The storied San Juan Capistrano Handicap closes out Santa Anita’s
75th racing season on Sunday with course specialist Bourbon Bay an
overwhelming favorite to dominate the 73rd running of the Grade II,
$150,000 marathon distinguished as the United States’ lengthiest graded
turf stakes event at 1 ¾ miles.
The San Juan Capistrano, whose rich history includes the names
of such racing giants as Seabiscuit, Cougar II and John Henry, will be
presented as the ninth race on a 10-race program that commences at 12:30
p.m. Santa Anita will offer two post-race attractions: (a) “On Track to
Beat Cancer,” a charity walk down the track’s homestretch for a $10
donation that includes receipt of a commemorative t-shirt and wristband,
and (b) a free “Party in the Paddock” featuring half-priced food and
cocktails and the classic rock cover band “The Answer.”
Bourbon Bay, a 6-year-old gelding trained by Neil Drysdale for
David and Jill Heerensperger, is the 122-pound high weight among six
entrants in the San Juan Capistrano, and, on paper at least, the event’s
2010 winner appears to tower over his opposition. His career earnings
of $878,536 more than double those of any opponent. He has won six
graded stakes; the opposition, one.
What’s more, Bourbon Bay has all but made a career of running
over Santa Anita’s Camino Real Turf Course with six wins and a second in
eight starts. Included are five Grade II competitions that take in the
2010 San Juan, which Bourbon Bay won by one-half length over Unusual
He tuned up for Sunday’s assignment by rallying for a head
victory over Slim Shadey in the Grade II San Luis Rey Stakes at 1 ½
miles on March 25. Leading rider Joel Rosario, who rode Bourbon Bay for
the first time in three years in the San Luis Rey, will be back aboard.
The Kentucky-bred son of Sligo Bay developed an immediate
affinity for the Camino Real Turf Course in January of 2010 when ending a
seven-race losing streak. He won an allowance race at 1 ½ miles by 3 ½
lengths. Bourbon Bay proceeded to rattle off marathon victories in the
Grade II San Luis Obispo Stakes, San Luis Rey and the San Juan in 2010.
He missed last year’s San Juan after traveling to Dubai where he
flattened out to finish 11th in the Group I, $5 million Dubai Sheema
Classic at 1 ½ miles.
His career earnings are the product of an 8-5-4 record in 25
starts. His income over the Camino Real Turf Course alone accounts for
$517,800. Bourbon Bay is looking to become the sixth two-time winner of
the San Juan Capistrano Handicap, inaugurated in 1935.
His challengers on Sunday include a pair of shippers from
Florida’s Gulfstream Park: Eagle Poise, trained by H. Graham Motion, and
Harrods Creek, trained by Bill Mott. They were the one-two finishers in
the Group III Valedictory Stakes at 1 ¾ miles over Woodbine’s synthetic
surface in Canada last December with Eagle Poise scoring by a head.
Second high weight at 117 pounds, Eagle Poise is a 6-year-old
Empire Maker gelding who has earned $405,568 from a 6-4-1 record in 21
starts. Although proven at the distance, he shows but a single victory
in four starts on turf. He finished 13th behind Misremembered in the
2010 Santa Anita Handicap before running third to Tap It Light in that
year’s Grade III Tokyo City Handicap at 1 ½ miles oven Santa Anita’s
then synthetic surface. Owned by Riverdee Stable, Eagle Poise will be
ridden by Alex Solis.
Harrods Creek, assigned 115 pounds, will be making his local
debut. He most recently finished fourth in last month’s Grade II Pan
American Stakes at 1 ½ miles on turf at Gulfstream Park after setting
the early pace. Mike Smith has been engaged to ride the 5-year-old
earner of $177,616 from a 3-2-2 record in 17 starts. Owned and bred by
Hiram Polk Jr. and J. David Richardson, the son of Langfuhr has won 2 of
11 starts on turf.
Hog’s Hollow, who will carry 116 pounds, set the pace into the
stretch of the San Luis Rey before retreating to third, 2 ½ lengths
behind Bourbon Bay. At 8-1, it was solid effort for the 6-year-old
gelding in his first stakes endeavor. Trained by Paddy Gallagher for
owner-breeder Derrick Fisher, Hog’s Hollow will be ridden by David
Flores. He enters the San Juan with a 3-4-4 record in 22 starts for
earnings of $184,050.
Trainer Mike Mitchell, who won the San Juan in 2007 with $40,000
claim On the Acorn and the following year with $62,500 claim Big
Booster, seeks his third victory within six years with Irish-bred
Dhaamer. After posting a 3-1-1 record in 10 starts for trainer John
Gosden in England, the 5-year-old chestnut gelding was purchased by
Mitchell on behalf of Edward J. Brown.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Dhaamer missed by a neck to Dynamic
Host in the Tokyo City over Santa Anita’s main track on March 24, his
U.S. debut. A winner of 2 of 9 on turf, the Dubai Destination offspring
will make his debut over the Camino Real Turf Course with Bejarano back
Northern California-based trainer Steve Miyadi sends out the
field’s light weight, Bonfire Knight, at 113 pounds for Gary and Cecil
Barber. Joe Talamo rides the gelded 5-year-old son of Red Ransom who is
making his U.S. stakes debut. British-bred Bonfire Knight competed in
hurdle races in excess of two miles while racing in England. In seven
U.S. starts, he is yet to race beyond 1 1/8 miles or on turf. Bonfire
Knight has compiled a career record of 5-6-3 in 26 starts worth
The complete field for the San Juan Capistrano Handicap, with
jockeys and weights in post position order: Dhaamer, Rafael Bejarano,
115; Bourbon Bay, Joel Rosario, 122; Hog’s Hollow, David Flores, 116;
Eagle Poise, Alex Solis, 117; Bonfire Knight, Joseph Talamo, 113, and
Harrods Creek, Mike Smith, 115.