Five days after being named the 2011 Eclipse Award winner as North
America’s premier sprinter, Amazombie goes back to work with the
ultimate intent of becoming the only sprinter other than Housebuster
(1990 & ’91) to gain such acclaim a second time.
Trainer and co-owner Bill Spawr’s 6-year-old gelding begins his
2012 quest on Saturday by facing seven ambitious opponents in Santa
Anita’s 60th running of the Grade II, $150,000 Palos Verdes Stakes at
Amazombie, never off-the-board last year while posting a 5-1-3
record in 9 starts, has been freshened since scoring a gutty neck
victory over Force Freeze at 7-1 odds in the Grade I, $1.5 million
Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.
Coming off some down time ought not to be a concern to
Amazombie’s connections. Similar layoffs have been agreeable to the
California-bred son of Northern Afleet. He has been victorious on each
of the past four occasions when returning from a layoff.
“It’s hard to surpass the year he had (in 2011), but we feel he
could be as good,” commented Spawr, who owns the winner of $1,525,708 in
partnership with Tom Sanford.
Amazombie will start out by carrying co-high weight of 123
pounds and breaking from post position No. 2 in the Palos Verdes. Hall
of Fame jockey Mike Smith, his companion in 16 of his 23 lifetime
starts, will be the familiar figure on Amazombie’s back.
The tentative outline for the champion sprinter this year could
include Santa Anita’s Grade II Potrero Grande Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs on
April 7, Hollywood Park’s Grade III Los Angeles Handicap in the spring,
Del Mar’s Grade I Bing Crosby during the summer and Santa Anita’s Grade I
Ancient Title prior to a defense of his Breeders’ Cup title at Santa
Anita in November.
The late-developing bay gelding followed a somewhat similar
course last year after scoring his first career stakes victory in Santa
Anita’s $200,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint on Jan. 29. He subsequently
gained his first graded stakes win in the Potrero Grande. The Los
Angeles, Bing Crosby and Ancient Title were among competitions that
It was that first graded stakes triumph in the Potrero Grande,
however, that seemed to particularly inspire Spawr. “This horse is the
real deal,” he exclaimed afterward. “If you don’t understand ‘perfect,’
just look at his body.”
Before his initial graded stakes victory, Amazombie had raced 16
times in his 23-race career that now shows an overall record of 10-4-5.
His earnings of $152,578 in 2010 were virtually one-tenth of what he
would earn during last year’s championship season.
The only rival in the Palos Verdes to ever have beaten him is
defending champion Euroears, who reportedly will be making his final
start prior to retirement at the age of 8 for James and Marilyn Helzer.
The chestnut horse, trained by Bob Baffert, defeated third-place
Amazombie by 1 ¾ lengths when taking last July’s Bing Crosby.
In fact, Euroears was sent off at shorter odds than Amazombie in
the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, 5-1, before being dusted by 18 lengths when
checking in a badly-beaten ninth and last.
The 2011 Palos Verdes stands as Euroears’ only race at Santa
Anita. He was a wire-to-wire winner by 2 ¼ lengths over Captain Cherokee
with Smith in the saddle. Martin Garcia will guide the son of Llangfuhr
in his farewell to racing under co-high weight of 123 pounds. Euroears,
who drew the outside, has posted a record of 10-2-2 in 22 lifetime
starts for earnings of $1,049,894.
Mensa Heat has been racing in sharp form since being claimed by
trainer Ted West on behalf of Peter Redekop for $25,000 last April at
Santa Anita. The 6-year-old gelded son of Unusual Heat has gone on to
win 5 of 8 starts since being tagged. Mensa Heat won Hollywood Park’s On
Trust Handicap at 7 ½ furlongs in his last start on Dec. 18. He ran a
solid third behind Amazombie in the Ancient Title on Oct. 8 when
finishing but three-quarters-of -a-length behind the Eclipse Award
winner. Rafael Bejarano will ride the Cal-bred whose overall record is
9-7-6 in 41 starts for earnings of $418,758.
In addition to Amazombie and Euroears, M One Rifle is also a
Grade I winner. The 6-year-old gelding concluded his 3-year-old season
with a smashing 2 ½-length victory over Misremembered in Santa Anita’s
Grade I Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, 2009. Smith happened to be the rider
that day. M One Rifle’s only victory since the Malibu, however, came in
Hollywood Park’s ungraded Cool Frenchy Stakes last May 7. Trained by
Bruce Headley for a partnership, the One Man Army offspring has won
$515,002 from a record of 5-2-6 in 17 career starts. Joe Talamo has the
mount in the Palos Verdes.
The complete field for the Palos Verdes Stakes, with jockeys and
weights in post position order: M One Rifle, Joseph Talamo, 118;
Amazombie, Mike Smith, 123; Galientos, Corey Nakatani, 118; Mensa Heat,
Rafael Bejarano, 118; Frumious, Antonio Castanon, 118; Canonize, Victor
Espinoza, 118; Courtside, Joel Rosario, 118, and Euroears, Martin