Unzip Me, a four-time stakes winner over Santa Anita's unique downhill turf course, will be solidly favored to annex the Grade III, $100,000 Senator Ken Maddy Stakes on Friday when live racing returns to Santa Anita with the 2011 Autumn Meet, which runs 24 days through Nov. 6.
The Autumn Meet, which will feature racing on Thursdays through Sundays with the addition of Columbus Day on Monday, Oct. 10, will be highlighted by a stakes roster that includes 13 graded stakes and a day of state-bred racing on Oct. 29, the California Cup. This year marks the 21st running of the Cal Cup which will include five stakes, headed by the $150,000 Cal Cup Classic at 1 1/8 miles.
Saturday, Oct. 1 has been designated as Breeders' Cup Challenge Day and will be highlighted by four Grade I stakes events. This year's Breeders' Cup will be hosted by Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 & 5 while Santa Anita intersperses live racing into its simulcast of the two-day championships. Blind Luck, who has succeeded Zenyatta as America's most compelling Thoroughbred attraction, will gear up for the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic in Saturday's Grade I, $250,000 Lady's Secret at Santa Anita.
Unzip Me will face five opponents in Friday's opening day feature for fillies and mares at 6 ½ furlongs on turf. The 5-year-old mare, co-owned and bred by Harris Farms and Don Valpredo has become a paragon of consistency, finishing in the money in her last 15 starts, winning 10 of them. The defending champion in the Maddy, Unzip Me won the event a year ago when it was run at six furlongs over Hollywood Park's turf course. Her favorite layout, however, is Santa Anita's downhill course on which the chestnut mare has captured five of seven. Included is a second-place finish.
Rafael Bejarano rides the California-bred daughter of City Zip who is trained by Marty Jones. She will carry 120 pounds and break from post position No. 2. Unzip Me enters the Maddy with earnings of $812,228 from a 12-4-3 record in 21 career starts.
The complete field for the Maddy Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Waveline, Victor Espinoza, 118; Unzip Me, Rafael Bejarano, 120; Broken Dreams, Garrett Gomez, 118; Tanda, Joseph Talamo, 123; Separate Forest, Patrick Valenzuela, 123, and Givine, Joel Rosario, 118.
Tanda may be considered Unzip Me's principal rival. The 4-year-old filly has won three Grade III stakes including Del Mar's Rancho Bernardo Handicap in her last start on Aug. 11. That race, a 1 ¼-length victory at 6 ½ furlongs over Del Mar's synthetic surface, was her first in the care of Del Mar's all-time leading trainer, Mike Mitchell. Joe Talamo has the return riding call aboard the Florida-bred filly owned by Tommy Hutton's Dream Stable. Tanda has won 2 of 4 starts on turf while compiling a 5-1-3 record in 12 starts for earnings of $346,626.
After twice running second to Unzip Me, Broken Dreams upset the 3-5 favorite in an allowance race last July 14 at six furlongs over Hollywood Park's turf course. She ran down Unzip Me to score by 1 ¼ lengths at odds of 5-2.
Broken Dreams closed well to finish fourth, 1 ¼ lengths behind Unzip Me in the last start for both, the $105,000 Daisycutter Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 12. Garrett Gomez rides Glen Hill Farm's homebred Broken Dreams, whose 4-5-1 record in 14 races has generated earnings of $196,433.
The 5-year-old mare, trained by Tom Proctor, has finished second in two career starts on grass. Included was Santa Anita's Clocker's Corner Handicap last March when Broken Dreams finished one-half length behind Unzip Me.
French-bred Givine was third in Del Mar's Daisycutter Handicap, one length in back of Unzip Me and one-quarter length ahead of the fast-finishing Broken Dreams. Joel Rosario will be aboard the gray filly trained by Julio Canani for Marsha Naify. Including eight races in France, Givine has posted a 6-1-3 mark in 13 career outings while banking $176,021. All of her victories have been achieved on grass.
Separate Forest is another Daisycutter alum. She set the pace that day and held on for second one-half length behind Unzip Me at odds of 6-1. Patrick Valenzuela has the mount on the Forestry filly trained by Doug O'Neill for Suarez Racing and Westside Rentals. A $25,000 claim last January at Santa Anita, Separate Forest upset Unzip Me by a neck in the Grade III Las Cienegas Handicap in April. She shows an overall record of 4-2-3 in 14 races for earnings of $195,525.
The field is rounded out by Waveline, a 6-year-old mare conditioned by Ben Cecil for owner-breeder J. Paul Reddam. In last year's Maddy at Hollywood Park, the Stravinsky mare ran second to Unzip Me, 1 ½ lengths back at 13-1. She wound up fifth behind Unzip Me in the recent Daisycutter while going off at 9-1. Victor Espinoza rides the Cal-bred who has earned $325,549 from her record of 5-3-3 in 21 starts.
The Maddy is carded as the third race on a program of nine races. With the exception of the Autumn Meet's final three programs, first post each day will be at 1 p.m.
Grade I stakes races on Saturday, in addition to the Lady's Secret at 1 1/16 miles, are the Goodwood Stakes at 1 1/8 miles, the Norfolk for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles and the Yellow Ribbon presented by Emirates Airline for fillies and mares at 1 ¼ miles on turf. The Goodwood is expected to attract Santa Anita Handicap winner Game on Dude. The first three finishers in the Del Mar Futurity, Drill, Majestic City and Creative Cause, are ticketed to compete again in the Norfolk. The winner of each of the stakes is assured a spot in the Breeders' Cup under the event's “Win and You're In” program.
Santa Anita will offer two graded stakes on Sunday, Oct. 2, the Grade I Oak Leaf Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles and the Grade II Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship at 1 ¼ miles for 3-year-olds and up.
Top older horse Acclamation is due to compete in Sunday's Hirsch. A winner of Del Mar's $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 28, the California-bred son of Unusual Heat has won three consecutive Grade I stakes and will be seeking his fifth consecutive win. Trained by Donald Warren, Acclamation will again be ridden again by the veteran Valenzuela.
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