Photo: Benoit Photo
A close third in the Grade II Monrovia Stakes Jan. 5, trainer Tom Proctor’s Purim’s Dancer will be back to defend her title in Sunday’s $75,000 Wishing Well Stakes for older fillies and mares at 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s unique hillside turf course.
Named in honor of the stakes winning dam of 1989 Horse of the Year Sunday Silence, who was a winner of the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic that year, the Wishing Well attracted a field of eight.
Attentive to the pace, Purim’s Dancer was beaten two lengths by stablemate and hillside course specialist Pontchatrain in the Monrovia, and has four wins from seven starts down the hill. Ridden by Joe Talamo last out, she’ll be reunited with Gary Stevens, with whom she won last year’s Wishing Well, on Sunday.
A 5-year-old Kentucky-bred mare by Purim, Purim’s Dancer is owned by Doug Donnelly, Corey Johnsen, Lenn Kohn and Gene McLean. She has five wins from 12 starts and $207,200 in earnings.
Prominent among a field of eight entered for the Wishing Well is trainer Mike Mitchell’s Fanticola, who comes off a narrow three quarter length defeat in the one mile turf Megahertz Jan. 18, and has never been worse than third in seven starts.
A first condition allowance winner down the hill three starts back on Oct. 24, Fanticola has good tactical speed and will hope to be in a striking position crossing the dirt at the top of the lane. She’ll again be ridden by Talamo, who has been aboard in all seven career starts.
Owned by Anthony Fanticola and Joseph Scardino, Fanticola, a 4-year-old Ontario Canadian-bred filly by Silent Name, has three wins, three seconds and a third place finish to her credit, with earnings of $160,300.
A winner of the one mile turf Blue Norther on Jan. 1, 2013, trainer John Sadler’s Sky High Gal came back running off an eight month layoff Nov. 2, finishing fourth, beaten 1 ½ lengths by Pontchatrain in the Grade III, 6 ½ furlong turf Senator Ken Maddy.
Owned by Hronis Racing, Sky High Gal is a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred filly by Leroidesanimaux who has won three of her six lifetime starts. She’ll try the hill for the second time in the Wishing Well.
Trainer Jorge Periban’s consistent Oscillator comes off a close third place finish in a one mile turf allowance Jan. 18 and will test stakes waters for the first time Sunday.
Doug O’Neill’s Birdlover has good tactical speed and comes off a sharp allowance win down the hill Jan. 3. She’s a solid fit from the rail with Mike Smith riding back. Trained by Jeff Bonde, Caraquista tried front-running tactics in a one mile turf allowance Jan. 19, and finished third, beaten three lengths.
Paddy Gallagher’s Miss Lucky Sevens ran evenly down the hill Jan. 3, finishing sixth, 3 ¼ lengths behind Birdlover and retains the services of leading rider Rafael Bejarano. Well beaten at 17-1 in the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles turf Yellow Ribbon Handicap at Del Mar Sept. 2, Irish-bred Royal Empress’s lone win came sprinting on turf four starts back in Ireland. Trained by Patrick Biancone, Royal Empress will be making her third stateside start in the Wishing Well.
The complete field for the Wishing Well, to be run as the eighth on a nine-race card Sunday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Birdlover, Mike Smith, 118; Sky High Gal, Corey Nakatani, 116; Royal Empress, Flavien Prat, 116; Fanticola, Joe Talamo, 118; Miss Lucky Sevens, Rafael Bejarano, 116; Purim’s Dancer, Gary Stevens, 118; Caraquista, Victor Espinoza, 116, and Oscillator, Edwin Maldonado, 118.