Grade 3 Monrovia H. lacks a standout

Updated: December 29, 2007, 7:23 PM ET
By Steve Andersen | Daily Racing Form

ARCADIA, Calif. -- The moody mare Strong Faith will have trainer Jeff Mullins guessing before Tuesday's $100,000 Monrovia Handicap at Santa Anita.

If she runs her race, Strong Faith has an excellent chance to win the Grade 3 Monrovia at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course. Sometimes, however, she does not cooperate.

"She makes up her mind," Mullins said. "We go along for the ride."

Mullins and the partnership that owns the 7-year-old mare have seen both sides in recent starts. Strong Faith was a game third in the Grade 3 Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap on the hillside turf course in September, closing after a poor start to miss by three-quarters of a length.

In the Grade 2 Las Palmas Handicap at a mile on turf on Nov. 4, she was off slowly and was last throughout.

"I don't really know" what to expect, Mullins said. "She missed the break. She's done that in her last few starts."

Mullins has replaced jockey Brice Blanc with Martin Garcia. Garcia rode Strong Faith to second- and third-place finishes in three stakes earlier this year.

Strong Faith has drawn the outside post in a field of 10 in the Monrovia, the ninth race on a 10-race program. The Monrovia lacks a standout. None of the entrants won a stakes in her last start.

Society Hostess, the 120-pound topweight, won the 2007 Monrovia but has made only one subsequent start, finishing fourth in the Xtra Heat Handicap at six furlongs on turf at Belmont Park in October.

Strong Faith and Society Hostess need a quick pace to be effective. Victory Spy or Shriek could be in front. Victory Spy won an optional claimer at Hollywood Park on Nov. 15, her first start in a year. Shriek was scratched from Saturday's Grade 1 La Brea Stakes.

The Team Valor International partnership has two starters - Audacious Chloe and Alexandra Rose - but they are not coupled.

Audacious Chloe, co-owned by Never Tell Farm, won three consecutive stakes earlier this year, but has lost her last three starts. Alexandra Rose, a South African-bred, is winless in her last five starts, which have been run on three continents - Africa, Asia, and North America.

Good Mood, winner of the Grade 3 Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs in June, makes her first start for trainer Eric Guillot. He worries that the Monrovia may be too short for her best effort.

"She needs to go longer eventually," Guillot said. "I want to get a couple of races in her before breeding season."