The undefeated Arizona firecracker Carlsbad figures to face her toughest test yet when she puts her five-race win streak on the line in the $100,000 Railbird Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies at Hollywood Park May 10.
After winning her first four starts at Turf Paradise by more than 50 lengths, the speedy Carlsbad proved her mettle in California when she won the Santa Paula Stakes (gr. III) by 3 1/4 lengths in her first try on a synthetic track at Santa Anita on March 29. It was her closest race to date.
Though that effort makes her the only graded stakes winner in the Railbird, this will be Carlsbad's toughest test to date, with plenty of early lick in the lineup. Eight other sophomore fillies are entered in the seven-furlong event, which will be contested on Hollywood's Cushion Track racing surface.
Dennis Weir's Arizona homebred daughter of Rocky Bar--Kits Peak (by Pine Bluff) is now in the barn of Jeff Mullins after beginning her career last fall with Kevin Lewis.
Carlsbad was headed briefly for the first time in her career in the 6 1/2-furlong Santa Paula by stablemate Empressive Lady. But the 3-2 favorite answered quickly to take the lead by a head after an opening quarter mile of :21.83, and she opened up from there by a couple of lengths. She traveled a half-mile in :44.08 and finished up in an excellent time of 1:14.65 after kicking clear under slight urging.
Favored in all of her Arizona races as well, Carlsbad has won from six furlongs to a mile. The Arizona Oaks, her lone two-turn effort, produced a 13 1/4-length triumph Feb. 21. That was her only other start this year. Her first three wins came as a 2-year-old, including a 19-length victory in the Arizona Juvenile Filly Stakes.
Carlsbad worked five furlongs in :58.80 on May 3.
Trainer Ral Ayers, filling in for Mullins while he serves a suspension for an infraction in New York, was impressed with Carlsbad’s work.
“She just cruised,” said Ayers.
Tyler Baze, who was aboard Carlsbad for the first time in the Santa Paula, has the return engagement. She will break from post 3 under 121 pounds.
There are a couple of others in the field who figure to go with Carlsbad early.
Witty, a daughter of Distorted Humor trained by Richard Mandella for Claiborne Farm and partners, has been impressive in her two starts at Santa Anita. The dark bay broke her maiden at first asking by 3 1/2 lengths March 4, completing 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.61 in spite of a slow start from the inside post. She then returned five weeks later to tally in gate-to-wire fashion by 3 1/4 lengths over a first-level allowance field in a sizzling time of 1:08.56 for six furlongs.
“She’s given us reason to be excited about her possibilities,” said Mandella May 6 from his Santa Anita training base.
Witty would provide a nice Mother’s Day bonus to her dam, Well Dressed, with her first stakes victory. Well Dressed is also the dam of Well Armed, winner of the $6 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in March.
Strawberry Tart turned some heads at Oaklawn Park this spring, breaking her maiden by 14 1/2 lengths against claiming horses March 13, then vanquishing an optional claiming allowance group by 5 1/4 lengths in 1:09.83. Both victories, at six furlongs, came in front-running style for the Jeff Bonde-conditioned daughter of Atticus.
Burg Berg returns to sprinting after a fourth-place finish in the one-mile Providencia Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the Santa Anita lawn. Also quick, the Johannesburg filly ran fifth after setting the pace in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) prior to the Providencia, although she was beaten by just 1 1/2 lengths by the victorious Stardom Bound. That was her only previous try on a synthetic track in her five-race career for trainer Paco Gonzalez.
Pretty Unusual, the highweight in the field at 123 pounds, comes off of a length win over state breds in the Melair Stakes at Hollywood April 25. The Melair was the stakes debut for the Barry Abrams-trained daughter of Unusual Heat. She has won two of five starts overall.
Will O Way is a two-time stakes winner for trainer Vladimir Cerin who has tailed off in her two most recent starts after an exciting nose victory in Golden Gate Field's California Oaks Jan. 31. The Broken Vow filly is the field's most experienced runner with three wins in nine starts and earnings of $162,500.
Just one returns from the Santa Paula to take on Carlsbad. That would be Ultra Blend, who finished second as the longest shot in the short field. Trained by Art Sherman, the California-bred daughter of Richly Blended was based in Northern California prior to her last start, winning the Tiburon Stakes at Golden Gate on Jan. 10.
Maiden winners Lady Lumberjack and Music Magic, both of whom figure to come from off the pace, complete the field.
$100,000 Railbird Stakes (gr. III, Race 8, 4:30 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 7 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Pretty Unusual (CA), 123, Rafael Bejarano
2. Will O Way (KY), 121, Jesus M. Rios
3. Carlsbad (AZ), 121, Tyler Baze
4. Lady Lumberjack (KY), 115, Joel Rosario
5. Ultra Blend (CA), 121, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
6. Strawberry Tart (CA), 117, Mike E. Smith
7. Music Magic (KY), 115, Alex O. Solis
8. Witty (KY), 117, Victor Espinoza
9. Burg Berg (KY), 117, Aaron T. Gryder