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Handsome Mike Hopes to Right Ship

Handsome Mike (no. 3), ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. and trained by Leandro Mora, wins the 33rd running of the grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby for three year olds on September 22, 2012 at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. (Bob Mayberger/Eclipse Sportswire)

A word of caution from Team O’Neill: Handsome Mike is not a one-hit wonder. Those who thought the same of I’ll Have Another after his 43-1 upset in last year’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes paid the price if they missed the boat when he went on to capture the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Handsome Mike is considerably less accomplished than I’ll Have Another, having won only a maiden race besides the Pennsylvania Derby. Next up is the Santa Anita Handicap a week from Saturday, a mile and a quarter classic that could set up well for the 4-year-old Scat Daddy colt owned by J. Paul Reddam.

“Handsome Mike can rate,” said trainer Doug O’Neill’s brother, Dennis. “When he won the Pennsylvania Derby, he was sitting right in behind them on the outside and rallied. So he would love to get another pace scenario like that.

“Game On Dude broke real good in the San Antonio (Stakes on Feb. 3). You really have to get to him, when he breaks like that. You don’t hope he breaks bad, but if he does, and you’re in front of him, it compromises his chances.”

Handsome Mike worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Friday morning in 1:11.80 with regular rider Mario Gutierrez aboard. “He worked really well,” Doug O’Neill said. “He cooled out good so we’re going to take a shot in the Big ’Cap. We were happy with him.”

Another O’Neill Big ’Cap candidate, Richard’s Kid, who disappointed in the grassy San Marcos Stakes on Feb. 9, worked six furlongs under Tyler Baze in 1:13.80, while Sham Stakes winner Goldencents, prepping for the San Felipe Stakes on March 9, went six furlongs under Kevin Krigger in a bullet 1:10.40.

“They both worked fantastic,’ O’Neill said. “Richard’s Kid worked by himself. We’ll see how Richard’s Kid cools out, but plans right now are to run in the Big ’Cap.”

Probable for the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap at 1 ¼ miles presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino: Game On Dude, Ron the Greek, Called to Serve, Guilt Trip, Stephanoatsee, Handsome Mike, John Scott, Clubhouse Ride, Tritap and Richard’s Kid.

Not only will Santa Anita present three Grade I races on Big ’Cap Day, fans on track will receive free an attractive Santa Anita tote bag with paid admission while supplies last.

Festivities also will include popular premium Food Trucks, a KROQ concert featuring Youngblood Hawk, a microbrew and craft beer presentation and a $400,000 guaranteed late Pick 4 presented by Daily Racing Form.

First post time on Big ’Cap is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.



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