Finest City

Finest City

Skip Dickstein

Finest City Entered for 2017 Debut in Santa Monica

Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) winner may not run if conditions are too wet.

An abnormal amount of rain in Southern California this winter—at least in comparison with recent drought years—has not only forced the region's horsemen to alter training plans, but also to reconsider which races to run in.

For trainer Ian Kruljac, running Seltzer Thoroughbreds' Finest City in the $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes (G2) Jan. 21 at Santa Anita Park has always been the target to kick off the 2016 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) winner's 2017 season.

But looming storms could again intervene in the process.

Showers are expected to begin the evening of Jan. 18 and continue through Jan. 20. Although Saturday—at least for now—looks to be in the clear, rain is again expected to show up again Jan. 22-23.

"Everyone is turning into a weatherman now," Kruljac said of the scramble training has become at the Arcadia, Calif., racetrack. "We're just trying to manage her at this point. It will be a morning-time decision, but (scratching) is definitely a thought. It's not worth it if the track is off."

Outside of potential adverse conditions, and maybe the inside post in a field of five, the Santa Monica figures to be right in the City Zip mare's wheelhouse. It's at the same seven-furlong distance as the Filly & Mare Sprint (and a sixteenth shorter than her other graded win, the Great Lady M. Stakes [G2]) and it comes after a similar spacing between races she experienced before the Breeders' Cup.

HAMMONDS: Finest City Scores in Filly & Mare Sprint

In her works since the Breeders' Cup, she's logged three bullets, including in her last drill—five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 over the Santa Anita training track—and Kruljac said every move has been easy and on her own.

"There's no asking her," Kruljac said of the 5-year-old who was sometimes hard to handle during her younger years. "She does everything on her own. We can ask her not to do things, but we don't need to ask her to do things. ... She's a mare now. She's filled out, gotten stronger, and she has matured—mentally too.

"It's maturity. She still kicks the wall in her stall, but she schools a lot better now."

The only other graded stakes winner in the field is Kaleem Shah's Fantastic Style, who will be making her first start for trainer Doug O'Neill after she and a number of other Shah runners were moved over from Bob Baffert's barn.

The Harlan's Holiday mare, however, ran fifth in her previous start, 12 lengths behind fellow Santa Monica entrant Bad Ju Ju in the Dec. 30 Kalookan Queen Stakes at Santa Anita.

A 5-year-old Desert Code mare, Bad Ju Ju was claimed by trainer Peter Miller for $40,000 out of an Oct. 8 race at Santa Anita and has won all three starts since for new owner Rockingham Ranch. She started out with two conditional optional-claiming allowance scores, then won the Kalookan Queen by 2 1/2 lengths.

Rounding out the field are stakes winners Dr. Fager's Gal and Sheer Pleasure.

Entries: Santa Monica S. (G2)

Santa Anita Park, Saturday, January 21, 2017, Race 5

  • Grade II
  • 7f
  • Dirt
  • $200,000
  • 4 yo's & up Fillies and Mares
  • 2:29 PM (local)
PPHorseJockeyWgtTrainerM/L
11Finest City (PA)Keeneland Sales GraduateMike E. Smith124Ian Kruljac6/5
22Bad Ju Ju (CA)Norberto Arroyo, Jr.120Peter Miller2/1
33Dr. Fager's Gal (NY)Flavien Prat120Jerry Hollendorfer15/1
44Fantastic Style (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRafael Bejarano122Doug F. O'Neill5/2
55Sheer Pleasure (CA)Martin Garcia120Philip D'Amato6/1