STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN

ST TRINIANS FACES GRADE II CHALLENGE IN SANTA MARIA

St Trinians is perfect in three United States starts, but the 5-year-old English-bred mare faces her sternest test Saturday in the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Maria Handicap for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

St Trinians, a daughter of Piccolo trained by Mike Mitchell, has climbed the class ladder in the U.S., winning an optional claiming race, an allowance race and the restricted Paseana Handicap by a combined margin of nearly 15 lengths. She has a 6-0-3 record from 10 starts with earnings of $118,587.

“If you’re asking me has she surprised me from the first time I got her, yeah,” Mitchell said, “because I thought I had a claiming horse, by her action, but she loves to train. Everybody who rides her says she feels great underneath them.

“Her action is the same as when I first got her. I didn’t improve her as far as that goes, but now she’s a race horse. She’s a fun horse to train, and she’s not running here for the fun of it.”

The field for the Santa Maria, which goes as race eight on a 10-race program: My Baby Baby, Alex Solis, 114; Pretty Unusual, Paul Atkinson, 117; St Trinians, Joel Rosario, 116; Mushka, Kent Desormeaux, 118; Zardana, Victor Espinoza, 117; Once Upon A Grace, Joe Talamo, 111; Czechers, Chantal Sutherland, 113; Life Is Sweet, Garrett Gomez, 123; and Spring Style, Luis Medina, 114.

BLIND LUCK READY FOR SATURDAY’S LAS VIRGENES STAKES

Blind Luck went from post position two to the rail when the Grade I, $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes was redrawn after being postponed due to inclement weather last Saturday, but according to her connections, it shouldn’t make any difference to the two-time Grade I winner, who makes her overdue 3-year-old debut Saturday.

“It’s not a concern,” said Jerry Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward. “There are two horses in the race (Switch and Summer Games) that have been on the lead sprinting, so she should have a target. We’re anxious to get her going.”

The field for the Las Virgenes, which goes as the fourth race: Blind Luck, Rafael Bejarano, 122; Evening Jewel, Victor Espinoza, 118; Crisp, Joel Rosario, 118; Switch, Tyler Baze, 116; La Nez, Mike Smith, 118; and Summer Games, Michael Baze, 116.

CECIL HAS GRIPSHOLM CASTLE ON COURSE FOR SUNDAY’S LA CAŇADA

Gripsholm Castle makes her United States debut and her first start on synthetic in Sunday’s Grade II, $150,000 La Caňada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles. Trainer Ben Cecil hopes she is up to the challenge.

“We bought her while we were at Newmarket for the horses-in-training sale last October,” said Cecil, whose uncle, Henry Cecil, had trained the daughter of Dynaformer in England. “He recommended her, that’s for sure. She’s a nice, big, well-bred filly. We think if we can get black type on her, she’s probably going to be worth more than we paid for her.”

Gripsholm Castle has had only four career starts, winning two. She broke her maiden at Newmarket in May of last year under 124 pounds and won by seven lengths at 1 5/16 miles on turf at Haydock under 134 pounds.

ATKINSON SAYS UNBEATEN CARACORTADO WILL DO HIS THING IN LEWIS

Paul Atkinson had to go back to Memo in the mid-1990s before he could come up with a horse he rode regularly that was as good as Caracortado, his mount in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.

The Chilean-bred champion Memo went on to become a quality stallion after winning stakes races for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, among them the 1993 San Bernardino Handicap (now the Tokyo City Cup) with Atkinson aboard.

“He’s a very nice horse,” Atkinson said of Caracortado, who is unbeaten in four starts. “He’s versatile and you can place him where you want. He runs his race, and he’ll run it on Saturday. I’m very confident in him because I know he’s going to give me everything he has. I’ll just try and keep him out of trouble.”

Caracortado (it means scarface in Spanish) is a California-bred gelding by Cat Dreams with earnings of $109,200. He broke his maiden last Sept. 24 in a $40,000 claiming race at four furlongs at Fairplex Park, eventually stretching out to win the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 26.

The field for the Lewis, which goes as the sixth race: Dave In Dixie, Joel Rosario, 115; Tiz Chrome, Garrett Gomez, 117; American Lion, Julien Leparoux, 117; Caracortado, Atkinson, 117; and Tango Tango, Rafael Bejarano, 115.

