Race of the Week 2017

Eldaafer Should Like Trip in Tokyo City Cup

Santa Anita’s Grade III Tokyo City Cup at 1 ½ miles over a dirt surface can be a confounding contest in that it is unique to the meet and seldom offers established form. Run as the San Bernardino Handicap prior to 2005, Saturday’s 56th running of the race would appear to be little different with eight entrants. The enigmatic Eldaafer, however, could prove the exception.


Eldaafer, whose 34-race career has taken him to 17 different racetracks, clearly has no distance limitations. He won the mile-and-three-quarter Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Churchill Downs in 2010 although his showings in the event’s 2009 and 2011 runnings were nonproductive.


Now stabled in the barn of Brian Koriner, the 7-year-old gelded son of A.P. Indy shows a 2-0-3 record in six starts at 1 ½ miles, and he seems to do his best running over dirt or wet surfaces with a combined 8-1-4 record in 21 starts. With earnings of $756,865 from an overall record of 11-1-5 in his 34 races, Eldaafer is the field’s most accomplished entrant.


But Eldaafer has been an erratic performer throughout his career for E-Racing.Com and Kevin Jacobsen. Claimed for $20,000 at Aqueduct in January of 2009, he won Belmont Park’s Grade II Brooklyn Handicap at odds of 17-1 five months later. In the next two runnings of the mile-and-one-half competition, he finished third and fourth at odds of 3-1 and 5-2, respectively.


Eldaafer, who will be ridden for the first time by Brice Blanc, has raced but once previously at Santa Anita. He finished a well-beaten seventh among 10 runners in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Marathon when Santa Anita’s main track was a synthetic surface.


Trainer Mike Mitchell -- who won the 2010 Tokyo City Cup with $40,000 claim Tap It Light, an 8-1 shot who was trying 12 furlongs for the first time – will take a different approach with one of his two entrants this time around.


Mitchell is sending out Irish-bred newcomer Dhaamer, a 5-year-old gelding who raced in England for trainer John Gosden while posting a 3-1-1 record in 10 starts. Dhaamer is experienced at the distance, but has never competed over a dirt surface. Rafael Bejarano has been named to ride the chestnut gelding purchased by Edward J. Brown, Jr.


None of the other six entrants has gone as far as 1 ½ miles. Skipshot, Highway Bandit and Dynamic Host each will be seeking his first victory over a dirt surface as well.


Twice the Appeal, a 4-year-old colt trained by Jeff Bonde for a partnership that includes Brown Jr., exits the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap where he finished seventh behind Ron the Greek in the field of 13 going 1 ¼ miles. Twice the Appeal scored his last victory one year ago, a 25-1 upset in the Grade III Sunland Derby. The Successful Appeal offspring subsequently ran 10th in the Kentucky Derby, his last start of 2011. Garrett Gomez is scheduled to ride Twice the Appeal, who has won $474,920 from a 3-3-2 record in 14 career starts.


A 5-year-old ridgling, Skipshot won Hollywood Park’s Grade II Swaps Stakes over Cushion Track at 1 1/8 miles in 2010, but has never competed beyond that distance. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for Olympia Star Inc., the son of Skip Away owns a 5-1-3 record in 19 starts for earnings of $314,050. Kevin Krigger has the mount.


Highway Bandit, a 5-year-old gelded son of Roman Ruler trained by Steve Sherman for owner-breeder Tom Shapiro, will be making only his second start on dirt while in search of his first stakes victory. Joe Talamo will be aboard the earner of $104,602 from a 5-2-3 record in 17 lifetime starts.


Dynamic Host, to be ridden by David Flores, was claimed by trainer Art Sherman on behalf of a partnership for $40,000 at Del Mar last summer. The 6-year-old gelding ran second in a race at the Sacramento Fair in his only previous start on dirt. His record in 26 starts is 4-7-6 for earnings of $157,528.


The second Mitchell entrant, Coluda, comes out of a wire-to-wire win in a $20,000 claimer at Santa Anita on March 2 and apparently will try to take Saturday’s field as far as he can with apprentice Eswan Flores aboard. A 5-year-old gelding owned by Jeffrey Sengara, Coluda was claimed for $25,000 on Jan. 22. His overall record is 4-0-1 in 11 starts for earnings of $75,190.


The complete field for the Tokyo City Cup, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Twice the Appeal, Garrett Gomez, 120; Graeme Crackerjack, Daniel Vergara, 118; Skipshot, Kevin Krigger, 118; Highway Bandit, Joseph Talamo, 118; Dhaamer, Rafael Bejarano, 118; Eldaafer, Brice Blanc, 118; Coluda, Eswan Flores, 118, and Dynamic Host, David Flores, 118.

The Tokyo City Cup will be presented as the eighth race on a card of 10 races with first post at 12:30 p.m. Wild Revenge is the 122-pound high weight among nine entrants in a seventh-race supporting feature, the ninth running of the $30,000 March Madness Starter Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

The complete field for the March Madness Starter Handicap, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Big Wags, Hector Berrios, 116; Brass Plate, Talamo, 117; Wild Revenge, David Flores, 122; King Ledley, Kayla Stra, 117; Gatheratthealter, Martin Garcia, 120; Best Verse, Agapito Delgadillo, 112; Adriatic Moon, Edwin Maldonado, 118; Unusual Jazz, Alonso Quinonez, 120, and Letsgetitright, Krigger, 115.


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