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With both recency and top long distance form in her corner, Richard Mandella’s Linda’s Gift heads a field of seven older fillies and mares going a marathon mile and one half on turf in Sunday’s $100,000 Astra Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
First post time for a eight-race card on Sunday is at 12:30 p.m. with admission gates opening at 10:30 a.m.
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A gate to wire winner going a mile and three eighths on turf in Del Mar’s Grade III Red Carpet Stakes Nov. 23, Linda’s Gift, a 5-year-old mare by Arrogate, earned a solid 90 Beyer Speed Figure in prevailing by three quarters of a length.
Originally based in New York, Linda’s Gift, who is out of the Tapit mare Americana, has two wins and a second from five starts with Mandella and was a close fourth two races back going a flat mile in the restricted Kathryn Crosby Stakes two starts back on Nov. 23.
Owned by John Cronin, Anthony DiMarco, Michael Mandara, Fred Nicota and Vincent Varvaro, Linda’s Gift, who will be ridden for the fifth consecutive time by Tiago Pereira, is 11-3-2-2 overall with earnings of $194,936.
Although she’s the defending champion in the Astra, Michael McCarthy’s Irish-bred Duvet Day has been idle since June 18 and thus faces a tall order going a mile and one half off of six-month layoff.
A 5-year-old mare, Duvet Day’s last start came versus males in the marathon mile and three quarter turf San Juan Capistrano Stakes (Grade III), a race in which she tried to rally from off the pace, finishing fourth by 5 ½ lengths.
Second, beaten a neck two starts back in the mile and one half turf Santa Barbara April 30, she was third three starts back in the Grade III Santa Ana at a mile and one quarter on March 12 and is 8-1-2-2 over the Santa Anita Park lawn.
Owned by Cedros, Jane Bacharach and Richard Schatz, Duvet Day will be reunited with Kazushi Kimura, who guided her to victory in last year’s Astra.
Well represented by three starters, Phil D’Amato’s Lakota’s Spirit has a big look in the Astra, as she comes off a close second here going a mile and one eighth on turf Dec. 30 as the 8-5 favorite.
A 1 ¼ length winner of a first condition allowance at one mile on turf two starts back on Nov. 26, Lakota Spirit will be making her third career stakes start with regular rider Juan Hernandez back aboard Sunday.
Originally based in the east with Chad Brown, Lakota Spirit has a win and three seconds from four starts with D’Amato. Owned by Peter Brandt and Mrs. Paul Shanahan, Lakota Spirit, a 5-year-old mare by Curlin out of the Street Sense mare Milam, has a win and three seconds from four starts with D’Amato and is 10-2-5-1 overall with earnings of $176,265.
Also trained by D’Amato, Irish-bred Musical Rhapsody, in her first stateside stakes engagement, was dismissed at 18-1 in the Grade III Red Carpet Nov. 23, but pressed the pace and finished a strong second, beaten three quarters of a lengths by Linda’s Gift while earning a much improved 89 Beyer.
A 5-year-old mare, Musical Rhapsody is winless in three Southern California starts. Owned by Michael House, Musical Rhapsody is 13-3-1-0 overall and will be ridden back by Mike Smith.
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