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HORSE RACING

Astra Goes Back to Back

April 21, 2002|BOB MIESZERSKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fiji, Wandesta, Possibly Perfect, Exchange, Kostroma, Waya, Tallahto, Susan's Girl and Princessnesian are just a few of the talented females who have won the Santa Barbara Handicap.

None of those ladies or any of the other heroines of a race that was first run in 1935 did what Astra accomplished Saturday.

The 6-year-old Theatrical mare became the first two-time winner of the Santa Barbara, defending her title by turning the tables on 9-10 favorite Golden Apples, who had beaten her soundly in last month's Santa Ana Handicap.

Owned by the family of the late Allen Paulson and trained by Laura De Seroux, the 2-1 second choice sat close to the slow pace, went after leader Polaire, who raced coupled in the wagering with Golden Apples, then kicked away in the final sixteenth.

In winning by two lengths, she completed the 11/4 miles on turf in 2:012/5 under jockey Kent Desormeaux.

It was the ninth victory in 13 starts for Astra, but her first for DeSeroux. She had previously been trained by Simon Bray, but was transferred to her new home after finishing last over a yielding course as the 7-10 favorite in the Beverly D. on Aug. 18 at Arlington Park.

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Able to beat only Danthebluegrassman when finishing seventh in the Santa Anita Derby 15 days ago, Proud Citizen earned a trip to the Kentucky Derby with a wire-to-wire victory in the $364,650 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

Continuing a hot streak at the Kentucky track for trainer Wayne Lukas, the 3-year-old Gone West colt, an 8-1 longshot, won by a little more than three lengths in 1:442/5 for the 11/16 miles over a track moistened by rain.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Proud Citizen, who had only a Belmont Park maiden victory in five previous starts, became Lukas' second Lexington winner in four years. In 1999, Charismatic, who had finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby, won the Lexington before winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

"You know me, I've been planning this for three months," Lukas said. "I'm probably the only guy that would use the Santa Anita Derby for a prep. When we ran him there, I told the owners [Bill Mack, Bob Baker and David Cornstein] that we were making a quantum leap, but we'd protect him and point him here."

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John Mabee, 80, one of the founding members of the 32-year-old Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and a prominent owner-breeder in California for many years, remains at an Escondido hospital after suffering a stroke a week ago.

"He's off the respirator," said his son, Larry Mabee. "He's resting quietly. He suffered a severe stroke and the outlook is bleak."

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Jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. was given a three-day suspension, beginning Thursday, for an incident in Friday's fifth race.

Pincay was cited for "crossing over without sufficient clearance" early in the six-furlong race. Pickled Bay finished second and no inquiry was conducted.

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