Barry Abrams’ and Madeline Auerbach’s Lethal Heat is making her first start in graded stakes company, will be running off the turf for the first time, and is coming back in 10 days from a 1 ¾-length allowance win. But Abrams fully expects the 3-year-old daughter of Unusual Heat to handle those factors in the $100,000 Santa Paula Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita March 30.
Switching to the all weather surface after back-to-back wins on turf, this lightly-raced California bred (out of the Synastry mare Lethal Leta) owns both of her victories at the Santa Paula’s 6 ½-furlong distance. Tom Roberts is a co-breeder along with David Abrams and Auerbach.
“She’d been training very well on this track but the good turf races came up before a suitable dirt race, so I put her there and she won,” Abrams said. “She’s a very good horse, and I know it’s a big step up in class from California-breds to graded stakes horses, but if any horse can do it, she can.”
Abrams said the turf allowance, which the filly won in 1:14.13, was a glorified workout that left his starter full of energy.
“She basically ran pretty easy, and she’s kicking the stall down,” he said. “If I didn’t run her I’d probably have to work her in :58 (seconds) in a couple days, so instead of working her fast I’m gonna let her run. She’s sharp, she’s good; we’ll see what she does.”
Lethal Heat’s biggest hope lies in the chance that her higher-class contenders could run back to their poor performances in recent graded races.
Take Michael Bello’s Lovely Isle for instance. The runner-up in the one-mile Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) Feb. 9, she raced March 8 but faded to a dismal seventh, beaten twelve lengths in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I). Still, the Double Honor filly (bred in Florida by Farnsworth Farms out of the Island Whirl mare Eleven Islands) had two wins over the six-furlong distance – including a whopping 16 ½-length margin in a starter allowance at Aqueduct – before she finished seventh in the 6 ½-furlong Old Hat Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Jan. 12.
Trainer Bobby Frankel maintains she’s a better horse than her chart shows, and one who should like the shorter distance.
“It’s just that in the last race, it was like you couldn’t win on the lead,” Frankel said. “(Jockey David Flores) tried to rate her and keep her in the middle of the track because we thought the inside was no good. In the Old Hat, I think she went too fast. She ran good in the Las Virgenes.”
High weight in the field - and also needing to rebound from a disappointing graded effort - is Michael Shustek and Don Stanley’s P.S.U. Grad. The daughter of Harlan's Holiday, bred in Kentucky by Kidder, Griggs, and J&J Mamakos out of the Native Prospector mare Lo Cal Bread, won a one-mile allowance race at Bay Meadows by a length Feb. 9, but two races back finished an uncharacteristically poor tenth in the Sept. 29 Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita.
Trainer Craig Dollase gave her the rest of the year off, and she came back to finish fourth in her 3-year-old debut going 6 ½ furlongs on the Santa Anita turf. The allowance win was her second start this year.
Legacy Ranch and Shirley MacPherson’s Sweet August Moon should factor into the Santa Paula as well. The Malibu Moon  filly, bred in Pennsylvania by Maple Leaf Farm out of the Royal Academy mare Silent Academy, was third in the Feb. 2 La Habra Stakes (gr. IIIT), then won a seven furlong allowance event on the all weather track Feb. 29. Trainer Brian Koriner will saddle the $400,000 OBS 2-year-old purchase, in search of her third win from seven starts.
$100,000 Santa Paula Stakes (gr. III, race eight, approximate post 4:00 p.m. PST), 6 ½ furlongs for 3-year-old fillies, all weather track
PP, Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Sweet August Moon, 116, Aaron Gryder
2. Lethal Heat, 116, Gerry Olguin
3. Lovely Isle, 114, Tyler Baze
4. Dawn Before Dawn, 114, Garrett Gomez
5. P. S. U. Grad, 118, Michael Baze
6. Peisinoe, 114, Alex Solis
7. Crown of Diamonds, 114, Brice Blanc
8. Highland Torree, 114, Corey Nakatani

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