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Desi Arnaz Preview: Astute Makes Shrewd Surface Swap
Astute breaking her maiden on debut at Santa Anita Park (Credit: Ernie Belmonte)

Desi Arnaz Preview: Astute Makes Shrewd Surface Swap

DEL MAR, CA – Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, known for making plenty of shrewd moves in his 40+ years of training, will put LNJ Foxwoods’ Astute on the dirt for the first time in Saturday’s $100,000 Desi Arnaz Stakes at Del Mar.

The Desi Arnaz is a 6 1/2-furlong dirt sprint restricted to 2-year-old fillies. This year’s edition is the penultimate event on a 9-race card and has a local post time of 4:00 PM.

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Here’s a look at the full field for the Desi Arnaz:

1. Plum Sexy 12/1 – She was a runaway winner on debut in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint over the Santa Anita Park lawn, airing by 3 1/2 lengths to spring a massive 20/1 surprise. Trainer Doug O’Neill has a 20% strike rate with horses switching surfaces from dirt to turf and will leg up jockey Heriberto Figueroa for the second straight race.

2. Private Mission 9/5 – She won her debut by 1 3/4 lengths over the Santa Anita Park main track last month, defeating several well-regarded maidens while covering this same distance. Purchased as a yearling for $750k, she carries high expectations but has the potential to be one of Hall of Famer Bob Baffert’s next big training stars.

3. Canoodling 12/1 – She gives dirt a try for the first time in this spot after making her first 3 career starts on turf, the latter 2 in stakes routes. She broke her maiden on debut in a 5-furlong local sprint before finishing fifth in both the Juvenile Fillies Turf and the Surfer Girl, each time behind Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) contender Madone.

4. Varda 6/1 – The second of three entries from Baffert, she was a clear winner on debut, taking a 6-furlong jaunt over this course by 3 1/4 lengths. She was no match in the Chandelier Stakes (G2) when attempting to route over 1 1/16 miles, but the winner (Princess Noor) was favored in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), and she should be sharp as she cuts back to sprinting.

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5. Queengol 4/1 – She won her debut by a hard-fought 1/2-length while going 5 1/2 furlongs over this course on Labor Day Weekend, earning a field-best 79 Beyer Speed Figure in the process. She failed to repeat that effort next time out in the 6-furlong Anoakia Stakes, but perhaps she’ll work out a cleaner trip under new jockey Juan Hernandez.

6. Miss Costa Rica 10/1 – She broke her maiden on debut in a 5-furlong local turf sprint after closely stalking the early pace but couldn’t replicate the same result in the Chandelier, finishing 17 1/2 lengths back in third. Flavien Prat – the 2020 summer meet riding champ – shows faith riding her again for trainer Richard Baltas, who started the fall meet with an 11-3-4-0 mark.

7. Astute 3/1 – She was a speedy gate-to-wire winner in a 5 1/2-furlong dash over the Santa Anita Park lawn in her career debut, not an easy accomplishment on a course that tended to favor stalkers and closers. Mandella didn’t miss the board during the fall meet’s opening weekend (7-3-1-3 record) and wins 17% with similar surface swaps.

8. Heels Up 8/1 – The third head of Baffert’s King Ghidorah monster finished second behind Varda in her debut, then outgamed the well-regarded Flash Magic to break her maiden by a nose in her second start. Each race garnered her 57 Beyer Speed Figures that put her at the bottom of this field, but at least she keeps Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza aboard.

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