Comebacking Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens
, a winner of three Santa
Anita stakes races the past two weekends at the age of 49, will attempt
to expand his recent success Sunday aboard Maui Mark
, a leading
contender among eight entrants in the 16th running of the $100,000
Sensational Star Stakes for California breds at 6 ½ furlongs over Santa
Anita’s downhill turf course.
Stevens ought to feel right at home atop the elderly competitor,
an 8-year-old son of Unusual Heat who has won 6 of his last 10 races
including the $100,000 California Cup Sprint in October at Santa Anita
for trainer Bob Hess Jr. Maui Mark, however, will be seeking his first
win in four starts over the unique downhill turf layout.
His competition includes Ain’t No Other, who led into the
stretch of last year’s Sensational Star before dropping back to fourth
at the wire. It was a rare off-the-board finish for the 5-year-old sired
by Old Topper. The bay gelding, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for
owner/breeder Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, has finished in-the-money in 19
of his 23 starts. Only once has he wound up worse than fourth while
But, like Maui Mark, Ain’t No Other has yet to win in five
starts down-the-hill at Santa Anita. Leading jockey Rafael Bejarano,
with a win and a runner-up finish in two previous rides, will rejoin the
multiple stakes winner on Sunday. Maui Mark has been victorious in 4 of
8 starts since being claimed for $20,000 by Charles Galea and Michael
Carter last March at Santa Anita. His 11 wins in 29 career starts have
Gary and Cecil Barber’s Stoney Fleece, a 4-year-old Decarchy
offspring trained by John Sadler, is the only other entrant with a
stakes victory on his resume. Edwin Maldonado takes over aboard the bay
colt who captured the Grade III Generous Stakes as a 2-year-old at
Hollywood Park. An earner of $319,058 from a 5-3-2 record in 16 starts,
Stoney Fleece was second in his only race over the course.
Cat Talk, Circa’sgoldengear and Starspangled Heat have all been victorious over the winding grass strip.
Corey Nakatani was in the saddle for both of Starspangled Heat’s
successes. He retains the mount for Barry Abrams, who trains the
5-year-old Unusual Heat gelding for owners/breeders Madeline Auerbach
and Vincenzo Loverso. Starspangled Heat has posted an overall record of
3-2-6 in 19 starts.
In his only start over the course, Cat Talk nosed out A Toast to
You, a Peter Miller-trainee who will race as Gary and Cecil Barber’s
second entrant on Sunday. Cat Talk was making his first start for
trainer Phillip D’Amato in the allowance race win on Jan. 12. A graduate
of USC as well as the University of Arizona Race Track Industry
Program, D’Amato serves primarily as trainer Mike Mitchell’s chief aide
while training a handful of horses on his own.
Owned and bred by Madera Thoroughbreds and Kevin Kjelstrom, Cat
Talk scored in his first start after being sent to D’Amato. Garrett
Gomez has the return call atop the gelded 5-year-old son of Tale of the
Cat who has earned $183,704 while winning 4 of 12 lifetime starts.
Joe Talamo will be in his customary spot aboard Circa’sgoldengear
for trainer Blake Heap, who co-owns the 6-year-old gelding with Earle
Malley. The latter bred the son of Golden Gear along with Sue Hubbard.
Circa’sgoldengear has compiled a 4-6-3 record in 17 career starts worth
The complete field for the Sensational Star Stakes, with jockeys
and weights in post position order: Stoney Fleece, Edwin Maldonado, 120;
A Toast to You, Martin Garcia, 116; Circa’sgoldengear, Joe Talamo, 116;
Ain’t No Other, Rafael Bejarano, 118; Starspangled Heat, Corey
Nakatani, 118; Maui Mark, Gary Stevens, 120; Cat Talk, Garrett Gomez,
118, and Coach Bob, Victor Espinoza, 118.