Magical Fantasy, winner of the Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita last month, and Black Mamba, who came up a nose shy in a desperate stretch drive, will battle again in the $250,000 Gamely Stakes (gr. IT) on the Hollywood Park turf May 30.
Both are grade I winners on grass and Black Mamba, a 6-year-old New Zealand-bred mare, returned from a four-month layoff when she rallied six wide to miss by the narrowest of margins in the April 18 Santa Barbara.
Black Mamba also finished second by a nose in the 2008 Santa Barbara and bounced back with back-to-back stakes victories in Hollywood's Beverly Hills (gr. IIT) and Del Mar's John C. Mabee (gr. IT) Handicaps. It's a pattern trainer John Sadler hopes she duplicates this year.
“The Hollywood turf plays a little better for a closer,” he said.
Black Mamba will have a furlong less in which to uncoil her reliable late turn of foot in the 1 1/8-mile Gamely. She and Magical Fantasy will have plenty of other company to contend with as well in the 11-horse field, including the third and fourth-place finishers in the Santa Barbara--Toque de Queda and the pacesetter Ainamaa. Just 1 1/2 lengths separated them at the wire.
The Gamely field also includes Juddmonte Farms' highly-regarded Visit, multiple grade II winner Foxysox, and multiple graded winner Diamond Diva, making her second start on the comeback trail after an impressive return.
Black Mamba, owned by Doubledown Stables, is looking for her first victory since last summer's Mabee, though she was off the campaign trail prior to the Santa Barbara. While she has just four wins in 24 starts, she has earned $702,171 thanks to nine other placings, most of them coming in Southern California graded stakes. She has raced exclusively on the turf and has a win and a second in three starts at Hollywood.
Joel Rosario, who rode Black Mamba for the first time in the Santa Barbara, will break from post 10 with co-high weight of 123 pounds.
Magical Fantasy, who also carries 123, signaled her readiness for the rematch with a recent five-furlong work in :59 3/5 at Santa Anita.
Alex Solis will ride the 4-year-old daughter of Diesis, upset winner of the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) last summer for trainer Paddy Gallagher. Magical Fantasy was forced to steady under Solis on the turn in the Santa Barbara but stayed on gamely after getting a narrow lead in deep stretch.
Owned by the partnership of David Bienstock, Paul Mandabach and Charles Winner, the English import Magical Fantasy has three wins and four seconds in 14 starts and earnings of $452,431.
Three Chimneys Racing's Diamond Diva was runner-up to Precious Kitten in last year's Gamely after showing speed along the inside. The Jim Cassidy trainee followed that effort with a win in the CashCall Mile (gr. IIT) by a nose over Ventura July 5, but went to the sidelines for 10 months after that with a suspensory injury.
Returning for her 5-year-old season May 2, the Great Britain-bred daughter of Dansili turned in a strong effort in the meet-opening Wilshire Handicap (gr. IIIT), getting the lead in the stretch before giving way late to finish second, three-quarters of a length behind Gorgeous Goose.
In four outings at Hollywood Park, all in graded stakes, the English import has two wins and two seconds. 'Diva's overall record stands at 6-6-2 in 17 starts and $741,285 in purses. David Flores stays on board.
Touque de Queda produced a big effort as the favorite in a troubled Santa Barbara try. She was bumped and in tight rounding the final bend but was in position to win leaving the furlong marker while finishing three parts of a length behind the first two.
Trained by Bobby Frankel for Johanna Louise Glen-Teven, the British-bred 5-year-old Dansili mare seeks her first U.S. win after finishing third in Arlington Park's Beverly D. (gr. IT) and fifth in Woodbine's E.P. Taylor Stakes (Can-IT) last year. Victor Espinoza hopes for a better trip this time.
Frankel also entered Visit, who has failed to deliver in five American starts, the last three as the favorite, since transferring from Britain last fall. Visit, Juddmonte's 4-year-old daughter of Oasis Dream, is coming off a fifth-place finish in Churchill Downs' Distaff Turf Mile (gr. IIT) on Kentucky Derby day May 2. Her other four U.S. starts have come in Southern California, including a third in last fall's Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) at Hollywood.
Ainamaa found herself in an unusual spot in the Santa Barbara as the pacesetter and acquitted herself well in her first try at 10 furlongs. Trained by Ben Cecil, the 5-year-old Lemon Drop Kid mare has a win over the Hollywood lawn, though it came in an allowance optional claiming race two years ago.
Foxysox won the 2008 Santa Barbara over Black Mamba but could not overcome a wide trip in her bid for a repeat and wound up fifth, three lengths behind. Trained by Carla Gaines for Warren B. Williamson, the 6-year-old British-bred mare has won $715,118 in her 26-race career (including seven victories), but is winless in six starts at the nine-furlong distance.
Speedy Irish-bred filly Tuscan Evening should handle the pace chores from the rail post with Rafael Bejarano aboard.
The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee ran three times on Santa Anita's hillside turf course at 6 1/2 furlongs this past meet. In front-running fashion, she broke her maiden in January, then won a first-level allowance race five weeks later in 1:11.88. In her next start, the Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. IIIT), she led to deep stretch as the 7-10 choice and finished third in a game effort.
Modification stretches out for Doug O'Neill after rallying six wide for the show spot at 27-1 in Churchill's seven-furlong Humana Distaff (gr. I), contested over a sloppy track on May 2.
Bel Air Sizzle comes off a fourth-place finish in the Wilshire Handicap (gr. IIIT), where she was beaten by two lengths. Lemon Chiffon, breaking from the far outside under Mike Smith, completes the field.
$250,000 Gamely Stakes (gr. IT, Race 9, 5 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Tuscan Evening (IRE), R Bejarano, 117, J Hollendorfer
2. Bel Air Sizzle (CA), J Talamo, 119, B Abrams
3. Toque de Queda (GB), V Espinoza, 117, R J Frankel
4. Diamond Diva (GB, D R Flores, 123, J M Cassidy
5. Modification (KY), C S Nakatani, 117, D F O'Neill
6. Visit (GB), B Blanc, 117, R J Frankel
7. Magical Fantasy (KY), A O Solis, 123, P Gallagher
8. Ainamaa (KY), A T Gryder, 117, B D Cecil
9. Foxysox (GB), T Baze, 119, C Gaines
10. Black Mamba (NZ), J Rosario, 123, J W Sadler
11. Lemon Chiffon (KY), M E Smith, 117, S McCarthy