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SANTA ANITA : Serena’s Song Puts Finishing Touch to Ideal Weekend

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Owners Robert and Beverly Lewis had a weekend they won’t soon forget.

It began Friday night when they accepted an Eclipse Award as co-owners of Timber Country, the country’s top 2-year-old male in 1994; continued the next day when Valid Wager won the Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park, then ended Sunday when Serena’s Song made a successful return to the races at Santa Anita.

Idle since she finished a banner 2-year-old season with a victory by a nose in the Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 17, Serena’s Song played favored Call Now’s game in the $99,800 Santa Ynez Breeders’ Cup Stakes and blew her away.

Showing surprising speed, the 3-2 second choice took the lead from the 11-10 favorite at the start, surrendered it while Corey Nakatani was biding his time, then kicked away when Santa Anita’s leading rider asked.

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At the end, Serena’s Song had two lengths on Cat’s Cradle, who rallied in the final sixteenth to beat Call Now by two lengths for second. The winner covered the seven furlongs in 1:21 2/5.

Clearly, with Flanders all but officially retired, Serena’s Song is the top 3-year-old filly in the country. She won Sunday, even though she was carrying top weight of 123 pounds, hadn’t run in 43 days and was shortening up after three consecutive distance races.

“She’s now, I think, the heir apparent in at least the divisional leadership until somebody proves otherwise,” said trainer Wayne Lukas, who has 78 stakes victories at Santa Anita, placing him second on the all-time list. Charlie Whittingham leads with 203.

“We’re real pleased. I made a late decision to even enter, but I talked it over with the Lewises and we felt that maybe this would be in her best interest to get her ready to go two turns.

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“She did what she had to do. I just told Corey, ‘Just ride your own race. You’re on the best horse and ride it like that. She doesn’t have to always be compared to Flanders. She is in her own right a very, very, very top filly.’ ”

Call Now, who has been beaten in two of her three meetings with Serena’s Song, finished 4 1/2 lengths in front of Denim Yenem. Ocean Cat, Lukas’ other starter, was fifth and last.

Alex Solis, who has ridden Call Now in all six of her starts, believed she might have had an excuse Sunday.

“She was making a little noise pulling up,” he said. “So I don’t know what happened . . . if she bled or what.”

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Wekiva Springs, the probable favorite in next Sunday’s $500,000 Strub Stakes, worked six furlongs in 1:12 Sunday morning at Santa Anita.

With Kent Desormeaux aboard, the 4-year-old gray, who has won six in a row after losing his debut, went well, according to trainer Bob Hess, Jr.

“It was picture perfect. I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” said Hess. “We won’t have any excuses on Sunday.”

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Two other Strub probables worked Sunday morning. Dare And Go, who was third behind Wekiva Springs and Dramatic Gold in the San Fernando Stakes last month, went seven furlongs in 1:26 1/5. College Town, who will be the longest shot in the field if he starts, went a mile in 1:44 4/5.


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