Bobby Frankel and John Sadler will each send out a pair of fillies and mares in the 42nd edition of the $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT), a nine-furlong turf test March 22 at Santa Anita.
Two horses bred in New Zealand and one each from Brazil and England are included in the diverse Santa Ana, which drew a field of nine and is the feature of the 10-race Sunday program.
English-bred Visit will carry top weight of 118 pounds. Trained by Frankel, who has captured eight of the last 17 runnings of this event--including the last two, the 4-year-old Oasis Dream filly won a pair of group III stakes racing in her homeland for former trainer Sir Michael Stoute. Visit made her U.S. debut in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) in October over the Santa Anita grass and took a short lead into the stretch before finishing a game fourth.
Visit, a homebred for Juddmonte Farms, closed out her 3-year-old season with a third-place finish in the Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park and opened her 2009 campaign on Feb. 14 in the Santa Maria Handicap (gr. I), where she finished a well-beaten sixth as the favorite on the Pro-Ride surface.
“I hope it’s just a throw-out race,” said Frankel of Visit's last effort. “She was down on the inside, she wanted to run, there was no place to run, and she spit it out.”
Frankel will now try the dark bay back on turf. He will keep Gomez as the rider. Gomez will be looking for his 18th stakes win of the Santa Anita meet. He is just two shy of Laffit Pincay Jr. and Corey Nakatani's record.
Frankel will also saddle Eissoai, winner of a group I race in her native Brazil. That victory came back in 2007, just before the daughter of Roi Normand was sent to the U.S. Eissoai has won one of four starts in the states and even though she finished fifth in a New Year’s day allowance race on the Santa Anita grass, was beaten only 1 1/4 lengths for it all. Victor Espinoza will get the mount for the first time.
Sadler’s pair includes Dawn After Dawn and Belmont Cat, both 5-year-old mares. Dawn After Dawn has already raced three times this season, including consecutive stakes scores in her last two. The daughter of Successful Appeal won the Jan. 31 Wishing Well II Handicap at about 6 1/2 furlongs and returned to the Santa Anita turf to win the March 13 Moscow Burning Stakes, a one-mile restricted event.
Owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash, Dawn After Dawn was a highly-regarded 3-year-old who was third in the Ashland (gr. I) and fourth in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) in 2007. Last year she won the La Canada Stakes (gr. IIT) in February at Santa Anita and was runner-up in the Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. IT). Tyler Baze will ride Dawn After Dawn for the first time, as she returns after just nine days off.
Sadler also has Doubledown Stables’ Belmont Cat, a New Zealand-bred mare who finished fifth in her graded stakes debut in January. The daughter of Felix the Cat ran a nice race in the nine-furlong San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita, pressing the pace before finishing 2 1/4 lengths back of Tizfiz. Belmont Cat won an allowance test at Hollywood in December in her first start on U.S. soil.
Also with a good chance is Martin Schwartz’ Satan's Circus, who should improve off a fourth-place allowance finish in her 4-year-old debut earlier this month. The Gone West filly was runner-up in the American Oaks (gr. IT) last July at Hollywood Park. Joe Talamo will ride for Patrick Biancone.
Charles Lo’s In My Glory is expected to be the pacesetter in the Santa Ana. Two starts back the Honour and Glory mare took a lead into the stretch in the Dahlia Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood before finishing third.