Sandiva Returns to Action in Saturday’s My Charmer Handicap (G3)
Nov 18, 2015
Pletcher Trainee Co-Highweight in Field of 10 Fillies and Mares
MIAMI GARDENS, FL
– Al Shaqab Racing’s Sandiva is set for a return to action in Saturday’s $100,000 My Charmer Handicap (G3) at Gulfstream Park West, where the 4-year-old filly will seek to recapture the winning form she showed last winter in South Florida.
The Todd Pletcher trainee, who won two stakes at Gulfstream Park last winter, is co-highweight with Kitten’s Dumplings at 121 pounds for the 1 1/16-mile turf race that will highlight Saturday’s card, along with the $100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap (G3). The highweights will be asked to carry between one and five pounds more than her nine rivals.
“She’s training really, really well. She’s always been a filly that is very good in the mornings. I’m hoping because of that that she would run well off the bench,” said Pletcher, whose trainee has a solid series of five workouts at Palm Beach Downs in preparation for the My Charmer. “She’s been away a for a little while, but she’s training as sharply as she did last winter at Palm Beach Downs when she was on the good run. All indications are she’s coming back in good form. Hopefully, she’ll run a good race.”
Sandiva was a Group 3 stakes winner in France before embarking on her U.S. career with a seventh-place finish in the San Clemente Handicap (G2) at Del Mar in July 2014. The daughter of Footstepsinthesand turned in solid efforts from outside post positions in subsequent stakes starts at Belmont Park and Churchill Downs before breaking through with a victory in the Tropical Park Oaks at Gulfstream Park Dec. 20.
“She settled into the program well. It seemed like the longer she was here the better she did. She got stronger and gained weight. Her hair coat really blossomed,” Pletcher said. “She really flourished at Palm Beach Downs during the winter months and trained exceptionally well.”
The Irish-bred filly established herself as a graded-stakes winner in the U.S. in her second start at Gulfstream, capturing the Suwannee River (G3). On the Florida Derby Day program, Sandiva recovered from being bumped at the start to take the lead in the stretch, only to lose a photo finish to Lady Lara by a neck in the Honey Fox (G2). Sandiva went on to finish third in the Distaff Turf Mile (G2) at Churchill Downs and fifth in the Just a Game (G1) at Belmont before going to the sidelines. Her last two races, in which her efforts were both hampered by trouble at the start, were won by Tepin, who went on the win the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) in a romp.
“She just needed a little bit of a break. She had a pretty steady campaign,” Pletcher said. “We talked about it with Brad Weisbord, the racing manager for Al Shaqab, and Harry Herbert, the international racing manager, and we decided that she had had a steady campaign and the hope was that she could stay in training in 2016 by giving her a break in the summer, when she wasn’t quite in as sharp form as she was in the winter.”
Javier Castellano, who recently broke the record he set last year with $26-plus million in purse winnings, has the mount aboard Sandiva.
“We know she likes Gulfstream. With this race under her belt, it should set her up for a productive Gulfstream meet,” said Pletcher, the defending 12-time training champ during Gulfstream’s Championship Meet.
Lady Lara hasn’t returned to the winner’s circle since her Honey Fox victory, but the Bill Mott-trained filly has also been keeping some heady company, finishing fourth in both the Distaff Turf Mile and Just a Game (G1). Most recently, the late-running 4-year-old daughter of Excellent Art, who was assigned 120 pounds, finished second in the Noble Damsel (G3) and third in the Athenia (G3) at Belmont Park.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Kitten’s Dumplings, who earned Grade 1 credentials with a victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in 2013 before going on the shelf for more than a year, returned to winning form at Gulfstream Park West in her most recent start. The Mike Maker-trained 5-year-old mare swept to a two-length victory in the Little Miss Magic Stakes under jockey Rafael Hernandez on Oct. 24.
Trainer Chad Brown entered Calumet Farm’s Hellenistic and Magelen Bryan’s Hope Cross for the My Charmer. Hellenistic won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park last March, while Hope Cross is coming off an allowance win at Belmont Park.
Trainer Marty Wolfson is represented by a three entries: Lori’s Store, who finished a late-running third in the Little Miss Magic for Miller Racing, and Prayed For, who captured the Panama City Stakes at Gulfstream two starts back for Ben Walden Jr., and Miller Racing’s In My Time, a main-track-only entrant.
Distorted Beauty, a New York shipper and multiple-stakes winner trained by Bruce Levine; Whisper Hill Farm’s Can’t Explain, who captured the Wasted Tears Stakes at Gulfstream two starts back; and Arindel’s Pink Poppy, the runner-up in the Lady Baltimore at Laurel last time out; round out the field.