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Thursday, January 01, 2009


SAN GORGONIO STAKE ADVANCE


ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 1, 2009) – Even though she hasn’t won in eight starts since June of 2007, Irish-bred Valbenny appears well-placed on Sunday to extend Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel’s dominance of Santa Anita’s Grade II, $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Frankel has saddled seven of the past 13 winners of the event that will be contested for the 40th time. His eight overall victories in the race are three more than accomplished by the legendary Charlie Whittingham.


Valbenny, a 5-year-old bay mare, will be the starting high weight at 116 pounds among eight entrants in the San Gorgonio while making her third start for Frankel. With earnings of $580,453 from an overall record of 5-4-1 in 16 starts, she will be the most accomplished of the starters.

With regular rider Alex Solis in the saddle, Valbenny closed strongly in her last start, Oak Tree’s Grade II Las Palmas Handicap on Oct. 24, to finish a close fourth, 1¼ lengths behind victorious Roshani.

The Leal Stables’ stone stretch-runner has been facing top competition with four Grade I stakes races included in her efforts since taking Hollywood Park’s Grade II Honeymoon Breeders’ Cup Handicap under Solis 1½ years ago.

“I don’t know that she needs to time everything just right to win,” observed Frankel. “Maybe she just needs her friends.” None of her San Gorgonio opponents has captured a graded stakes race.

Meribel, however, has been a highly consistent sort for Runnymede Farm while compiling a 7-3-7 record in 27 starts for earnings of $523,870. The well-traveled 6-year-old mare has competed in graded stakes company in 10 of her last 12 starts. Joel Rosario has the mount for trainer Mark Casse.

The complete field for the San Gorgonio Handicap, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Meribel, Joel Rosario, 115; Tizfiz, Agapito Delgadillo, 114; Solar Miss, Garrett Gomez, 113; Marzelline, Victor Espinoza, 115; Green Lyons, Rafael Bejarano, 114; Belmont Cat, Mike Smith, 114; High Heel Sneakers, Joseph Talamo, 115, and Valbenny, Alex Solis, 116.

The San Gorgonio will go as the seventh race on a nine-race program with first post at 12:30 p.m.


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