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Isn’t It Good, Exotic Wood: Easy Win Again

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Five races into her career and Exotic Wood hasn’t seemed to take a deep breath.

Things are supposed to get tougher as a horse moves up the ladder, but that hasn’t been the case for the 3-year-old Rahy filly.

Making her graded stakes debut in the $125,000 La Brea Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita, Exotic Wood had no trouble winning as a 2-5 shot should.

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With jockey Chris McCarron merely playing passenger most of the race, owner Martin and Pam Wygod’s filly took the lead shortly after the start and went on to win by two lengths while being geared down approaching the finish. She ran the seven furlongs in 1:21 2/5.

Now, the question is whether Exotic Wood will try two turns for the first time in her next start. She could come back in the El Encino Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 20 or stay around one turn in the seven-furlong Santa Monica a week later.

Martin Wygod and trainer Ron Ellis will discuss what she’ll do next. Ellis is confident Exotic Wood can stretch out successfully, but is leaning toward the Santa Monica.

“My feeling is to go for the Grade I,” said Ellis. “It would look better on her resume and would get the pressure of getting a Grade I off her shoulders.

“To me, her races have been out of a textbook--you go through the conditions, get a small stakes win and then a graded stake like today.

“I’ve worked her a mile and she’s done well. We’re not afraid to stretch her out. We’ll get there eventually.”

Purchased by the Wygods in 1993 at the recommendation of Russell Drake, the manager at their River’s Edge Farm, Exotic Wood has won her five races by an average margin of four lengths.

“She’s just very nice, all class,” said McCarron. “She does everything in such a classy way. She goes to the post in a classy manner, she behaves like she knows she’s good, and she’s got a long stride for a horse that isn’t very big.

“She doesn’t waste any energy going over to the gate. She loves to run. She sits there and waits for me to ask her, and there’s no hesitation once I do ask her.”

Moving from the Hollywood Park rail of a five-length loss to Exotic Wood in her previous race to the outside post Saturday, Evil’s Pic finished second, nearly two lengths ahead of 3-1 second choice Jewel Princess.

Rested since her nine-length victory in the Linda Vista Breeders’ Cup Handicap on Nov. 4, Jewel Princess will be back in the El Encino at a distance which better suits her.

“We needed to get a race into her and now we’re perfect,” said trainer Wally Dollase. “Exotic Wood ran terrific. She looks like a quarter horse to me. We’ll see what happens next time we go.”

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Looking for his first victory in more than 15 months, Dramatic Gold is the 7-5 favorite against six others in today’s $70,000 Ack Ack Handicap at a mile on the main track.

Winless in seven races since capturing the Molson Million on Sept. 18 of last year, Dramatic Gold will be making his third start since returning from a seven-month layoff. He was second to Score Quick in the Morvich Handicap, then was third, beaten by half a length, in the NYRA Mile last month at Aqueduct.

That is, if he runs. Trainer David Hofmans, who is unhappy with the Dramatic Gold’s 123-pound weight assignment, may scratch the gelding and wait for another race.

Already scratched from the Ack Ack is Luthier Fever, who also bypassed the Native Diver Handicap on Dec. 23 in the slop at Hollywood Park. Trainer Gary Jones said the California Classic winner will try to knock off Best Pal again in the San Pasqual Handicap on Jan. 15.

The rest of the field, from the inside out, is Uncaged Fury, Kingdom Found, Bai Brun, Pollock’s Luck, Savinio and Constant Craving.

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The race after the Ack Ack, Wide Eyed Wanderer will try to become a stakes winner in her second career start in the $100,000 California Breeders’ Champion Stakes for fillies at seven furlongs.

Wide Eyed Wanderer was impressive in her debut, beating maidens by 3 1/2 lengths on Dec. 2 at Hollywood Park. With Gary Stevens still recovering from knee surgery, Chris Antley will ride for trainer Dan Hendricks.

Wide Eyed Wanderer is the 5-2 morning-line favorite. The Jack Van Berg-trained entry of Wheatly Special and Little Gumpher is the 7-2 second choice. Wheatly Special won the California Cup Juvenile Fillies over this track at 22-1 last month.

The remainder of the field includes To B. Super, Siyah Marie, Supercilious, Pareja, Scenic Beauty and General Idea.

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Horse Racing Notes

Beginning Wednesday, Santa Anita will start exchanging simulcasts with Gulfstream Park. Santa Anita will show the feature race from the Florida track on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays and will send one race to Gulfstream each racing day. . . . Also starting Wednesday, first post time is 1 p.m. on weekdays and 12:30 on weekends. Weekday cards will be eight races and weekend programs will be 10 races.


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