Black Mamba, a New Zealand-bred mare who scored her first American stakes victory in last year's Beverly Hills Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park, is back to defend her title June 28 in the $150,000 grass event.
Trained by John Sadler for Doubledown Stables, Black Mamba ended a streak of seven consecutive in-the-money stakes performances without a victory when she captured the 10-furlong Beverly Hills in come-from-behind style by 1 1/4 lengths. She would go on to take the John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) at Del Mar in her next race. But the often trouble-prone 6-year-old bay is winless in five starts since.
Garrett Gomez, who was aboard for both of those wins, has the call this time around, replacing Joel Rosario.
Black Mamba will carry top weight of 120 pounds while breaking from post 3. She is part of a six-horse field in this year's Beverly Hills. The group includes two fillies -- Hot n' Dusty and You Lift Me Up -- who are cross-entered in the Vanity Handicap (gr. I) a day earlier on Hollywood's Cushion Track surface.
Sadler was optimistic that Black Mamba would rebound from her fourth-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Gamely (gr. IT) May 30. She rallied five wide from next-to-last on the final turn to be beaten by 1 1/2 lengths by the victorious Magical Fantasy.
“The last time was a little shorter for her,” said Sadler. “Now she is back at her preferred distance. I think she’ll be tough.”
Black Mamba seeks to become the fifth mare to repeat in the Beverly Hills in its 44-year history. The others are La Zanzara in 1974-75, Swingtime in 1977-78, Flawlessly in 1992-93, and Astra in 2001-02.
Though she has won just four times in a 25-race career, the daughter of Black Minnaloushe has seven runner-up and three third-place finishes while earning $718,851. Black Mamba worked seven furlongs in a bullet 1:26 2/5 on June 21.
Toque de Queda, who finished right behind Black Mamba in both the Gamely and the Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT) this spring, looks to put it together in her fifth start for trainer Bobby Frankel.
Owned by Johanna Louise Glen-Teven, the 5-year-old British-bred daughter of Dansili transferred from France last summer and debuted with a third-place finish in the Beverly D (gr. IT) at Arlington Park, finishing two lengths behind Mauralakana at odds of 53-1. She completed the year with a fifth-place showing in Woodbine's E.P. Taylor (Can-IT).
Switched to the West Coast in 2009, Toque de Queda ran third in a troubled Santa Barbara effort in April at Santa Anita. She was sixth in the Gamely when out-kicked late, but was beaten by less than two lengths.
A second Great Britain-bred, Restless Soul, comes off a victory in the Yerba Buena Stakes at Golden Gate Fields April 4. The 5-year-old Singspiel mare has won two of her past three starts for trainer Ben Cecil.
Charming Legacy is an Irish-bred 6-year-old who has placed third in both the Wilshire Handicap (gr. IIIT) and the Redondo Beach Stakes at the current meet. Trained by Ron McAnally, she is yet to win a stakes but has not been out of the money in five starts at Hollywood while winning twice.
You Lift Me Up was expected to run here for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer rather than in the Vanity. Four of her five lifetime wins have come on the turf, including a stakes victory on the Hollywood turf last fall.
Hot n' Dusty, owned by Madeline Auerbach and Little Red Feather Racing, has won three of 16 starts and makes her stakes debut this weekend.
$150,000 Beverly Hills Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 8, 4:30 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Hot n' Dusty (CA), A O Solis, 113, B Abrams
2. Toque de Queda (GB), V Espinoza, 115, R J Frankel
3. Black Mamba (NZ), G K Gomez, 120, J W Sadler
4. You Lift Me Up (CA), J Rosario, 114, J Hollendorfer
5. Restless Soul (GB), R Bejarano, 116, B D Cecil
6. Charming Legacy (IRE), J Talamo, 114, R L McAnally