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Magic previews the 2023 China Doll Stakes from Santa Anita Park, then gives his top picks & long shots from this turf route for 3-year-old fillies. Trainer Phil D’Amato’s multiple stakes winner Comanche Country returns from a 4-month hiatus to face off against the Jeff Mullins trainee The Wild Grazer in what should be an exciting battle. Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
The Jeff Mullins-trained The Wild Grazer, a neck shy of being unbeaten in three Southern California starts, looks like the horse to beat in Saturday’s $100,000 China Doll Stakes at one mile over the Santa Anita turf. For 3-year-old fillies, the China Doll has attracted a very competitive field of seven.
Second, beaten a neck as the 2-1 favorite in the one mile turf Lady of Shamrock Stakes here on Feb. 12, The Wild Grazer, in her U.S. debut three starts back at Del Mar on Nov. 24, was a handy 2 ¼ length maiden winner versus eight rivals going five furlongs on grass.
Owned by Red Baron’s Barn and Rancho Temescal, The Wild Grazer made no mistakes as the 9-5 favorite in a first condition allowance here going about 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf course on Jan. 8, winning by 1 ¼ lengths.
In what will be her third start of the meet, The Wild Grazer, who was winless in two starts this past summer in Ireland, has an overall mark of 5-2-1-1 and will again be ridden by leading man Juan Hernandez.
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Leading trainer Phil D’Amato will be well represented by a pair of Irish-breds, local stakes winner Comanche Country and Paris Secret, who will be making her U.S. debut.
Far and away the leading money earner in the field with $241,287, Comanche Country has been idle since finishing a respectable seventh, beaten 5 ¾ lengths in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Nov. 4 at Keeneland.
A winner of her U.S. debut as the 9-5 favorite in a one mile maiden turf race at Del Mar July 30, Comanche Country then took two one mile turf stakes, the ungraded Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf on Sept. 10 and Santa Anita’s Grade III Surfer Girl on Oct. 9 prior to running at Keeneland.
Owned by Little Red Feather Racing, Sterling Stables, LLC and Marsha Naify, Comanche Country will be ridden for the fifth consecutive time by Umberto Rispoli as she tries to improve upon an overall mark of 6-3-1-0.
Third, beaten three quarters of a length by the top selection in the Feb. 12 Lady of Shamrock, Peter Eurton’s Florida-bred Princess Bettina was fourth, beaten 2 ¾ lengths by the Wild Grazer coming down the hill two starts back on Jan. 8 and will thus be facing her for the third time in a row on Saturday with Frankie Dettori riding for the first time.
Owned and bred by Donald Dizney, LLC, Princess Bettina has only one sub-par race on her form, a 10th place finish in her second start, a 6 ½ furlong maiden special weight run on the main track at Del Mar on Sept. 11. With her lone win coming in her third start, a one mile maiden affair here on Oct. 23, Princess Bettina, a daughter of Will Take Charge out of the First Dude mare Aiden’s Girl, also has three third-place finishes from six starts.
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Fourth, beaten 1 ¼ lengths by The Wild Grazer in the Feb. 12 Lady of Shamrock, trainer Michael McCarthy’s Tea N Conversation will be ridden for the first time by John Velazquez and it would appear she’d be best suited trying to rally from well off the pace.
A Kentucky-bred filly by Candy Ride out of the Rock Hard Ten mare Lady Ten, Tea N Conversation broke her maiden going a mile on turf three starts back from well off the pace and was subsequently a close fourth in the ungraded Blue Norther at the same trip on Dec. 30. She has a win and has second place finish from seven overall starts.
The “other D’Amato” in the China Doll lineup, Paris Secret is also the biggest question mark, as she makes her U.S. debut on the heels of a first-out one mile maiden turf win in Ireland on Oct. 31, a race in which she defeated nine rivals at 28-1.
In an Irish running line that states she ran greenly in the stretch drive of her career debut, Paris Secret would appear to have ample upside with 2019 Eclipse Award winning Apprentice Kazushi Kimura up. Owned by Paul Hardy, Paris Secret had six works on Santa Anita’s inner training track leading into her final China Doll warm-up, a five furlong drill on the main track this past Monday in 1:00.20, which proved 11th best of 101 drills at the distance.
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First post time for an 11-race card on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. with admission gates opening at 10:30 a.m.
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