After St Trinians won the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 13, outfinishing Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic winner Life Is Sweet, trainer Mike Mitchell gave serious thought to running against unbeaten superstar Zenyatta in the Santa Margarita Handicap the following month.
Mitchell weighed his options and decided to take his chances for more money against an undistinguished lineup of males in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap. She started as the 3-1 favorite, but never threatened in the Big `Cap, finishing sixth.
Three months later St Trinians is scheduled to have a first meeting with Zenyatta in the $250,000 Grade I Vanity Handicap over 1 1/8 miles of Cushion Track on June 13 at Hollywood Park.
“She had kind of a rough trip in the Santa Anita Handicap,” said Mitchell from his stable office Sunday. “Maybe it would have been different with a smaller field. I decided to give her a break after that. That was then. Now is now. We’re all ready.”
St Trinians, a 5-year-old English-bred mare, won all four of her United States starts prior to the Big ’Cap after arriving from England. She has won seven of 12 starts and earned $268,587.
“Zenyatta is a great mare, maybe the greatest mare I’ve ever seen,” said Mitchell. “I’m not running against her because I don’t respect her.”
Martin Garcia will ride St Trinians for the first time.
Zenyatta seeks her 17th straight victory, the longest streak in modern history against top competition. Citation and Cigar each won 16 in a row.
Trained by John Shirreffs for owners Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta also seeks an unprecedented third straight victory in the Vanity. The 6-year-old mare won under 129 pounds last year and 124 in 2008. Other two-time winners in the 68-year history of the race are Annie Lu-San in 1957-58, Convenience in 1972-73, It’s In The Air in 1979-80 and Azeri in 2002-2003.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, fresh off his first Belmont Stakes victory aboard Drosselmeyer Saturday, will again be aboard Zenyatta. He also rode Azeri to both her Vanity scores.
The highest-weighted Vanity winner was champion Gamely under 131 in 1968. Silver Spoon won under 130 in 1960.
With earnings of $5,924,580, Zenyatta would pass the $6-million mark with a Vanity victory and close in on the career female earnings record of $6,312,552 set by Ouija Board from 2003-2006.
“I’m just preparing for the race,” said Shirreffs, trying to ignore the record hype. “She’ll have one more breeze Monday.”
Other probable starters are Miss Silver Brook (Joe Talamo) and Will O Way (Tyler Baze). Will O Way worked six furlongs in 1:13.60 for trainer Vladimir Cerin.
Other possible include Made For Magic, Third Dawn, Cherryblossommiss and Miss Pleasant.
Trainer Ron Ellis is orchestrating a sequel to The Avengers, starring Rail Trip. The 5-year-old gelding avenged a loss as the beaten favorite in the 2009 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap by scoring a facile victory in the 1 1/16-mile race here on May 8.
Rail Trip hopes to duplicate the script in The Californian Saturday, a race in which he finished second as the favorite last year. “We’re out to avenge those losses,” said Ellis Sunday, happy with the way the Jay Em Ess Stable standard-bearer is coming up to the $150,000 Grade II test at 1 1/8 miles on Cushion Track.
“He’s been awesome since his last race,” said Ellis, pleased with a bullet six-furlong work in 1:12.80 Friday. “He’s ready to go.”
Rail Trip, winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup last year, has won seven of 10 starts and earned $877,790. Rafael Bejarano, who won The Californian with Heatseeker in 2008, has the call. Ellis sent out Buzzards Bay to victory in the 2007 Californian.
Other probable starters include Tres Borrachos (Victor Espinoza), Cigar Man (Joe Talamo), Slew’s Tiznow (David Flores) and One Track Mind (Tyler Baze). Cigar Man worked six furlongs in 1:13.80 for Vladmir Cerin.
Aitcho and the Bob Baffert-trained duo of Sangaree and Spurrier head a list of possibles.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer nominated Dance to My Tune to both the $250,000 Vanity Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on June 13 and the $60,000-added Desert Stormer Handicap at six furlongs Saturday.
Rather than face Zenyatta again in the Vanity, Hollendorfer indicated the 6-year-old chestnut mare will shorten up in the Desert Stormer.
Dance to My Tune, second to Zenyatta in the Santa Margarita Handicap, seeks to end an 18-race losing streak, dating to her last win in the Jammed Lovely Stakes in 2007 at Woodbine. Rafael Bejarano will ride.
Jockey Mike Smith, who won the Desert Stormer last year on Coco Belle, will seek a record-equaling third victory aboard Free Flying Soul. Eddie Delahoussaye won the race three times.
Trainer John Sadler, who saddled Coco Belle, seeks a repeat with Alpha Kitten (Tyler Baze).
Other probable starters include Sweet August Moon (Joe Talamo), New Mexico import Came West (Alonso Quinonez) and at least one of five Bob Baffert nominees: Fund Raiser, Moon de French, Rapport, Toro Bonito and Via Veneto.
Ten years ago the Cinderella Stakes for 2-year-old fillies here was won by a California-bred filly named Golden Ballet for trainer Jenine Sahadi. Bred and originally owned by Jerry Dutton, the filly would go on to capture three major stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita in 2001, including the Santa Anita Oaks.
Golden Ballet came to prominence again Saturday in New York as the dam of Drosselmeyer, winner of the Belmont Stakes. Retired octogenarian Dutton’s shouts could be heard throughout Idaho.
Trainers who entered fillies for the $60,000-added Cinderella for 2-year-old fillies at 5 ½ furlongs here Wednesday can dream of a similar story with the winner.
Trainer Vladimir Cerin entered an interesting duo in Gone Rebel and She’ll Heir, who will make their California debuts for owners Holly and David Wilson after first-time-out maiden at Lone Star and Keeneland, respectively.
She’ll Heir, a Florida-bred by Wildcat Heir, won a 4 ½-furlong maiden race at Keeneland on April 9 by 1 ½ lengths in 51.60. Louisiana-bred Gone Rebel won a 4 ½-furlong maiden race at Lone Star by 4 ¼ lengths in 52.40 on May 9.
“I had an agent who called me on both of them,” said Cerin. “Both came in about 10 days after their wins, have trained really well and shown ability.”
FINISH LINES— California breeders had plenty to celebrate Saturday. In addition to Golden Ballet’s contribution to the Belmont winner, a pair of California-breds won graded stakes here: Acclamation the Grade I Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap, and Cost of Freedom the Grade III Los Angeles Handicap…The local jockey colony accounted for three Grade I winners on the Belmont card: Mike Smith sweeping the Belmont and Just A Game with Proviso, and Martin Garcia booting home longshot Champagne d’Oro in the Acorn. Jockey agents Brad Pegram, who handles Smith, and his father Jim, who books for Garcia, could not have been happier. “Mike just flew in this morning and was very excited,” said Pegram of the Hall of Famer’s first Belmont win. “I could see he had a lot of horse on the backside, but at a mile and a half, you never know until it’s over.”…The jockey colony is growing by two. Agent Vince DeGregory reported that Alex Gonzalez, a five-pound apprentice with more than 70 victories, will begin riding here Wednesday from Northern California. Agent Vic Lipton said that Ariel Smith, who has ridden throughout the nation as well as Singapore since earning an Eclipse Award as leading apprentice in 1999, has also settled here….Gamely Stakes winner Tuscan Evening worked four furlongs in 49.20 breezing on Cushion Track…Happy birthday to Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, who will turn 74 Monday.
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