Many racing observers have had the feeling for some time that this year's 3-year-old filly crop is probably better than the 3-year-old colts.
There was a heavy attrition rate among the colts even before the Triple Crown series got into high gear, and their ranks continue to dwindle, the latest casualty being undefeated Meadowlake, out for the year with a broken leg.
The filly division has had its losses, too, with Tiffany Lass, undefeated in seven starts, currently on the sidelines.
New fillies with promise continue to emerge, however. For example, Life at the Top, once considered to be part of trainer Wayne Lukas' second team, won Belmont Park's Mother Goose Stakes last Saturday over more highly regarded opponents.
Melair is another filly with star potential, and she'll be running today in quest of a fourth straight victory in the $75,000 Princess Stakes at Hollywood Park.
There are only seven horses running in the one-mile Princess, but most of them know how to win. Besides Comparability and An Empress, already stakes winners at the current meeting, the field includes Arewehavingfunyet, long accustomed to competing against the best, and Hidden Light. Hidden Light was undefeated and considered to be the West Coast's top 3-year-old filly until an abysmal seventh-place finish, well behind Tiffany Lass, in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs the day before the Kentucky Derby.
Melair, a California-bred daughter of Debonair Roger and Melrose Nugget, is the best horse John Sadler has had since he started training horses on his own eight years ago, but Sadler is aware of today's pitfalls.
For one thing, Sadler sees that "7" next to Hidden Light's name in the Kentucky Oaks and disregards it completely. Hidden Light had gone to Churchill Downs with four straight wins at Santa Anita.
"You've got to write off Hidden Light's race in Kentucky," the 29-year-old Sadler said. "After all, Snow Chief lost in Kentucky, too, and look what he's come back to do."
Snow Chief, who ran 11th as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby, has since won the Preakness Stakes and the Jersey Derby.
In Melair, Hidden Light faces a roan filly who began her career late, winning by 3 1/2 lengths against maidens at Hollywood on April 25. Since then, Melair has been a 9-length winner in allowance company, breaking the track's six-furlong record with a clocking of 1:08 3/5, and a 7 1/2-length winner of the seven-furlong Railbird Stakes on June 4.
"She's done everything we've asked of her and more," Sadler said. "There was nothing wrong with her last year, it's just that her owners (Marianne Millard and Bea Rous) don't like to run their horses as 2-year-olds. Last winter, this filly had a cough, but that was only a minor setback."
Hidden Light, who was the 5-2 second choice behind Tiffany Lass in the Kentucky Oaks, was "horsing" that day, an ovarian condition among females that occurs about every 18 days and is thought to affect performance.
Not only that, trainer Charlie Whittingham had been working her hard in company with Ferdinand in Kentucky, and while those morning sprints might have helped Ferdinand win the Kentucky Derby, they may have contributed to Hidden Light's flat showing in the Oaks.
Horse Racing Notes
Pat Valenzuela, who has ridden Melair in all three of her wins, is sitting out a suspension, so Laffit Pincay has the mount today. . . . There's an eight-horse field running in Sunday's $150,000 Bel Air Handicap, including top-weighted Alphabatim at 121 pounds and Super Diamond, who finished just a half-length behind Precisionist in the Californian on June 1. Others running Sunday are Skywalker, Herat, Westheimer, Innamorato, Sun Master and Koshare. . . . Snow Chief, co-owner Ben Rochelle said, is insured for $1.5 million. The 3-year-old colt might be worth three times that amount, but Carl Grinstead, Rochelle's partner, says: "I don't believe in insuring horses that much. I've got hardly anything invested in him, so even if he dropped dead, we haven't lost anything. Besides, I'm 72-- what would I do with the money if he did die?" . . . Alan Balch, a senior vice president for marketing at Santa Anita who's worked at the track since 1971, will be leaving the organization in mid-July. Earlier, Santa Anita had announced that Balch would remain with the track until after Breeders' Cup day there on Nov. 1, but Balch says that he changed his mind and decided to leave earlier. Balch said that he has no immediate plans. . . . Quarter-horse mares have won 10 of the previous 14 runnings of the Vessels Maturity at Los Alamitos, and another one, Prissy Fein, is the 6-5 favorite in tonight's renewal, which is worth $139,200. Another mare--the fourth--got into tonight's race when Artesia replaced Win Apollo in the 10-horse field.