CRAFTY RIDE BY ROSARIO HELPS ULTRA BLEND TURN TABLES ON MILLIONAIRE EVENING JEWEL IN VALENTINE DANCER HANDICAP

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 26, 2011) – Ultra Blend was unable to overtake 2010 California-bred Horse of the Year Evening Jewel in last month’s Sunshine Millions Distaff, but, under a crafty ride by Joel Rosario, she was able to turn the tables Saturday in Santa Anita’s $100,000 Valentine Dancer Handicap.

Originally scheduled for one mile on turf, the competition for statebreds was moved to the main track following overnight rains, and the field size was drastically pared from 11 to four starters with millionaire Evening Jewel sent off as the 4-5 choice and Ultra Blend at 13-10.

Rosario managed to keep the multiple Grade I winner pinned down on the rail much of the journey before getting the jump on his rival entering the stretch and drawing off to win by 1 ¼ lengths in 1:35.58 over a main course labeled “fast.”

Victor Espinoza, aboard Evening Jewel, had to wait for room rounding the turn. Espinoza had no option but to direct his 4-year-old filly around the others before angling to the inside and losing momentum at the eighth pole. The pair made a run at the leader, but flattened out in the closing yards. It was 4 ¼ lengths back to La Nez in third while pace-setter Camille C faded to fourth.

“I told Joel (Rosario) to be watching Evening Jewel and every move she made,” winning trainer Art Sherman said afterward. “He rode a super race.” “She’s a mare that gives you 100 percent in every race,” commented Rosario. The outcome reversed a three-quarter length setback when Ultra Blend finished third in the Sunshine Millions event.

“It was a terrible trip,” said Jim Cassidy, who trains Evening Jewel. “They had him (Espinoza) blocked the whole time down the backside. He was trying to get out, trying to get moving, but he couldn’t even move when he wanted to. Then we had to wait, wait, wait ’til he got through. That why I hate those four-horse fields. Something always happens.”

Ironically, Evening Jewel had been scheduled to run in last Monday’s Grade II Buena Vista Handicap, also slated for one mile on turf, but scratched because of reasons that included drawing the disadvantageous outside post in a field of eleven.

With no show wagering on Saturday, Ultra Blend, who carried 123 pounds, paid $4.60 and $2.40. Evening Jewel, weighted at 125 pounds, returned $2.10 to place.

The winning purse of $60,000 lifted the career earnings of Ultra Blend, a daughter of Richly Blended, to $460,646 for owner Nels Erickson. Her career record became 8-4-5 in 19 starts.

Trainer Bill Spawr’s streaking Amazombie is the 122-pound high weight and 5-2 morning line choice among nine entrants in Sunday’s $100,000 Sensational Star Handicap at 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. The nine-race program gets underway at 12:30 p.m.

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