INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- The shadow that is Black Mamba hangs over the filly-mare turf division in California.
If you are trainer John Sadler, you keep hoping Black Mamba will step into the spotlight at least once. But it never happens. All she does is run second or third - seven straight in-the-money stakes finishes without a single victory.
So you keep trying, keep adjusting, and hope that Sunday at Hollywood Park, Black Mamba ends the exasperation in the Grade 2 Beverly Hills Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles on turf.
"Absolutely," Sadler admitted. "Everything is an adjustment; my adjustment this time is to bring in the No. 1 rider in these kinds of races in Garrett Gomez."
To be fair, Black Mamba is due for racing luck. She was blocked much of the final quarter-mile last time out in the Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap and missed by a nose to Foxysox, the 118-pound topweight Sunday.
Black Mamba and Foxysox top an unexceptional Beverly Hills field of 10. The $150,000 race includes sharp allowance winners Gotta Have Her and Marzelline; off-form Grade 1 winner Double Trouble; likely pacesetter Forest Melody; one-eyed closer I Can See; and outsiders Island Hope, Solva, and Green Lyons.
Gomez is riding Black Mamba for the first time, at a distance that is right up her alley. An import from New Zealand, Black Mamba won her allowance-race U.S. debut at Del Mar last summer and has raced exclusively in stakes since. Her best efforts have been at 1 1/4 miles.
"We feel her best chance is at this big distance; I saved her for the mile and a quarter race," Sadler said, explaining why she skipped the Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile Gamely on May 26.
Black Mamba, 2 for 18 overall, starts Sunday for the first time since April 19.
Although Foxysox was fortunate to win last time, the Santa Barbara marked a return to top form for the Carla Gaines trainee, who has won 6 of 20. Victor Espinoza rides. And if Gotta Have Her reproduces allowance-race form in a graded stakes, she also fits.
Jenine Sahadi trains Gotta Have Her, whose lung infection kept her out of racing from November until a sharp June 4 comeback win in a three-other-than allowance. Gotta Have Her has won 4 of 11 and should be forwardly placed under Richard Migliore.