Aggie Engineer, third-place finisher in The Californian at Hollywood Park on June 4, rates as a possible favorite in a field of eight for Saturday’s $200,000, Grade II San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
“He ran really good up there,” trainer Paddy Gallagher said Thursday morning of Aggie Engineer’s effort in the Californian in which the 6-year-old E Dubai gelding was beaten 1½ lengths by Twirling Candy and nosed out for second by Setsuko.
“I thought about running in a couple of races down here and just waited on the San Diego,” Gallagher said. “Hopefully it’s the right decision. He didn’t run very well down here last year on this main track. He had just come off running a good race in the Wickerr (2nd, beaten 1¼ lengths by Blue Chagall at one mile on the turf) and I don’t know if he just reacted to that or what it was.
“He finished good in his work here and I guess we’ll find out on Saturday.”
Aggie Engineer, owned by Ward and Roberta Williford, has been Gallagher’s charge through a career that has produced seven wins and 15 in-the-money finishes from 20 starts with earnings of $394,280. Joe Talamo will be aboard for the seventh straight time.
Other major contenders in the race, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, include Ron Ellis-trained Golden Itiz, Bob Baffert’s Spurrier and Carla Gaines’ Kevlar Kid, who comes in on a two-race winning streak.
Golden Itiz had a three-race winning streak, including the Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park, coming into the La Jolla Handicap here last year. The now 4-year-old son of Tiznow finished seventh of eight after a bad start, and was found to have an ulcer. A class four out of a possible five, Ellis said.
“He looked like he was going to be a pretty nice horse, but then the ulcer problem came up so we just sent him to the farm and gave him time and treatment to heal those up,” Ellis said.
Golden Itiz returned from a 10-month layoff with a sixth-place finish in a Hollywood Park allowance race on June 10 and followed that, a month later, with a victory in an allowance at the same 7-furlong distance.
“We’ll see if he likes this track,” Ellis said. “Horses that like it run well down here and hopefully he’s one that will.”