Three Degrees Takes Dirt Stab in El Encino

(from Santa Anita report)
Irish-bred Three Degrees, one of the West Coast's leading 3-year-old fillies on turf last year, is set to make her main track debut on Sunday in Santa Anita's $150,000 El Encino Stakes (gr. II) at 1 1/16 miles.

The roan filly, freshened since losing by less than one length when a fast-closing fifth in Keeneland's Queen Elizabeth II Cup (gr. IT) on Oct. 15, will face six other 4-year-old fillies in her transitional test. Three Degrees was set to make her first start on dirt in the seven-furlong La Brea Dec. 30, but was scratched due to wet track conditions.

"We're just trying it one time to see if it works," said trainer Paddy Gallagher. "She's by Singspiel who won the (1997) Dubai World Cup, but I don't know what the ingredients are to make the transition. I'm just hoping she takes to the main track."

Three Degrees posted a 3-2-0 record in seven turf stars last year while earning $255,855 for the partnership of Bienstock, Winner Stables and DePietro. She won Hollywood Park's Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) and was second when favored in the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT). Alex Solis is her regular rider.

Eastern invader Play Ballado is the only entrant to have won a stakes race over a dirt surface. The huge bay filly, trained by John Ward for John Oxley, is coming off a 7 ½-length victory in Aqueduct's Miss Oceana Stakes on Nov. 2. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Saint Ballado has won three of her four starts by a combined margin of more than 21 lengths.

The El Encino will be her first race around two turns. "As you're going into your first race around two turns, you're worried," commented Ward, "but I think a mile and a sixteenth gives her a chance to use her size as an advantage, and she has a good stride."

$150,000 El Encino Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 4:10 p.m.), 4-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Somethinaboutlaura (CA), 117, Aaron T. Gryder
2. Skipping Court (KY), 115, Kent J. Desormeaux
3. Cream Donut Keith (NJ), 115, Corey S. Nakatani
4. Proposed (CA), 117, Patrick A. Valenzuela
5. Shimmer (KY), 117, Victor Espinoza
6. Three Degrees (IRE), 117, Alex O. Solis
7. Play Ballado (KY), 117, Edgar S. Prado