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Powell gearing up Air Force Red, Anisette for Memorial Day Grade 1s

Powell gearing up Air Force Red, Anisette for Memorial Day Grade 1s

By: Steve Anderson DRF

ARCADIA, Calif. – The May 27 program at Santa Anita could be an A-plus day for trainer Leonard Powell.

Powell has ambitions to sweep the two Grade 1 turf races on Memorial Day with Air Force Red in the Shoemaker Mile and Anisette in the Gamely Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles.

Both races are worth $300,000, and both of Powell’s runners have delivered outstanding performances in recent starts.

Air Force Red, a winner of 5 of 17 starts, was a game second to Lammas by a head in the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields on April 27, setting the pace to the final sixteenth.

“He ran a winning race,” Powell recalled on Friday. “When the winner came at him, he came on again. He did all the heavy lifting.”

Air Force Red, best known for winning the Grade 2 Joe Hernandez Stakes on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in December 2022, often sets the pace. Powell was disappointed that Air Force Red faced pressure from Astronomer through a strong pace of 22.80 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 46.26 for a half-mile in the $177,700 San Francisco Mile.

“We are going 22 and 46 and there is a horse that is still pushing us to go faster on the backstretch,” Powell said. “He cost us the race and cost himself a better placing.”

Astronomer, who faded to finish fourth in the San Francisco Mile, is also a candidate for the Shoemaker Mile, the track’s leading turf race for males at the winter-spring meeting. Lammas is expected to remain in Northern California for the $150,000 Pleasanton Mile on dirt at the Alameda County Fair on July 6.

Air Force Red, who races for the partnership of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Holly Golightly, is scheduled to have his first workout since the San Francisco Mile at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Anisette, also scheduled to work on Saturday, will have a more difficult assignment in the Gamely, her first start since a win in the Grade 1 American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/4 miles on turf at Santa Anita in late December.

Powell said Anisette was not ready for the Grade 3 Royal Heroine Stakes for fillies and mares at a mile on turf on April 27, which is designed as a local prep for the Gamely. Anisette has had five workouts since early April for her comeback.

Powell said the gap between races is an issue.

“Everything concerns me,” he said. “I don’t have much of a choice. She wasn’t ready for the Royal Heroine.”

Owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Anisette has won 5 of 9 starts in Britain and California. In six starts in California for Powell last year, Anisette won four times, including the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on turf last August, and was second in her other two starts.

Regarding the layoff from the American Oaks to the Gamely, Powell noted that Anisette won her American debut in an allowance race last May in her first start since late December 2022.

“It was against older and she was only 3, so it wasn’t that easy,” he said.

The allowance race was run on the same program as the Shoemaker and Gamely.

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