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Mike previews the 2023 Astra Stakes from Santa Anita Park, then gives his top picks & long shots. With a turf marathon looking paceless, could Queen Ofthe Temple’s late turn of foot prove just as strong for leading jockey Juan Hernandez? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
With leading man Juan Hernandez taking over, trainer Dan Blacker’s multiple stakes placed Queen Ofthe Temple heads a wide open field of older fillies and mares going a marathon mile and one half over the Santa Anita turf in Saturday’s $100,000 Astra Stakes.
Most recently third, beaten 4 ½ lengths going a mile and three eighths over the Del Mar lawn in the Grade III Red Carpet Stakes Nov. 24, Queen Ofthe Temple was also third five starts back in Santa Anita’s Grade III Santa Barbara at a mile and one half on grass on May 14 of last year.
A 5-year-old Kentucky-bred mare by Temple City out of the Read the Footnotes mare Queenameina, Queen Ofthe Temple’s lone win from 10 starts came at a mile and one eighth on turf in her fifth career start here on April 8, 2022.
Like several Astra contenders, she would be best suited by a fast pace but has the ability to lay closer if need be. Owned by Radley Equine, Inc., Roger Featherston, Rick Gold and Tony Maslowski, Queen Ofthe Temple has an overall mark of 10-1-4-3 with earnings of $137,840.
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Most recently ninth going a mile and one quarter on turf here in the Grade I American Oaks Dec. 26, English-bred Lady Clementine will hope to run back to her sharp allowance score at a mile and one eighth on turf two starts back in a first condition allowance at Del Mar Nov. 27.
Ridden by Frankie Dettori in the Oaks, she’ll be ridden for the first time by Flavien Prat on Saturday. Given her style, she too would be flattered by a legitimate early pace in what will be her first time at a mile and one half.
A 4-year-old filly owned by Qatar Racing Limited, Marc Detampel and Fergus Galvin, Lady Clementine has been unplaced in three graded stakes, all at long odds. Winless in four starts in her native England, she’s 10-2-2-3 overall with earnings of $108,481.
Yet another Astra entrant that would benefit from a solid early pace is the California-bred Warrens Candy Girl, who comes off a respectable fifth place finish here in the Grade III Robert J. Frankel Stakes at a mile and one eighth on turf Dec. 31.
Trained by Craig Lewis and owned and bred by Ben and Sally Warren, Warrens Candy Girl’s most recent win came four starts back versus statebreds in the one mile turf Solana Beach Stakes Aug. 21 at Del Mar.
A 5-year-old mare by Clubhouse Ride out of the Affirmative mare Warren’s Jitterbug, Warrens Candy Girl has three seconds from seven tries over the Santa Anita turf and has never been further than a mile and one eighth. With an impressive turf resume of 18-4-5-1, she’ll be making her 20th overall start and is easily the leading money earner in the Astra field with $347,160.
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With special early first post time set at 12 noon Saturday, a total of 10 races will be offered. Admission gates will open at 10 a.m.
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