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San Juan Capistrano Closes Out Santa Anita Meet

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 Suspect.

 

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 aboard.

 

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 $128,695.

 

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.

 

 

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