pointed for that race on April 9, Frankel said.

Quick turnaround works for Dawn After Dawn

Seven days after finishing eighth in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff, Dawn After Dawn rebounded with a victory in the $84,600 Wishing Well Handicap. The upset win ended a six-race losing streak, dating back to the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes here last February.

Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Dawn After Dawn ($26) ran about 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:12.46. She finished a half-length in front of Christiana's Heat. Shermeen finished third in the field of nine fillies and mares, 1 1/2 lengths behind Dawn After Dawn.

Winning trainer John Sadler said a switch in surfaces helped Dawn After Dawn.

"I wanted to run on the turf," he said. "She was a little sour on the main track. She s pretty versatile."

Owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash, Dawn After Dawn, 5, has won 5 of 21 starts and $476,673.