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Stevens Hops Aboard Maui Mark at Santa Anita

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 earning $374,973.

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 netted $405,378.

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 $240,362.

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.



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Older Comments about Stevens Hops Aboard Maui Mark at Santa Anita...

I'm going to make an early prediction. If Stevens gets a mount for Derby - He will be in the money.

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