10/23/2008 11:00PM

Ventura sizzles in Filly and Mare Sprint


ARCADIA, Calif. - An unheralded allowance-class import when she made her U.S. debut in March, the Bobby Frankel-trained Ventura capped an extraordinary campaign Friday by blowing away Indian Blessing in the $1 million Breeders' Filly and Mare Sprint.

Racing seven furlongs over a Santa Anita main track that produced some of the fastest race times since the Pro-Ride surface was installed before the fall meet, Ventura and jockey Garrett Gomez won by four lengths in a scorching 1:19.90.

The Filly and Mare Sprint was the first Breeders' Cup race to be run on a synthetic surface, and while the times were fast, the surface played fairly, and form prevailed early on the card. Ventura returned $7.60 as the second choice. Third betting choice Zaftig finished third, two lengths behind runner-up Indian Blessing.

The synthetic footing could have provided an excuse if Indian Blessing had run poorly. But she ran well after pressing the fast pace, and jockey John Velazquez offered no alibis.

"I'm going to be fair," he said. "I think she ran her race today. The other horse just ran a little better than us."

Ventura, who was positioned 10th after a half-mile, benefited from fast splits set by Dearest Trickski, whose jockey, Mike Smith, would have preferred slower than 22.26 and 44.06 seconds (the fastest half of the meet for seven furlongs).

"I didn't get the breather I wanted," Smith said. Indian Blessing "was on me. It hurt us."

When front-runner Dearest Trickski weakened into the lane, Indian Blessing inherited the lead and still led at the eighth pole. For a moment, Velazquez thought he had it won.

"My horse was running," he said, "but that horse went by me. I'm like, 'Wow.' "

Ventura's style is to rally from far off the pace. In March, she won the Grade 2, seven-furlong Madison at Keeneland rallying from 10th position. Frankel raced her four times on turf, including a victory in the Grade 1 Just a Game at Belmont, before returning her to synthetic on Friday.

"She's got a great turn of foot," Frankel said, and early this week he said that Ventura looked like his best chance to win a Breeders' Cup race this year. "You never know until they do it . . . and she did it."

Frankel is making a habit of winning Breeders' Cup races. The Filly and Mare Sprint was his sixth BC win the past eight years after a 0-for-36 drought through 2000.

"It wasn't like they were running out of the money," Frankel said. "They weren't running bad, it was just circumstances."

Frankel will consult with owner-breeder Juddmonte Farms before determining if Ventura would race next year as a 5-year-old. Early indications are she would.

As for Indian Blessing, trainer Bob Baffert said she would be freshened up and aim for the $2 million Golden Shaheen next spring in Dubai.

After the top three, the order of finish was Miraculous Miss, Tizzy's Tune, Intangaroo, Magnificience, Jazzy, Lady Sprinter, La Tee, Dearest Trickski, Dream Rush and Tiz Elemental.