TEAM ZENYATTA OUT OF THE LOOP ON PROPOSED SERIES VS. RACHEL ALEXANDRA

In a statement released on the Blood-Horse website Wednesday, majority owner of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra Jess Jackson proposed a three-race series between the 4-year-old filly and undefeated Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Zenyatta, but as of Thursday morning, it was news to Team Zenyatta, whose owners are Jerry and Ann Moss.

“I don’t mean to be vague, but no one ever spoke to us about such a proposal,” Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs said early Thursday morning. She is the racing manager for the Mosses and wife of trainer John Shirreffs. “We’re waiting to hear about what’s going on,” Ingordo said. “We’re just finding out, like everybody else.”

In the statement, Jackson said: “We have been in discussions with Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of National Thoroughbred Racing Association, with the hope of coordinating training schedules, racing schedules, purses and all ancillary factors, so that we can all agree upon three dates and three venues for what will be a racing series to rival the Triple Crown.” Wednesday afternoon, Moss told the Associated Press: “I have no idea what he’s (Jackson) even talking about. Which three races? And where? And when?”

A week ago, Oaklawn Park said it will offer a $5 million purse for the Apple Blossom Handicap on April 3 if both horses compete, but Rachel Alexandra’s trainer, Steve Asmussen, said yesterday that, “Out of respect for the level of competition and the importance of this race, I have told Mr. Jackson it was not in the best interest of the horse to race on April 3.”

Rachel Alexandra has not raced since beating older males in the Sept. 5 Woodward Stakes, her eighth victory in an unbeaten campaign. She is in training at the Fair Grounds. Zenyatta likely will make her debut as a 6-year-old in the Grade I, $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita on March 13. She worked six furlongs Thursday at her Hollywood Park headquarters in 1:13.80, breezing.

LARRY BORTSTEIN MEMORIAL SET FOR FEB. 24,

A memorial service for longtime turf writer Larry Bortstein, who passed away at age 67 on Jan. 31, will be held in Santa Anita’s FrontRunner Restaurant on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 5 p.m., following the afternoon’s races.

Bortstein, who at the time of his death was a regular contributor to the Orange County Register and the California Thoroughbred Magazine, succumbed from the effects of a pulmonary embolism he suffered at his home on Jan. 23.

A native of New York, Bortstein authored more than 20 books and covered all major sports for various publications for more than 40 years. He also served as Santa Anita’s Assistant Director of Publicity in the mid ‘80s.

His longtime friend and colleague, Bill Christine, a retired multiple Eclipse Award-winning staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, will emcee the service.

In addition to sports, Bortstein also had a passion for music, in particular singing. He was a member of a barbershop harmony group and had sung professionally to help support his family since he was a small boy.

Bortstein is survived by his wife, Pat, a daughter, Christy, son Steve and grandson, Jeff.

FINISH LINES: Pretty Unusual is entered in Saturday’s Santa Maria Handicap, but Barry Abrams isn’t stopping there. The trainer plans to enter the El Encino Stakes winner in both Sunday’s La Caňada Stakes and Monday’s Buena Vista Handicap, before making a decision on where the daughter of Unusual Heat will run. “Most likely, she’ll run Sunday,” Abrams said . . . With the cancellation of the Leroidesanimaux Handicap on Feb. 6 due to inclement weather, trainer Jeff Mullins plans to train multiple graded stakes winner Battle of Hastings up to the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on March 6 . . . Tomorrow marks another ‘Free Friday’ at Santa Anita. Patrons will receive free General Admission and box seats, while supplies last, as well as being offered $1 hot dogs, beers, sodas, popcorn and coffee . . . There will be special racing on Monday, Presidents’ Day. The first 10,000 fans in attendance at Santa Anita will receive a free set of Santa Anita Pint Glasses with paid admission, while supplies last. First post time is 12:30 p.m. . . . With Valentine’s Day on Sunday, Santa Anita guests can send ProFlowers to their loved ones and receive a 15 percent discount. Interested parties can go on line at www.ProFlowers.com/SantaAnita, or call 1 800-580-2913 . . . Win and exacta betting on phase one of the Kentucky Derby Future Book wagering begins Friday through Sunday at Santa Anita . . . Santa Anita’s second version of its popular on-line handicapping game, WinVivor, was down to 312 contestants going into Thursday. ShowVivor II begins Saturday . . . Brad Free of Daily Racing Form and Bob Mieszerski of Today’s Racing Digest.com will be Jack Disney’s guests on Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:15 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens.

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