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Idle since third versus the world’s best female sprinters on Nov. 4, five-year-old Three Witches makes her seasonal debut as she tops a field of six older fillies and mares going seven furlongs in Saturday’s $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.
The Santa Monica is among the 3 graded stakes, along with the Thunder Road (G3) and the Megahertz (G3), that support the undercard for the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3), a prep race for the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Special early first post time for a 10-race card on Saturday is at 12:15 p.m. with admission gates opening at 10:15 a.m.
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A winner of three of her eight starts, with two seconds and as many thirds for Florida-based trainer Saffie Joseph, Three Witches, a Kentucky-bred mare by Into Mischief out of the Tale of the Cat mare Layreebelle, ran a dynamite third for Joseph, beaten four lengths at 34-1 in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint here Nov. 4.
Ensconced following the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, Three Witches will make her first start for Michael McCarthy and be ridden for the first time by Flavien Prat.
Owned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds, Three Witches took the Grade III Princess Rooney at seven panels two starts back at Gulfstream Park on Oct. 7.
Lightly raced, Three Witches is 5-2-1-2 at the Santa Monica distance and should be very tough to beat on Saturday.
Fifth, beaten five lengths in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, Kirstenbosch, who was bumped hard at the break, was beaten one length by Three Witches and also fits nicely coming back at seven furlongs for John Sadler.
A winner of Santa Anita’s Grade III Chillingworth Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs two starts back on Sept. 29, Kirstenbosch, a 5-year-old mare by Midnight Lute out of the Belong to Me mare Llandudno, is owned by her breeder, Keith Abrahams.
A two-time graded stakes winner, Kirstenbosch, who be ridden back by Hector Berrios, is 18-4-5-2 overall with earnings of $551,480.
Idle some 16 months prior to running second, beaten 1 ¼ lengths going six furlongs in the Grade III Las Flores Stakes Jan. 1, Hot Peppers was well respected in the tote at 2-1.
She will be making her second start with Phil D’Amato and could certainly take a big step forward with a recent race to her credit and Juan Hernandez back aboard.
Originally based in Florida and New York, Hot Peppers, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare by Khozan out of the Friends Lake mare Friends Pro, was a Grade III stakes winner at age three in New York and was a close second at three in the Grade I Test Stakes at Saratoga in August of 2022.
With five wins and three seconds from 10 career starts, she has earnings of $412,950.
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A close third to the circuit’s most talented turf performer last time out, Phil D’Amato’s Tio Magico rates top billing among a field of eight older horses going one mile on turf in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Thunder Road Stakes at Santa Anita.
One of three D’Amato runners in the Thunder Road, Tio Magico, in his first-ever graded stakes assignment, pressed the pace throughout and ended up third, beaten 1 ¼ lengths by his stablemate Easter, who currently sits atop Southern California’s turf totem pole, in the Grade II San Gabriel Stakes at a mile and one eighth on turf here Dec. 26.
A 6-year-old gelding by Uncle Mo out of the More Than Ready mare Magic Broomstick, Tio Magico, who began his career in his native Canada at Woodbine Racecourse, was a gutty gate to wire allowance winner going a mile and one eighth on turf here two starts back as he prevailed by a neck.
One for 10 since joining D’Amato’s stable in the summer of 2022, Tio Magico has earned two consecutive Beyer Speed Figures of 94 and retains the services of Flavien Prat.
Bred in Ontario, Canada by Sam-Son Farm, Tio Magico is owned by his breeder and Agave Racing Stable. A Canadian-bred stakes winner at age three, he’s 19-4-2-4 overall with earnings of $311,919.
Although he’ll be making his first North American stakes start, the 6-year-old French-bred gelding Great King, in his Southern California debut, could well have run his best race here at Santa Anita on Jan. 7, as he unleashed an impressive stretch run from off the pace when ridden for the first time by Frankie Dettori.
In his first start for trainer Simon Callaghan, Great King, who had previously been running on or near the lead in 10 eastern starts, seemed to relish his new role as a deep closer, as he earned a career best 93 speed figure.
With the wily Dettori set to ride him back, Great King may be ready to show his best stuff in what will be his 20th career start.
Owned by Amo Racing, USA, Great King has three wins, five seconds and three third place finishes dating back to his 2-year-old debut in September of 2020 in England.
Irish-bred 4-year-old gelding Dandy Man Shines has been a gem of consistency as of late for Jeff Mullins, winning two out of his last three starts, while finishing no worse than third in his last six starts, dating back to December of 2022.
An impressive 2 ¼ length winner of the restricted Let It Ride Stakes Nov. 10 at Del Mar, Dandy Man Shines was most recently third, beaten three quarters of a length in the Grade II Mathis Mile Dec. 26.
Although he’ll be facing older horses on Saturday, he’s best suited at a mile on turf and in top recent form.
Owned by Rancho Temescal Thoroughbred Partners, Dandy Man Shines has been ridden in all of his Southern California starts by Umberto Rispoli, who will again be at the controls in the Thunder Road.
Fresh off the best year of her amazing 25-race career, Harris Farms’ classy 6-year-old homebred Closing Remarks is back at a preferred distance over a course she adores as she heads a field of seven older fillies and mares at one mile on turf in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Megahertz Stakes at Santa Anita.
A gutty half length winner of the Grade II Goldikova at one mile on turf here two starts back on Nov. 5, Closing Remarks finished strongly while in close quarters to be sixth, beaten two lengths in the Grade I Matriarch at one mile over the Del Mar turf in her next start on Dec. 3.
A 6-year-old mare by Vronsky out of the Unusual Heat mare Orange Cove, Closing Remarks posted four wins and two thirds from 10 graded stakes starts last year, good for 2023 earnings of $601,000.
Trained throughout her career by Carla Gaines, Closing Remarks has five overall stakes victories and with a career race resume of 25-7-5-4, she is just $180.00 short of the $1 million dollar mark as her current earnings read $999,820.
She’ll be ridden for the fourth consecutive time by Juan Hernandez on Saturday.
Idle since running third in the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Oct. 15, 2022, Phil D’Amato’s Irish-bred Bellabel lacks recency but gets the services of Flavien Prat for her return to action.
One for five in Ireland, Bellabel won her first two stateside starts with D’Amato—the ungraded Blue Norther and the Grade III San Clemente, both run at a flat mile on turf, on Jan. 2 and July 23, 2022.
Subsequently second three races back in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks, she returns to action on the heels of a steady work tab at both Los Alamitos and at Santa Anita.
Bellabel is owned by Agave Racing Stable, the Benowitz Family Trust, CYBT, Michael Nentwig and Ray Pagano.
With three wins and a second from five starts at one mile on turf, she’s 9-3-2-2 overall with earnings of $304,810.
Most recently fourth, beaten 2 ½ lengths going a mile and one eighth on turf in the Grade III Robert J. Frankel here on Dec. 30, trainer Paddy Gallagher’s 5-year-old Irish-bred mare Yerwanthere cuts back a furlong in distance, which should be to her liking.
With a win and a second from three tries at the trip, Yerwanthere, who is owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, is 9-3-1-0 and will be ridden for the third time in a row by Umberto Rispoli.
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