She has already beaten colts this season when she captured the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita. Now Evita Argentina will try to become the first 3-year-old since Honeymoon in 1946 to beat older fillies and mares in the A Gleam Handicap (gr. II) on closing weekend at Hollywood Park.
Evita Argentina is part of a strong one-two punch for trainer John Sadler in the A Gleam. She joins the 5-year-old mare Coco Belle, who comes off a smart 3 3/4-length gate-to-wire triumph in the Desert Stormer Handicap June 14, a race in which she handily defeated the two-time Eclipse Award-winning Indian Blessing.
The July 18 A Gleam, a $150,000 event at seven furlongs on Cushion Track, attracted nine all together, with Coco Belle, seeking her first graded stakes win for owners Jerry and Ann Moss, pulling top weight of 120 pounds. Evita Argentina, owned by Halo Farms and Three Sisters Thoroughbreds, carries 114. The A Gleam is the sixth race on a program that also includes the $300,000 Swaps Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-olds.
After taking the seven-furlong San Vicente in February when she rallied from 10th to win by one length, Evita Argentina was given a breather, returning in April to run fourth as the odds-on choice in Keeneland's Beaumont Stakes (gr. II).
The daughter of Candy Ride was off for two more months after that, resuming her career in the Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) when she came on for fourth after being squeezed at the start of the 1 1/16-mile test. Joel Rosario, who rode the chestnut filly for the first time in the Oaks, retains the mount. They break from the far outside.
Evita Argentina is not the only 3-year-old in the field. Lady Lumberjack, who ran second in the Hollywood Oaks for trainer Julio Canani and owners Roger Licht and David Milch, also figures to have a big chance here. The daughter of Forestry backed up to 6 1/2 furlongs after the Oaks and produced a 2 1/2-length allowance victory. She comes into the A Gleam with three wins and two seconds in her past five starts.
Coco Belle, a 5-year-old Storm Boot mare, would have to be considered the one to beat off dazzling front-running victories in her last two starts at Hollywood. She has finished in the money in 18 of her 23 lifetime starts while earning $450,113. Mike Smith, who won the A Gleam last year with the Sadler-trained Dearest Trickski, is the regular rider.
Also coming out of the Desert Stormer are the second- and third-place finishers -- Silver Swallow, who will be ridden by Garrett Gomez, and She's Cheeky, with Rafael Bejarano.
Trainer Bob Baffert is represented by the seldom seen Cry and Catch Me. A 4-year-old daughter of Street Cry who won the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) in fall 2007 at Oak Tree's Santa Anita meet, she has started just twice since.
Owned by Stetson Land & Cattle, Cry and Catch Me returned from a 10-month layoff to win an optional claiming allowance sprint in front-running style by 3 1/4 lengths June 7. Victor Espinoza takes over for Smith aboard the dark bay filly.
Another on the comeback trail is Ashley's Kitty, winner of the 2008 Desert Stormer for trainer Ted H. West. Following a ninth-place finish in last year's A Gleam, the 5-year-old Tale of the Cat mare went on the shelf for 10 months, returning May 7 with a third-place showing to Coco Belle -- beaten by two lengths -- in an allowance heat.
Michael Bello's Lovely Isle, formerly from the Bobby Frankel stable, last ran at Gulfstream Park in February, finishing a distant third to Any Limit in the Hurricane Bertie (gr. III).
Trainer Doug O'Neill hopes a little softer spot will help Modification, who has been off the board in three of four starts against grade I company since the spring. The exception came in a third-place finish in the Humana Distaff (gr. I) on a sloppy Churchill Downs strips May 2.
$150,000 A Gleam Handicap (gr. II, Race 6, 3:30 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 7 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Ashley's Kitty (KY), J Talamo, 116, T H West
2. Coco Belle (KY), M E Smith, 120, J W Sadler
3. Modification (KY), C S Nakatani, 115, D F O'Neill
4. Silver Swallow (FL), G K Gomez, 115, B Headley
5. She's Cheeky (KY), R Bejarano, 114, P Eurton
6. Lady Lumberjack (KY), M C Baze, 112, J C Canani
7. Cry and Catch Me (KY), V Espinoza, 114, B Baffert
8. Lovely Isle (FL), A O Solis, 115, J Mullins
9. Evita Argentina (KY), J Rosario, 114, J W Sadler