Sandiva trying to follow Mshawish’s path to graded victory on dirt

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Jen Caldwell

February 11th, 2016

Trainer Todd Pletcher successfully transitioned Mshawish from scoring at the Grade 1 level on turf to triumphing at the Grade 1 level on dirt.

On Saturday, Pletcher tries that same tactic with multiple Grade/Group 3 heroine Sandiva in the $200,000 Royal Delta (G2) at Gulfstream Park.

While initially it appeared Sandiva was just taking a look at the 1 1/16-mile contest, Pletcher said his five-year-old charge will get her shot on the main track after all.

“We’re going to give Sandiva a try on the dirt. She, like Mshawish, has come over and been successful on the grass but has always trained really well on the dirt,” Pletcher explained. “We just feel like the timing of this is good for her, so we’re looking forward to giving her a try on the dirt. We felt like the two turns, mile and a sixteenth in this race is the right place to try it.”

Sandiva began her career in England and traveled to France a couple of times, picking up a pair of Group 3 victories along the way. The chestnut mare didn’t do so well in her first few U.S. starts after shipping over in the summer of 2014 but seemed to find her footing later that year for a close win in the Tropical Park Oaks at Gulfstream.

That ended Sandiva’s four-year-old campaign and since then she has captured the Suwannee River (G3) and Marshua’s River (G3) while placing in the Honey Fox (G2), Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) and My Charmer H. (G3).

However, at no point has the chestnut mare actually competed on dirt from 18 lifetime starts.

“She’s impressed us on the dirt in her morning works for quite a while, and we’ve been thinking about it. We just figured now is the time to step out and see how it works out,” Pletcher explained the decision to switch Sandiva to the dirt.

Sandiva worked over the dirt at Palm Beach Downs both before and after her near wire job in the January 9 Marshua’s River. In her most recent pair of moves the Irish-bred mare clocked a half-mile in :48.20 on both February 6 and January 30.

“I think she has the ability to have some tactical speed,” Pletcher noted. “I would envision she would be somewhat forwardly placed. Where exactly that will be will be determined by what some of the other horses do, but I would anticipate she would be involved early.”

Joel Rosario has been named to ride Sandiva for the first time in the Royal Delta.

Sandiva photo courtesy of Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography