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Ventura is given show of respect

There were 14 Breeders’ Cup races held at Santa Anita last October, and probably the most impressive winner was Ventura, who let loose a devastating stretch kick to win the $1-million Filly and Mare Sprint by four lengths over Eclipse Award winner Indian Blessing in a blistering 1:19.90 for seven furlongs.

Ventura will make her 2009 debut today in the Grade I $300,000 Santa Monica Handicap at seven furlongs at Santa Anita, and as a sign of respect, the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Chester House has attracted just six opponents.

“I don’t think she’ll run as good as she did in the Breeders’ Cup, but I’m hoping she won’t have to,” trainer Bobby Frankel said. “There’s not a lot of pace. She just won’t be as far back.”

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Jockey Garrett Gomez will be back aboard, and he still remembers the all-out acceleration Ventura displayed in overtaking Indian Blessing.

“She’s a super nice filly,” Gomez said. “She’s done everything for Bobby. I’m excited for her campaign to start. She’s got a nice turn of foot.”

Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Ventura raced eight times in England before being turned over to Frankel early last year.

She has won on grass but seems to thrive on synthetic surfaces, and her performance on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface leaves no doubt of her fondness for the track.

“After her first race, she looked good, but I never knew she’d reach as good as she is,” Frankel said. “Now I have a lot of confidence in her.”

So does Gomez, who has ridden Ventura in all seven of her U.S. races, including four victories.

“I’m excited to see her,” he said. “She’s run against boys, she’s run in the Breeders’ Cup. She’s done a lot.”

Ventura, with $1,359,470 in career earnings, will carry 123 pounds and face She’s Cheeky, who has won three consecutive sprint races at Santa Anita, Tizzy’s Tune, So Long Sonoma, Wake Up Maggie, Jibboom and Baroness Thatcher.

Indian Blessing, who beat out Ventura, 138-88, in the voting for the Eclipse Award for best female sprinter, is skipping the Santa Monica.

Next week, another Breeders’ Cup winner, Stardom Bound, the Juvenile Fillies champion, is expected to make her debut in the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes on Feb. 7. She’s also trained by Frankel.

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com


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