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Clair Annette poised to defend Hastings Handicap title

April 30, 2010     E-mail this page to a friend!

Clair Annette shown winning the 2009 Hastings Handicap.
(photo by Erin Palmer, courtesy of Emerald Downs)
Clair Annette, who captured the 2009 edition of the Hastings Handicap, will defend her title against a talented bunch in Sunday's $50,000 stakes for fillies and mares going six furlongs.

“(Trainer) Connie (Bouslaugh) has her ready to run,” jockey Seth Martinez said. “Claire Annette hasn't lost a step.”

After an up and down but ultimately successful 2009 season, the 7-year-old out of Beau Genius looks to be crowned queen in this year's filly and mare stakes division. Clair Annette's 2009 debut did not start on the right hoof for owner Nina Egbert. After a 1 ¾-length victory in an allowance race on April 26, Clair Annette was disqualified and placed sixth for causing interference at the start of the race. Unaffected, she bounced back with a dominating performance in the Hastings on May 17, with a 4 ¾-length victory over 2009 Top Older Filly Elusive Horizon.

Then came the Washington State Legislators Stakes and California invader High Resolve on June 7. The two speedsters dueled to more often than not, un-winnable opening fractions at 21 1/5 and 43 1/5 going 6-½ furlongs. Their early battle left the door wide open for the gifted mare Gadget Queen, who rallied to a decisive three-length victory.

“After the Legislators, we had her scoped and found that she was entrapped,” Bouslaugh said. “Then she had cysts, so she had to have a couple throat surgeries.”

After a three-month absence, the anticipation level was high leading up to her return in the 1 1/16-mile Belle Roberts on Washington Cup Day. A considerable layoff combined with her first attempt around two turns made no difference for the resilient mare, who went wire-to-wire in an impressive 1 ½-length victory.

Will 2010 start off on a high note? Her jockey seems to think so.

“She's coming into this race great,” Martinez said. “I am not worried about the competition, at all.”

Martinez's confidence seems to run parallel with the perceived ability of horse and rider going into Sunday's race, despite a slow start for the 2008 riding champion. Martinez enters week four with a 3-12-11 record in 56 starts this season.

“Ever since Seth rode her down in Phoenix, he's wanted to ride her,” Bouslaugh said. “It was more by chance that he rode her in the Belle Roberts, but it was a picture-perfect ride. That ride should go into a book on how to be a jockey.”

Hallelujah Trail to make EmD debut in Hastings

In terms of sheer class, Hallelujah Trail will make a compelling case for handicappers Sunday in the $50,000 Hastings Handicap for older fillies and mares at six furlongs. The 4-year-old Gilded Time filly comes off a sharp fourth place finish at Santa Anita, beaten only one length in the Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap on April 4.

Hallelujah Trail set fast fractions in the 6 ½-furlong event—21 4/5, 44, 1:08—and led until the final strides on the synthetic Pro-Ride surface. She missed third by a half-length, and trainer Blaine Wright said it's important for owners John and Janene Maryanski that the filly earn black-type in the Hastings.

“She's unproven over a dirt surface, but she's galloped and breezed well on it,” Wright said. “We're not sure about the longer distances yet, but she's a nice filly.”

Wright is loaded in the older filly and mare ranks. He also trains the Maryanskis venerable 6-year-old Gadget Queen (28-8-9-3-$243,960) and Very Un Stable's 4-year-old Kaweah Princess, a double stakes winner last year that finished second to No Flies On Doodle in a $20,000 allowance race April 9.

Wright said Gadget Queen, nominated to the Hastings, got sick and missed some training but should be ready for the May 31 Washington State Legislators Stakes. Meanwhile, Kaweah Princess has been shipped to Hastings Racecourse and trainer Robert Gilker for the May 9 Brighouse Belles at 6 ½ furlongs.

As for Hallelujah Trail in the Hastings Handicap, a potential speed duel looms with No Flies On Doodle and defending champion Clair Annette. And according to Wright, that's why jockey Ricky Frazier earns the big bucks

“I'll let Ricky (Frazier) ride his race (on Hallelujah Trail),” Wright said. “He ‘s the leading rider and he knows how to figure it out.”

The field for the 15th running of the Hastings Handicap (Race 6, 4:38 p.m.): Hallelujah Trail, Ricky Frazier, 117; Elusive Surprise, Inoel Beato, 114; Clair Annette, Seth Martinez, 117; Barbara's Love, Juan Gutierrez, 115; No Flies On Doodle, Gallyn Mitchell, 118; Puff Maddie, Francisco Duran, 117.