Lakerville returns to the races Sunday after an absence of 17 months. The 6-year-old Unusual Heat horse trained by Barry Abrams for Madeline Auerbach runs in the $75,000 Clockers’ Corner Stakes for older horses at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.
Lakerville broke his maiden over the same venue in his first start, Oct. 22, 2011. He has had only five races since, all in turf sprints at either Hollywood Park or Del Mar, and has never finished worse than second, winning four times.
On paper, Lakerville seems like a stone closer in turf sprints, but looks can be deceiving, Abrams says.
“He’s not a turf sprinter; he’s a two-turn horse that’s never had the opportunity to run two turns,” is Abrams’ assessment. “All the races that came up for him were sprints. I didn’t want to miss a race, so I just kept racing him.
“He came up with an injury, and even though it healed, every time I tried to bring him back, he came up with something small, and he’s just too good of a horse to rush, so I gave him plenty of time.
“He’s an exciting horse. He’s probably the only horse in the history of Thoroughbred racing that ran the last quarter (mile) in 21 seconds. We haven’t seen the best of him yet.”
Handsome Mike, meanwhile, makes his first start in an ungraded stakes race. His first graded stakes was the Grade III Generous Stakes in which he finished second on Nov. 27, 2011
Since then, the versatile 5-year-old Scat Daddy horse trained by Doug O’Neill for J. Paul Reddam has run in 21—count ‘em—21 consecutive graded stakes, nine of them Grade I’s. He won the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby at 19-1 in September of 2012.
He has run in turf sprints, turf routes, synthetic sprints, synthetic routes, on a sloppy track and in dirt routes, winning three times and earning $922,823.
“This is first his ungraded stakes,” O’Neill allowed. “He’s such an honest, hard-knocking horse. He’s just short of a million dollars, and that tells you what horses he has faced—Wise Dan, Game On Dude, Paynter, Mizdirection, Unbridled’s Note. He’s got a big chance on Sunday.”
The field for the Clockers’ Corner: Handsome Mike, Mario Gutierrez, 12-1; Sweet Swap, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2; Drill, Martin Garcia; Boat Trip, 4-1, Joe Talamo; Di Giorgio, Tyler Baze, 8-1; El Commodore, Gary Stevens, 7-2; Lakerville, Corey Nakatani, 8-1; Ankeny Hill, Edwin Maldonado, 15-1; and Ready for More, Mike Smith, 3-1.