Rail Trip, a 4-year-old gelding, will try to win his first graded stake in the $150,000, Grade II Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track Saturday.
Both horses worked five furlongs here Sunday, Carlsbad in 58.80 seconds under jockey Tyler Baze and Rail Trip in 1:00 breezing under regular rider Jose Valdivia Jr.
“Awesome,” said trainer Ron Ellis after Rail Trip’s work. “He’s coming up to it perfect.”
Rail Trip, a son of Jump Start, made his debut here in November with a 3 ½-length score in a six-furlong maiden race and strung together four more wins after that. In his last start at Santa Anita April 4, he won the Santana Mile Handicap by a nose over Dakota Phone after opening a three-length lead in the stretch.
Rail Trip has shown speed in all his races but Ellis said the horse does not have to be on the lead. “He would rate if somebody else wanted to go,” said Ellis. “That was why I had him set behind a horse today.”
Ellis explained that Rail Trip, owned by Jay Em Ess Stable, did not make the races until late in his 3-year-old year because he had a chip taken out of his ankle late in his 2-year-old year.
Leading competition in the Mervyn LeRoy is expected from Dakota Phone, who just missed in the Daytona Mile under Rafael Bejarano; and Dixie Meister, who finished third and won the 2006 Californian here.
Dixie Meister, a 7-year-old gelding, worked five furlongs in :59.80 for trainer Julio Canani. Victory Pete, another Mervyn LeRoy nominee, worked six furlongs on turf in 1:14.60 for conditioner Alexis Barba.
The Mervyn LeRoy is the first stepping stone to the $700,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 11. The second is the $250,000 Californian at 1 1/8 miles on June 13.
Trainer Ral Ayers was equally impressed with Carlsbad’s work. “She just cruised,” said Ayers after the Arizona-bred’s drill.
Carlsbad, owned and bred by Dennis Weir, proved her eye-opening form in four victories at Turf Paradise was no fluke when she made an auspicious California debut under Baze with a 3 ¼-length victory in the Grade III Santa Paula Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs on March 29 at Santa Anita.
Top competition is expected to be furnished by Witty, unbeaten in two starts for trainer Richard Mandella and to be ridden by Victor Espinoza; and Strawberry Tart, an import coming off two straight victories at Oaklawn Park.
Strawberry Tart, who was shipped here last month by trainer Jeff Bonde, worked five furlongs in a bullet :58.60 on Cushion Track Sunday.
Two other probable starters also worked five furlongs: Santa Paula runner-up Ultra Blend, in :59.60 for trainer Art Sherman; and La Habra Stakes runner-up Gold Goddess, in 1:01.20 for conditioner Walther Solis.
Other probable starters include Third Dawn (Rafael Bejarano) and Will O Way (Jesus Rios).
LIFE IS SWEET WORKS FOR MILADY
Trainer John Shirreffs remained on target with one burgeoning female star but was uncertain what option to exercise with an established one.
Life Is Sweet, who was named female champion of the Santa Anita meet after capturing the Grade I Santa Margarita Handicap for her third straight stakes win, worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 breezing on Cushion Track Sunday under exercise rider Isabelle Bourez.
Shirreffs confirmed the 4-year-old full sister to champion Sweet Catomine would make her next start in the $150,000, Grade II Milady Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track here on May 23.
Shirreffs also waited for the return of female champion Zenyatta, unbeaten in 10 starts, from Kentucky Monday after scratching the 5-year-old mare from the Louisville Distaff Friday because of a muddy Churchill Downs surface.
“Nothing is firm,” said Shirreffs when asked about alternate plans for Zenyatta.
FINISH LINES — Trainer Mike Puype said Gorgeous Goose, upset winner of the $100,000 Wilshire Handicap for fillies and mares here Saturday, would remain at one mile on turf for the meet. “She will run next in the Redondo Beach Stakes (June 6) and then probably the Royal Heroine (Mile July 11),” said Puype…Noble Court, a candidate for the six-furlong $100,000 Los Angeles Handicap May 16, worked four furlongs in 50 seconds for trainer John Sadler…Veteran jockey agent Vince DeGregory is recovering at home from recent surgery for a disc in his neck.