Mongolian Shopper wins the Wishing Well Stakes at Santa Anita Feb. 24

Mongolian Shopper wins the Wishing Well Stakes at Santa Anita Feb. 24

Benoit Photo

Mongolian Shopper Back to the Hill in Mizdirection

Any Given Saturday mare has won three straight races over the hillside turf course.

There's something about the unique setup of sprints down Santa Anita Park's hillside turf course that some horses love.

The rush of speed down the incline, the right-handed turn, the crossover the main track—some horses, like Mongolian Stable's Mongolian Shopper, eat it up.

Before trainer Enebish Ganbat moved a string of horses to Southern California, the Any Given Saturday mare was a claiming and allowance horse. She raced in Florida, Kentucky, and Illinois, but never really got rolling. She was offered for a claiming tag seven times, but never had any takers. Set for her 5-year-old season in 2018 with a 4-3-1 record from 20 starts, she was just another horse on the Santa Anita backside.

Then she got onto that hill.

In a $50,000 claiming race down the hillside course Jan. 7, she went to the front from a tough inside post and pulled away late to win by 2 1/4 lengths at 9-1 odds. Then came an optional-claiming allowance over the same course Feb. 3, and once again she sped to victory, this time by 1 1/4 lengths at 7-2.

So why not try a stakes? The Feb. 24 Wishing Well down the hill offered a purse of $70,000 (and black type), and although she went off at 23-1, she dueled for the lead, appeared to be in danger of getting swallowed up late, and dug in to prevail by a half-length.

Now she'll try to make it a hillside stakes double in the $75,000 Mizdirection at Santa Anita March 25.

"She reminds us of (2015 grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner) Mongolian Saturday, who every race kept getting better as an older horse," Ganbat assistant Santiago Aragon said of Mongolian Shopper. "She likes the downhill, so why change it? We were thinking about stretching out to a mile, but for some reason she likes the hill, so we're not going to change it.

"We thought we were going to get beat the last two times and she just keeps trying and keeps winning."

Although three horses are back from the Wishing Well for the Mizdirection—Princess Princess (second), Malibu Stacy (third), and Algorhythmic (sixth)—the task Sunday figures to be significantly more challenging for Mongolian Shopper.

Also in the field is a quartet of graded stakes winners, including James and Tammy McKenney's Coniah, who earned that distinction sprinting down the hill Jan. 20 in the Las Cienegas (G3T). Bendable, the 2017 Desert Stormer (G3) winner, finished second in the Las Cienegas and could improve in her second try down the hill, while Belvoir Bay's two grade 3 wins have come on a flat grass ovals in Southern California (but she did win the Unzip Me Stakes down the hill in 2016).

BALAN: Coniah Breaks Through for Morey in Las Cienegas

The final graded winner in the field is a fresh face. Ancient Secret is scheduled to make her first start down the hill and first start for trainer Phil D'Amato, but Alpha Delta Stables' Kantharos  mare brings ample back class, with three stakes placings to go along with two stakes wins on grass, including the 2016 Lake George (G2T) at Saratoga Race Course, when she was trained by Chad Brown.

BALAN: Ancient Secret Scores in Lake George

"We're just trying to see if she likes the hill," D'Amato said. "She came to me in good shape, after they gave her some time off at the farm, and she's come in and trained like a good horse. We'll see if she likes the hill, which would open up some options. ... But the goal is to make her a multiple stakes winner."

Entries: Mizdirection S.

Santa Anita Park, Sunday, March 25, 2018, Race 8

  • STK
  • About 6 1/2f
  • Downhill turf
  • $75,000
  • 4 yo's & up Fillies and Mares
  • 3:13 PM (local)
11Just a Little Hope (KY)Santiago Gonzalez120Dan L. Hendricks15/1
22Coniah (CA)Geovanni Franco124William E. Morey3/1
33Princess Princess (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateTyler Conner120Richard Baltas8/1
44Mongolian Shopper (KY)Edwin A. Maldonado124Enebish Ganbat4/1
55Ancient Secret (NY)Corey S. Nakatani124Philip D'Amato12/1
66Blame It On Alphie (KY)Flavien Prat122Richard E. Mandella6/1
77Bendable (KY)Mike E. Smith124Richard E. Mandella5/1
88Belvoir Bay (GB)Tyler Baze124Peter Miller6/1
99Malibu Stacy (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateBrice Blanc122George Weaver12/1
1010Classy Tune (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateEvin A. Roman120Simon Callaghan12/1
1111Algorhythmic (CA)Joseph Talamo122Michael Machowsky12/1