Fresh off a comeback victory in the A Gleam Handicap (gr. II), dual grade I winner Switch wheels right back for trainer John Sadler while returning to two turns in the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. II) Aug. 4 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
Switch, owned by C R K Stable, earned an automatic spot in this year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) with her victory in the July 14 A Gleam at Betfair Hollywood Park as part of the Cup's challenge series. She could gain a second guaranteed Breeders' Cup berth with a win in the 1 1/16-mile Hirsch, a qualifying race for the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I). Both races are scheduled Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park.
It will not be easy. The Hirsch, a Polytrack event for fillies and mares, drew a quality field of eight. The cast includes grade I winners Include Me Out, Star Billing, and Amani, a Chilean-bred filly who won 10 of 11 races in her native country and makes her first United States appearance for Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale. The Hirsch headlines the Aug. 4 card at Del Mar and will go as the eighth race at approximately 5:30 p.m. PDT.
Though much of her success has come sprinting, 5-year-old Switch won the 2010 Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) at the Hirsch's 1 1/16-mile distance. The daughter of Quiet American, boasting a career mark of 6-7-4 in 21 starts while banking more than $1.3 million, finished third in last year's Hirsch. She took the lead in at mid-stretch as the 7-10 favorite but was unable to hold off Ultra Blend to the wire.
Prior to that race, the bay mare ran second consecutively in last year's Santa Margarita (gr. I), Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I), and Vanity Handicap (gr. I), all at nine furlongs.
"She's got quite a resume so we're thinking that the other stakes (at Del Mar), the Rancho Bernardo (gr. III) at six and a half furlongs is a little short for her," Sadler said. "So she's run really well in some of these mile and sixteenth races before. We think the field is coming up right. She is doing very well."
Sadler said the reason for bringing Switch back to the races in 2012 was to give her another crack at the Breeders' Cup. She ran second in the Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) in each of the past two years. But she could wind up in the Ladies' Classic, depending on circumstances, he added.
"She's really scheduled for just like two or three more races," Sadler said, "because after the Breeders' Cup she'll be off to the breeding shed next year. But she's doing well. She had a really good workout (at Del Mar) on Monday so we're going to give it another go and see if we can get some redemption from last year."
Switch snapped an eight-race losing streak in the A Gleam, which she won by 1 3/4 lengths after rallying from last in the field of seven. She has worked twice at Del Mar since then, most recently clocking six furlongs in a bullet 1:11 July 29. Martin Garcia will have the mount on Switch, who will carry 119 pounds from post 3, four fewer than both Star Billing and Amani.
Sadler is seeking his first win in the Clement Hirsch since 2006 with Healthy Addiction.
Jay Em Ess Stable's Include Me Out has gotten a bit of a breather since her runner-up effort as the 3-5 favorite in the June 16 Vanity. The 4-year-old daughter of Include led by three lengths in the homestretch but was overtaken in the final furlong by Love Theway Youare, who won going away in a major upset.
The loss ended a three-race win streak for the Ron Ellis trainee. She had victories in the La Canada (gr. II), Santa Margarita, and Marjorie L Everett Handicap (gr. II, formerly the Milady) to establish herself as the class of the female handicap division in Southern California. Joe Talamo is back aboard Include Me Out, who drew the rail.
Star Billing, trained by John Shirreffs for George Krikorian, won the Matriarch (gr. I) on turf at Hollywood Park in November. But in her only start since, the 4-year-old daughter of Dynaformer tanked in the grassy Redondo Beach Stakes June 10, bobbling at the start and racing four wide around both turns to finish last of eight. Rafael Bejarano takes the mount on Star Billing, whose eight starts to date have all been on the turf.
Shirreffs won the Clement Hirsch three consecutive years with Zenyatta (2008-10) and also in 1997 with Radu Cool
Amani has not raced since taking the St. Leger (Chi-I) in December in Chile, but she has been working steadily every eight or nine days for Drysdale over the past two months on the Cushion Track at Hollywood. Owned by Sumaya U.S. Stables, the 4-year-old daughter of Irish sire Morning Raider counts four grade I victories among her total during her career in Chile. Garrett Gomez has the call on the bay filly for her North American bow.
Drysdale's only win in the Clement Hirsch came in 1984 with Princess Rooney.
Also part of the Vanity field are Zafeen's Pearl, third last time in the Vanity; and Quaintly, who ran third against males in the Sunset Handicap (gr. IIIT) July 15. Kayce Ace and Great Hot complete the field. Kayce Ace and Zafeen's Pearl race without Lasix.
$300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. I, Race 8, 5:30 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Include Me Out (KY), J Talamo, 121, R W Ellis
2. Quaintly (KY), Y Fukunaga, 119, P L Biancone
3. Switch (KY), M Garcia, 119, J W Sadler
4. Amani (CHI), G K Gomez, 123, N D Drysdale
5. Kayce Ace (KY), A T Gryder, 119, E G Harty
6. Zafeen's Pearl (GB), C Sutherland, 119, T Yakteen
7. Star Billing (KY), R Bejarano, 123, J A Shirreffs
8. Great Hot (BRZ), V Espinoza, 119, A C Avila