Photo: Benoit Photo
Trainer Bob Baffert is hoping his Sky Kingdom
thinks the grass is
greener on the other side of the rail. A handy winner of the Grade III
Tokyo City Cup going 1 ½ miles on dirt March 23, Sky Kingdom will try
turf for the first time on Sunday as he joins six other horses in Santa
Anita’s traditional closing day feature, the Grade II, $150,000 San Juan
Capistrano Handicap at 1 ¾ miles on turf—a distance that none of the
seven runners have ever attempted.
A 4-year-old colt by Empire Maker, Sky Kingdom pressed the pace
in the Tokyo City, assumed command going to the quarter pole and went on
to an authoritative 3 ¾ length victory under Martin Garcia—while
earning a San Juan Capistrano best last-out Beyer Speed figure of 104.
“He looked great today,” said Baffert following the Tokyo City.
“The only spot to run him was a mile and a half. I didn’t know if he
could do it…it’s pretty exciting.”
Owned by Westrock Stables LLC, Sky Kingdom had never been beyond
1 1/16 miles prior to the Tokyo City. As he was on dirt, he figures to
lay close to the pace in the San Juan Capistrano. Sky Kingdom has
earnings of $233,730 from a career mark of 9-4-0-1.
Trainer Ron McAnally, who won his first of two San Juan
Capistrano’s in 1980 with the legendary John Henry, will send out
Argentine-bred Interaction, who comes off a disappointing fourth as the
2-1 favorite in the Grade II, 1 ½ miles San Luis Rey Stakes on March 16.
Prior to that, the 7-year-old horse made a big run from off the pace
but was second, beaten a length, as the 7-2 favorite in the Grade II, 1 ¼
miles San Marcos Stakes.
A multiple Group I winner in Argentina, Interaction was second
in the Grade I Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar Aug. 25. He’ll be reunited
on Sunday with Joe Talamo, who rode him to second place finishes in both
the San Marcos and the Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 15.
Owned by Pozo de Luna Inc., Interaction is in search of his
first win since June 16, 2012, a classified allowance score at Betfair
Hollywood Park going 1 1/8 miles on turf. His overall mark stands at
22-6-5-2, and he has earnings of $624,463.
Second in the San Luis Rey and third in the San Marcos, the Pete
Miller-trained All Squared Away is a solid fit in the San Juan
Capistrano. Ridden by Edwin Maldonado at odds of 12-1 in the San Luis
Rey, the 4-year-old Bellamy Road gelding sat much closer to the early
pace than he had in his recent races and was beaten 3 ¼ lengths.
Owned by Brous Stable or Wachtel Stable or Wire to Wire Stables
and partners, All Squared Away has earnings of $304,809 from a career
mark of 20-4-3-3.
Trainer Neil Drysdale, who won the San Juan in 2010 and 2012 with
Bourbon Bay, will send out Fire with Fire, who comes off a third place
finish with Tyler Baze aboard in the San Luis Rey at odds of 20-1.
A 5-year-old gelding by Distorted Humor, Fire With Fire figures
to again lay close to the pace, or perhaps be on the early lead in the
San Juan Capistrano. Owned by David Heerensperger, his recored stands
at 21-2-6-4, with earnings of $233,444.
Smart Ellis, trained by Richard Mandella, comes off a clever
second condition allowance score going 1 1/8 miles on turf March 3 and
will try to improve on the stretch out. Ridden by Gary Stevens last
time, the 4-year-old colt by Smarty Jones laid close to a fast pace,
came three-wide into the lane and won by a length. He’ll get the
services of Garrett Gomez on Sunday.
Mandella, who won the San Juan in 1993 with Kotashaan, will try
for his second win with Smart Ellis, who is owned by his breeders,
Wertheimer and Frere. He has earnings of $151,840 from an overall mark
The complete field for the 74th running of the San Juan
Capistrano Handicap, with jockeys and weights in post position order:
Interaction, Joe Talamo, 118; All Squared Away, Edwin Maldonado, 117;
Fire With Fire, Tyler Baze, 116; Lime Rickey, Rafael Bejarano, 112; Sky
Kingdom, Martin Garcia, 120; Oilisblackgold, Martin Pedroza, 115, and
Smart Ellis, Garrett Gomez, 115.