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Santa Anita Park: Ultimate Eagle Never Better

Here’s a frightening thought for rivals of Ultimate Eagle in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 3: the winner of the Grade II Strub Stakes on Feb. 4 by a widening 7 ¼ lengths in his first start on conventional dirt is doing better now than he was before the Strub.

 

“He came out of the race better than when he went in,” trainer Mike Pender said of the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Mizzen Mast owned by B.J. Wright. “He’s tearing down the barn. He’s peaking at the right time.”

 

That would be for the 76th running of Santa Anita’s signature race, the Grade I, $750,000 Big ‘Cap at 1 ¼ miles. Should the front-running Ultimate Eagle run, he could face pre-race favorite and defending champion Game On Dude, another horse with a penchant for speed.

 

It would mark a rematch of sorts between Pender and Game On Dude’s trainer, Bob Baffert. The Hall of Fame conditioner sent out Misremembered to win the 2010 Big ‘Cap, in which Pender’s Jeranimo finished fourth.

 

March 3 looms an exciting afternoon for Pender, who also is scheduled to run Jeranimo in the Grade I, $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf that day.

 

But back to Ultimate Eagle. “He has the staying power of a marathoner, but he’s got the gate speed of a Quarter Horse,” Pender said. “That’s a pretty potent combination.”

 

 

What the Nation is saying about Santa Anita Park: Ultimate Eagle Never Better...

I won't know who to root for if Game On Dude and Ultimate Eagle face off in the Big Cap. I love them both, and that's going to be a heckuva match-up.

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