Ventura, a stylish winner of the Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I) against her own sex last time out, will take aim at males when she returns to the turf for trainer Bobby Frankel in the $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap (gr. IT) at Santa Anita March 7.
Facing the boys is nothing new for Juddmonte Farms' 5-year-old daughter of Chester House. She defeated males twice in England and turned in a sharp second to Rahy's Attorney in the Woodbine Mile (Can-I) on a yielding turf course last September. Since coming to North America for the start of the 2008 campaign, the dark bay mare has won five of eight starts and has not been out of the money while earning $1,475,077.
With national riding leader Garrett Gomez aboard, Ventura is coming off wins in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita and the Santa Monica, which was Jan. 31. Both of those victories came on the Pro-Ride racing surface.
Ventura was assigned 118 pounds, one less than high weight Artiste Royal, a multiple grade I winner for trainer Neil Drysdale who captured the 1 1/4-mile San Marcos Handicap (gr. IIT) by a nose on the turf Jan. 19.
Ventura, who likes to stalk, could be compromised by her rail post.
Gomez, though, seems little concerned about Ventura’s task in the Kilroe Mile. “I have no worries,” he told Daily Racing Form. “She’s really gotten stronger and more athletic, and she’s got a great turn of foot. I fell in love with her when she first got here.” Gomez has been in the irons for each of Ventura’s eight starts in North America.
Ventura is proven at the distance, winning Belmont Park’s Just a Game Stakes (gr. IT) last June. In the Santa Monica, Ventura launched her bid coming off the turn and caught her hot stablemate Jibboom approaching the eighth pole. She won in a drive by one length.
She'll face 11 rivals in the Kilroe Mile.
Artiste Royal, ridden by Gomez in the San Marcos, will be replaced in the Kilroe by Rafael Bejarano, who guided the 8-year-old Irish-bred Danehill ridgling to a second-place finish at 6-1 odds behind Ever a Friend in last year’s Kilroe. David and Jill Heerensperger's Artiste Royal, who captured the Clement L, Hirsch (gr. IT) at the Oak Tree meet in 2007, has earned $871,790 with a record of 7-8-5 in 28 career starts.
Also at 118 pounds is multiple graded winner Gio Ponti , who gets back on turf following a fifth-place showing in the Strub Stakes (gr. II) one month ago. The 4-year-old son of Tale of the Cat won the off-the-turf Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. III) at one mile prior to the Strub and will be making his first start on the Santa Anita grass.
Trained by Christophe Clement, Gio Ponti won both the Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) and Hill Prince (gr. IIIT) last year and is usually in the thick of things. The bay colt is reunited here with Ramon Dominguez, who rode him to a stakes win as a 2-year-old.
Mast Track, owned and trained by Frankel, also returns to turf after finishing three lengths in back of victorious Albertus Maximus in the Oct. 25 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The wire-to-wire winner of last year’s Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) has won three of seven starts on grass. Julien Leparoux will be aboard the 5-year-old son of Mizzen Mast , who has earned $759,622 from an overall record of 5-2-1 in 13 starts.
A sleeper here could be the Fair Ground shipper Wise River, a grade III winner who most recently ran third for trainer Clark Hanna in the Col. Bradley Handicap (gr. IIIT) over a good course Jan. 10. Robby Albarado gets aboard the 6-year-old for the first time.
Becrux is a 10-time winner of more than $1.1 million. In his most recent try on grass Dec. 28, the 7-year-old Italian-bred gelding ran fourth in the San Gabriel Handicap (gr. IIT) for trainer John Sadler, losing by 2 1/2 lengths to Proudinsky. He finished third in Holywood Park's Citation Handicap (gr. IT) prior to that. Edgar Prado has the mount.
Monterey Jazz, who took the Sir Beaufort in 2007 when it was on the lawn, ensures a lively pace though the 5-year-old son of Thunderello has not won since capturing the Texas Mile (gr. III) by eight lengths last April.
$300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap (gr. IT, Race 9, 4:07 p.m.), 4 & Up (Turf)
PP. Weight, Jockey
1. Ventura (KY), 118, Garrett K. Gomez
2. Mast Track (KY), 117, Julien R. Leparoux
3. Monterey Jazz (KY), 116, Russell A. Baze
4. Hewitts (FL), 114, David R. Flores
5. Wise River (KY), 116, Robby Albarado
6. Artiste Royal (IRE), 119, Rafael Bejarano
7. Dixie Chatter (KY), 115, Tyler Baze
8. Mr Napper Tandy (GB), 113, Joel Rosario
9. Global Hunter (ARG), 116, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
10. Becrux (ITY), 115, Edgar S. Prado
11. Gio Ponti (KY), 118, Ramon A. Dominguez
12. Victory Pete (FL), 113, Mike E. Smith