Prior to entries being taken, several trainers indicated they may withdraw from the 1 1/16-mile Dahlia. They included Carla Gaines, who conditions Eclipse contender Nashoba's Key, and Bobby Frankel, who saddles the grade I winner Citronnade. The $150,000 San Gorgonio (gr. IIT) at nine furlongs Jan. 6 on the Santa Anita lawn is considered a likely option.
The 4-year-old Nashoba's Key was assigned top weight of 123 pounds for the Dahlia and would start from post nine in the field of 12. The front-running Citronnade, weighted at 122, is stuck on the far outside. A field of 12 fillies and mares was entered.
Also considered on the fence heading into the Dahlia was the John Sadler trainee Black Mamba and Bill Currin's Memorette. The 3-year-old Hucking Hot, who won Hollywood's Audrey Skirball-Kenis Stakes last month for Paddy Gallagher, has been entered but could run in the seven-furlong La Brea Stakes (gr. I) on Santa Anita's Cushion Track Dec. 29.
Undefeated in seven starts prior to the Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) Oct. 27, Nashoba's Key was hemmed in along the inside behind the leaders on the soft Monmouth Park course and never got a clear run in the 11-furlong test. The Yellow Ribbon (gr. IT) winner finished fourth, defeated by two lengths by the victorious Lahudood. The Warren Williamson homebred daughter of Silver Hawk has earned $972,090 this year.
Running Nashoba's Key here is complicated by the fact that Gaines has also entered multiple graded stakes winner Foxysox, who has been on the sidelines since a seventh-place finish in the Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita in March. But if Gaines opts to scratch Nashoba's Key to run in the San Gorgonio, she would have only three weeks to get the California-bred star ready for the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint Jan. 26.
Regular rider Joe Talamo has the tentative Dahlia call.
Frankel said he wasn't sure which way he would go with 4-year-old Citronnade, who would be making her first start since Nashoba's Key defeated her by three-quarters of a length in the Yellow Ribbon Sept. 29. During an outstanding winter and spring campaign, the Stronach Stables' star won the San Gorgonio, Santa Ana, Gamely (gr. IT) and Beverly Hills (gr. IIT) consecutively. The bay daughter of Lemon Drop Kid has won eight of 13 races lifetime and earned $774,205.
In her only start of the year, the 4-year-old Foxysox finished 10 1/2 lengths behind Citronnade in the Santa Ana. In 2006 she won the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) on Hollywood's Cushion Track and rattled off successive turf wins earlier in the China Doll, Providencia (gr. IIIT) and Senorita (gr. IIIT).
Graded winner Meribel, trained by Christophe Clement for owners and breeders Arthur B. Hancock III and Catesy W. Clay, is coming off a closing third-place finish in Oak Tree's one-mile Las Palmas Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Santa Anita grass Nov. 4.
The New Zealand-bred Black Mamba comes off a runner-up finish in the Las Palmas and was nosed for second by Citronnade in the Yellow Ribbon prior to that.
$150,000 Dahlia Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 8, 4:05 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Shermeen (IRE), 113, Patrick A. Valenzuela
2. Meribel (KY), 117, Garrett K. Gomez
3. Hucking Hot (GB), 114, Victor Espinoza
4. Black Mamba (NZ), 116, Tyler Baze
5. Foxysox (GB), 118, Aaron T. Gryder
6. Lavender Sky (KY), 113, Alex O. Solis
7. Marietta (KY), 114, Rafael Bejarano
8. Memorette (CA), 115, Julien R. Leparoux
9. Nashoba's Key (CA), 123, Joseph Talamo
10. Trick's Pic (KY), 114, Richard Migliore
11. Live Life (FR), 113, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
12. Citronnade (KY), 122, David R. Flores