Trainer Barry Abrams was confident that Princess Afleet would be successful in her turf debut a couple of months ago at Del Mar.
Never mind that the 3-year-old filly was 70-1, had never won and was coming off three horrendous performances at Hollywood Park.
The petite daughter of Afleet did just what Abrams thought she would do that day. Not only did she win, but by six lengths. And she followed that up with two more grass victories before Del Mar's season ended Sept. 13.
Princess Afleet will try to run her streak to four victories in the $100,000 Harold C. Ramser Sr. Handicap today at Santa Anita, and Abrams is again feeling very good about her chances.
"If she likes the surface, she'll win the race," he said Friday morning. "She's trained real well and she's very relaxed. She's a real happy horse. I'm still not sure how good she is."
Abrams, who trains the California-bred for owners David Abrams, Vic Johnson and Faisal Karim, has always been Princess Afleet's biggest fan. He was convinced of her ability before she began her career in the summer of 1994. Despite that optimism, she had only one victory in her first eight starts and that was because of a disqualification.
Grass seems to be the reason for Princess Afleet's sudden improvement, but Abrams believes she would be doing just as well on the main track. So, why hadn't she?
"If you throw out her three races at Hollywood Park [earlier this year when she finished seventh and eighth twice], her form isn't that bad," the trainer said. "She got real nervous all the time and fell apart on me over there. The horses come over to the track 20 minutes earlier there than they do at Santa Anita or Del Mar to go out to that saddling ring and it [affected her adversely].
"As a 2-year-old last year, she was beaten a neck by Main Slew [who also won three in a row during the Del Mar meeting and also is in the Ramser]; then when she came back to the races [in March], she was second to Our Summer Bid, who is a decent filly.
"I think she was going to win the race where Shoshana got disqualified [on April 9], and people thought Shoshana was going to be a good filly at that time."
Princess Afleet obviously demonstrated her fondness for Del Mar's turf course, but it remains to be seen how she will handle Santa Anita's new grass.
Turf workouts aren't being allowed during the Oak Tree meeting, so the trainers of all 11 fillies entered in the Ramser have no idea how their horses will handle the course.
"We're all in the same boat," Abrams said. "She's never had a chance to gallop over it. I expect her to win, but anything can happen in a race. The only thing that concerns me in the back of my mind is that she's been in training since January.
"What was good about her races at Del Mar was that she was pulling away at the finish and that's what you like to see."
If Princess Afleet finishes in the top three today, Abrams said he would consider the $600,000 Yellow Ribbon on Nov. 12 as her final start of 1995. The trainer finished second with 15-1 shot Fondly Remembered in the Grade I race last year.
The 3-1 favorite in the Ramser is Jewel Princess, who drew the rail in the large lineup.
Trained by Wally Dollase for owner Richard Stephen, the Key To The Mint filly won an allowance race on the Santa Anita turf earlier this year and has won half of her six grass starts.
Most recently, she was fifth in the Del Mar Oaks, three weeks after she had upset Auriette in the San Clemente Handicap. Laffit Pincay will be the fourth rider in the last four races for Jewel Princess today.
The field also includes Radu Cool, who has won two in a row since Eduardo Inda started training her; Jalfrezi, who is also entered in the $125,000 Las Palmas Handicap on Sunday; Main Slew, who has never won anywhere but Del Mar; Whataninspiration, Blushing Heiress, Both Ways, Made To Perfection, Ski Dancer and Laguna Seca.
David Flores, who left after four days of the Los Angeles County Fair meeting, is back and plans to start riding again next week. Flores was fined $1,000 after meeting with the Oak Tree stewards.
Flores, who returned to his native Mexico because of personal problems, also has a new agent, having hired former jockey and trainer Don Pierce.
Pierce, whose barn was down to two horses, has turned in his training license.
"I was tired of looking at the same two maidens every morning," said Pierce, who retired from riding in 1985 with 3,546 victories.