01/09/2010 12:00AM

Zilva, Whispering Hush have rebound potential

Benoit & Associates
Evening Jewel (center) wins the California Breeders on Dec. 27 over the Santa Anita strip.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Is there a 3-year-old filly in California who can warm up Blind Luck? If so, does that filly run Sunday at Santa Anita in the Grade 3 Ysabel Stakes?

Six entered, including two with excuses for finishing off the board last out - Zilva and Whispering Hush. Along with stakes winner Evening Jewel, and recent maiden winners Crisp, Harissa and Ellafitz, the 1 1/16-mile Santa Ysabel is tough.

But the $100,000 race is not as tough as the Grade 1 Las Virgenes on Feb. 6. That is the comeback target for division leader Blind Luck.

Whispering Hush was expected to finish better than fifth in the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes on grass last out, but "she never picked the bit up," trainer Eric Kruljac said.

Postrace tests revealed a high white blood count. Kruljac said her muscle enzymes also were "out of whack." The filly recovered from the low-grade infection, and Kruljac said this week she "is thriving, she's doing really well now."

The question is if she is good enough. Whispering Hush finished second and third in stakes for statebreds last fall while a maiden, then stretched to two turns in October and cruised. Mike Smith takes over for Victor Espinoza, who rides Evening Jewel.

Zilva had a nightmare trip finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. She was blocked through the lane, tried to run over horses late, and missed by 2 1/2 lengths. She previously finished fourth in the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland.

Rafael Bejarano worked Zilva five furlongs Monday. He rides her instead of Crisp, who won a maiden race last out despite doing everything wrong. Making her second start, Crisp lugged out badly on the far turn, dropped from second to fifth while trying to bolt, then straightened away and won by three-quarters of a length.

Trainer John Sadler believes an equipment change will prevent a recurrence.

"She ran in a generic D-bit," he said. "We put a stronger ring bit on her."

The lightly raced Crisp has worked regularly with the new equipment, and Sadler said "she's done nothing wrong." Joel Rosario takes over.

Evening Jewel won the California Breeders' two weeks ago, and is the only starter with a win over the Santa Anita surface.

"The only thing that worries me is the weight," trainer Jim Cassidy said, "I'm giving away six to eight pounds." Evening Jewel carries 122.