ARCADIA, Calif. (April 24, 2014)–Trainer Tom Proctor appears to be holding a solid two-card hand going into Sunday’s Grade III, $100,000 Wilshire Handicap, as his sharp recent allowance winners Theatre Star and Premier Steps head a field of seven fillies and mares three and up at one mile on turf.
Gary Stevens, who rode both horses to victory in their most recent starts, has opted for Theatre Star, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred filly by War Front who had won three races in-a-row for trainer Dale Romans prior to shipping west to Proctor and winning a 1 1/8 miles turf allowance by three quarters of a length on April 4.
“We figured she would show speed and Gary just let her do what she wanted,” said Proctor assistant Aimee Dollase following Theatre Star’s Southern California debut. “It’s nice that he was able to teach her to rate off others as well. That’s going to help her in the long run. She won today, well within herself, and it looks like she’s something special.”
Owned by Glen Hill Farm, Theatre Star seeks her fifth consecutive win in what will be her initial stakes engagement. Her only defeat in five career starts came in her debut over a yielding turf course at Aqueduct on April 14, 2013.
A winner of a second condition allowance at one mile on turf March 9, Irish-bred Premier Steps was a minor stakes winner going one mile on turf five starts back at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 27, 2013, when trained by eastern-based Chad Brown. Second in her Southern California debut for Proctor going 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course, Premier Steps stalked the pace and was and impressive one length allowance winner going one mile on turf March 9.
Owned by Swift Thoroughbreds, Vintage Thoroughbreds, Michael Kisber and Bradley Thoroughbreds, Premier Steps has the advantage of being well seasoned, evidenced by her overall mark of 11-3-2-1. She has earnings of $156,154 and will be ridden for the first time by Mike Smith.
Top rider Rafael Bejarano will ride Florida-based Parranda for the first time in the Wilshire. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Parranda comes off a disappointing sixth place finish in the Grade II, one mile turf Honey Fox Stakes at Gulfstream March 15, but was a handy gate to wire winner two starts back of the Grade III, 1 1/8 miles turf Swanee River Stakes Feb. 8.
A winner three starts back of the 1 1/8 miles turf Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf at Gulfstream Jan. 18, Parranda has an extensive resume that includes four stakes wins from eight overall victories in 21 starts. A 5-year-old mare by English Channel, she has amassed earnings of $452,655. She is owned by Gillian Campbell, Dan Clark, Jerry Hollendorfer and Greg Skoda.
Trainer Simon Callaghan will be well represented by English-bred Rhagori, who finished a game second, beaten three quarters of a length, by Theatre Star going 1 1/8 miles on turf April 4. A 5-year-old mare, she has an off the pace style and won her U.S. debut in that fashion going a flat mile on turf March 7.
Owned by Michael House, Rhagori was ridden in her two Southern California starts by Bejarano, but will get the services of Corey Nakatani for the first time on Sunday. She has two wins from as many starts at one mile on turf and is 16-5-5-1 overall, with earnings of $85,682.
John Sadler, who won last Sunday’s ninth and final race by a neck, thereby dead-heating with Jerry Hollendorfer as Santa Anita’s leading Winter Meet trainer, will send out recent American Beauty Stakes winner Moone’s My Name in the Wilshire.
Run on March 29, Moone’s My Name broke from the rail in the one mile turf American Beauty and overcame traffic trouble going into the far turn to win by a length under Victor Espinoza, who rides her back on Sunday. Well versed at a mile on grass, she has three wins, a second and four thirds at eight panels on the lawn.
The 6-year-old English-bred mare is 23-8-3-5 overall and has earnings of $199,483. She is owned by the Batchelor Family Trust.
A close fourth three starts back in the Grade III, 1 1/8 miles turf Robert J. Frankel Stakes Dec. 29, trainer Beau Greely’s Nickels Wild broke her maiden at a mile on grass four starts back at Hollywood Park on Dec. 5 and despite cutting back in distance, she should be forwardly placed in the Wilshire. Owned by her breeder, Thomas Nichols, the 4-year-old filly by Sky Mesa has a win, three seconds and two thirds from 11 starts.
The complete field for the Wilshire Stakes, to be run as the eighth race on a nine-race card Sunday, with jockeys (all horses assigned 119 pounds) in post position order: Moone’s My Name, Victor Espinoza; Parranda, Rafael Bejarano; Premier Steps, Mike Smith; Rhagori, Corey Nakatani; Theatre Star, Gary Stevens; Nickels Wild, Martin Garcia, and Journey On, Tyler Baze.
First post time on Sunday is at 1 p.m. Admission gates will open at 11 a.m.