Valbenny and 'Friends' Meet in 'Gorgonio
by Jack Shinar
Date Posted: 1/1/2009 6:34:56 PM
Last Updated: 1/4/2009 1:21:24 PM

Valbenny will try to end an eight-race losing streak in the San Gorgonio Handicap.
Photo: Benoit

The multiple graded stakes winner Valbenny lands in a good spot to try to end an eight-race losing streak in the $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. II) on the Santa Anita turf Jan. 4.

Trained by Bobby Frankel, who has won seven of the past 13 editions of the 1 1/8-mile test for older fillies and mares, Valbenny will try to reach the winner's circle for the first time since winning the Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park in June of 2007. The Irish-bred 5-year-old makes her third start for Frankel in the San Gorgonio.

Owned by Lael Stables, the late-running Valbenny carries top weight of 116 pounds against seven rivals, none of whom have won a graded stakes.

“I don’t know that she needs to time everything just right to win,” observed Frankel. “Maybe she just needs her friends.”

Valbenny has won five of 16 starts with earnings of $580,453, which leads the field. In her last start, the bay daughter of Val Royal rallied gamely in a big field to get fourth, 1 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Roshani, in Oak Tree's Las Palmas Handicap (gr. IIT) over the course Oct. 24. Regular rider Alex Solis has the call. They will break from the far outside post.

High Heel Sneakers, a 2 3/4-length winner of Hollywood's Hermosa Beach Handicap Nov. 9, returned a month later to take on the boys for trainer Ben Cecil in the Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT), finishing seventh. The British-bred 6-year-old daughter of Dansili seems to appreciate more ground than nine furlongs, however.

Cecil also entered the Irish-bred Marzelline, who has a stakes win among her three victories in the U.S. and ran fourth in Oak Tree's Yellow Ribbon (gr. IT) Sept. 27. The 5-year-old daughter of Barathea tired to seventh in the 12-furlong Long Island Handicap (gr. IIT) at Aqueduct in her last start Nov. 1.

Green Lyons was no match for Vacare in Holywood's Dahlia Handicap (gr. IIT), where she finished sixth Dec. 21, but could find this opportunity more to her liking. The Neil Drysdale-trained Irish-bred 5-year-old won her only start at Santa Anita, a 1 1/8-mile allowance race in her U.S. debut April 10.

Meribel is a highly-consistent sort for Runnymede Farm while compiling a 7-3-7 record in 27 starts for earnings of $523,870. The well-traveled 6-year-old mare has competed in graded stakes company in 10 of her last 12 starts. Joel Rosario has the mount for trainer Mark Casse.

Tizfiz shipped to Turf Paradise for trainer Rafael DeLeon to score in her first stakes attempt Dec. 6 and has two wins and a second on the Santa Anita sod. She was claimed for $50,000 from Diamond A Racing at Oak Tree in October.

Belmont Cat, a New Zealand invader who won her only U.S. start for John Sadler and Doubledown Stables against allowance foes on the Hollywood grass Dec. 3, takes a big step here. Solar Miss, trained by Kathy Walsh, makes her first appearance since a runner-up showing as the favorite in a stakes at Hollywood Nov. 15.

$150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT, Race y, 3:36 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Meribel (KY), 115, Joel Rosario
2. Tizfiz (KY), 114, Agapito Delgadillo
3. Solar Miss (KY), 113, Garrett K. Gomez
4. Marzelline (IRE), 115, Victor Espinoza
5. Green Lyons (IRE), 114, Rafael Bejarano
6. Belmont Cat (NZ), 114, Mike E. Smith
7. High Heel Sneakers (GB), 115, Joseph Talamo
8. Valbenny (IRE), 116, Alex O. Solis



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