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O'Neill Finds Right Spot for Handsome Mike

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)

Handsome Mike’s last two races were disappointing, but Doug O’Neill is hoping for a return to form when the Kentucky-bred son of Scat Daddy runs in Saturday’s Grade II San Fernando Stakes exclusively for 4-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.

Handsome Mike was ninth by more than 20 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Classic behind victorious Fort Larned on Nov. 3, then 10th by more than nine lengths in the Hollywood Derby at 1 ¼ miles on turf Nov. 25. v“We might have been a little overconfident leading up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” said O’Neill, who trains the Kentucky-bred for owner J. Paul Reddam.

“The horse wasn’t completely ready and that race zapped him a little bit. Then he kind of bounced in the Hollywood Derby.” If all systems are go for the San Fernando, Handsome Mike could be primed for a minor upset, albeit not as big as the one he scored at 19-1 in the Pennsylvania Derby last Sept. 22, one race prior to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Handsome Mike is 9-2 on Jon White’s morning line.

Blinkers will be back on Handsome Mike for the San Fernando after they were removed for the Hollywood Derby. He wore them in his Pennsylvania Derby victory.

In other San Fernando news: With a better post and a better start, Mike Smith expects a better performance than the sixth-place showing by Fed Biz in the Grace I Malibu at seven furlongs on Dec. 26.

“It was a better race than it looks on paper,” said the Hall of Fame rider, who was aboard Fed Biz competitively for the first time in the Malibu. “He was actually making up ground at the end and he had a little problem at the gate. He should be ready tomorrow.”

The San Fernando, which goes as the seventh of nine races: Battle Force, Garrett Gomez, 9-2; Fly Lexus Fly, Rafael Bejarano, 6-1; Regulus, Aaron Gryder, 8-1; Mile High Magic, Martin Garcia, 8-1; Guilt Trip, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Handsome Mike, Mario Gutierrez, 9-2; Sky Kingdom, Edwin Maldonado, 20-1; Fed Biz, Mike Smith, 7-2; Tribal Jewel, Julien Leparoux, 6-1; and Tritap, Corey Nakatani, 10-1.



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