Sahara Sky, a longshot winner of the Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes going six furlongs on Jan. 19, will stretch out an eighth of a mile on Saturday and he ranks prominently among a field of eight talented sprinters set to contest Santa Anita’s Grade II, $200,000 San Carlos Stakes at seven furlongs.
Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and ridden by Joe Talamo, Sahara Sky, off at odds of 21-1, fell 7 ¼ lengths off the early pace in the Palos Verdes and made a three-wide move turning for home to win by one length in a manner that would suggest the stretch-out should be to his liking.
“I thought I was going to be 10 lengths further back than I was,” said Talamo following the race. “He broke sharply, he put me right there, and I still had a lot of horse when I called on him. I just followed him (Rafael Bejarano, aboard 5-2 favorite Justin Phillip) the whole race. Whatever he did, I did. I had a lot of horse today.”
A 5-year-old Florida-bred by Pleasant Tap, Sahara Sky overcame a six month layoff to win the Palos Verdes. With a win, a second and a third-place finish from three starts at seven furlongs, he obviously rates a big chance.
Owned in-part by Hollendorfer and Sweetwater Stable, Sahara Sky has $236,680 in earnings from an overall mark of 13-5-2-4.
Trainer Neil Drysdale is hoping The Lumber Guy will atone for a disappointing seventh-place finish as the 4-5 favorite in the Grade I Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, his first start for Drysdale.
Originally based in New York, The Lumber Guy ran a big second at Santa Anita in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 3 with John Velazquez up. Ridden by “Johnny V.” to victory in the Grade I Vosburgh Invitational on Sept. 29, he was also handled by Velazquez in the Malibu.
Breaking from post position four in a nine-horse field on Dec. 26, The Lumber Guy pressed the pace early but tired readily to be beaten 6 ½ lengths.
A 4-year-old New York-bred colt by Grand Slam, The Lumber Guy has one minor stakes win from two tries at seven furlongs. His overall record stands at 8-4-1-0, with earnings of $736,050. He’ll be ridden for the first time on Saturday by Garrett Gomez and he is owned by Barry Schwartz.
Despite being away nine months, Midnight Transfer was an impressive second-condition allowance winner with Bejarano up going 6 ½ furlongs at Santa Anita on Jan. 12. Off as the 6-5 favorite in a seven horse field, the 4-year-old colt by Hard Spun charged home from off the pace to win by 1 ¼ lengths while earning a San Carlos best last-out Beyer Speed figure of 103.
Trained by Carla Gaines and owned by Warren Williamson, Midnight Transfer was third in last years Grade II San Felipe Stakes and went to the sidelines following a seventh-place run in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 7. With a record of 8-3-1-1, Midnight Transfer has earnings of $168,050.
Zayat Stables’ Justin Phillip, trained by Steve Asmussen, was third from off the pace in the Palos Verdes, beaten 1 ½ lengths by Sahara Sky. Well beaten by The Lumber Guy at 5-2 in the Vosburgh, he was subsequently fifth, beaten four lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. With a win and two thirds going seven furlongs, he has to be accorded a big chance in the San Carlos.
A 5-year-old by First Samurai, he has earnings of $595,162 from an overall mark of 23-4-4-7. He’ll be ridden for the first time by Mike Smith in the San Carlos.
Bob Baffert will send out a pair, Capital Account and Drill, on Saturday. Capital Account, a winner of the Grade II Pat O’Brien Stakes going seven furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 26, he was subsequently second, beaten a head, in the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship on Oct. 6 by stablemate Coil.
Well beaten in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, he was a close third to the good sprinter Smiling Tiger in the Grade III Vernon O. Underwood Stakes on Dec. 2, and comes off a fourth-place finish as the 8-5 favorite to Comma to the Top in the Grade III Daytona Stakes on Dec. 29.
Owned by Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable, the 6-year-old Kentucky-bred by Closing Argument will again be ridden by veteran David Flores, who has won twice with him in seven tries. He has $415,080 in earnings from an overall mark of 13-5-3-3.
Hard-knocking 5-year-old gelding Comma to the Top made the early lead in the Palos Verdes and battled through blistering splits of 21.20, 43.60 and 55.40, and tired to finish fourth, beaten four lengths.
The lone millionare in the field, Comma to the Top is one for two at seven furlongs. He is owned by Barber, Birnbaum and Tsujihara and is trained by Peter Miller. His overall record stands at 26-11-2-1.
Drill, sixth in the Palos Verdes at 5-2, was fourth in the Malibu and will make his third start since winning the Grade III Lazaro Barrera Stakes on May 12 at Betfair Hollywood Park. Owned by Pegram, Watson or Weitman, Drill, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred colt by Lawyer Ron, has three wins from four starts at seven furlongs. With earnings of $437,960, his overall record is 13-4-2-0.
Jay Em Ess Stable’s Canonize, a close fourth in last year’s San Carlos, ran fifth in the Palos Verdes, beaten 4 ½ lengths at 14-1. A 7-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Aldebaran, he has a win and two thirds from four starts at seven furlongs. Trained by Ron Ellis, he is 15-5-2-2 overall with earnings of $269,784.
The complete field for the San Carlos Stakes, to be run as the eighth race on a nine-race program, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Comma to the Top, Edwin Maldonado, 118; Capital Account, David Flores, 123; Justin Phillip, Mike Smith, 118; Canonize, Jose Valdivia, Jr., 118; Midnight Transfer, Rafael Bejarano, 118; Sahara Sky, Joe Talamo, 123; The Lumber Guy, Garrett Gomez, 123, and Drill, Julien Leparoux, 118.