Santa Anita runs downs Big 'Cap, San Felipe day contenders

Ed Golden, Santa Anita
March 03, 2019 05:44pm
Fans will be treated to five stakes Saturday, greatest interest focusing on the Grade 1, $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap and the Grade 2, $500,000 San Felipe Stakes, the latter expected to match Bob Baffert’s two leading undefeated Triple Crown contenders, champion Game Winner and Improbable.

Additionally, the prestigious Grade 1, $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile will be showcased on turf, the Grade 2, $200,000 San Carlos Stakes will attract sprint stars going seven furlongs, and 3-year-old fillies will vie in the $75,000 China Doll Stakes at a mile on grass.

First post time on Big ’Cap Day will be noon PT.

McKinzie, Gift Box top weights in Big 'Cap

Multiple Grade 1 winner McKinzie, who finished second by a half-length as the 1-2 favorite in the Feb. 2 San Pasqual Stakes (G2) under 123 pounds, has been assigned one pound less for Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Casino at a mile and a quarter.

Next on the list is Gift Box at 122 pounds, the same weight the 6-year-old son of Twirling Candy carried winning the San Antonio Stakes (G2) on Dec. 26.

Among others expected in Santa Anita’s marquee race for older horses offering $600,000 in purse money are Dabster (118 pounds, Joe Talamo), Mongolian Groom (114, Geovanni Franco), and Noble Commander (115, Flavien Prat).

Mike Smith rides McKinzie, while Joel Rosario retains the mount on Gift Box.

Smith, still on top of his game at 53, is enjoying a sensational Winter Meet while remaining highly selective with his mounts.

Through 40 days, the Hall of Fame member has 23 wins from 67 rides, a gaudy 34 percent. More remarkably, he is the show bettors’ salvation, finishing in the money 22 additional times, a total of 45, for an average of 67 percent.

Leading sophomores vie in attractive San Felipe

The eyes and ears of the racing world will be on Santa Anita Saturday, specifically the most attractive and intriguing 3-year-old race to date this year, the San Felipe Stakes at a mile and one-sixteenth.

Worth 50 Kentucky Derby 2019 qualifying points to the winner, the San Felipe is expected to bring together two undefeated Kentucky Derby favorites, champion Game Winner and Improbable, each trained by two-time Triple Crown king and five-time Run for the Roses winner Bob Baffert.

Understandably, trainers are not waiting in line to enter against the two heavyweights, although Jerry Hollendorfer is an exception. The Hall of Fame conditioner, third all-time in career victories with 7,577, has Sham Stakes (G3) winner Gunmetal Gray set to tackle Baffert’s dynamic duo.

A gray son of Exchange Rate owned in part by Hollendorfer, Gunmetal Gray has been beaten twice by Game Winner, running second by 4 ½ lengths in the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) Sept. 29 and fifth by 12 ½ lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 2.

Mike Smith, who was aboard for the one mile Sham on Jan. 5, coming from seventh and last while four wide to score by a length, will be back aboard in the San Felipe.

Hollendorfer’s leading Triple Crown candidate, Instagrand, makes his 3-year-old debut in the Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct this Saturday.

“He’ll work here Tuesday and ship Wednesday,” Hollendorfer said of the son of Into Mischief, winner of his two starts by a combined margin of just over 20 lengths. Javier Castellano has the mount in the Gotham which will be decided over a one-turn mile.

Working on Santa Anita’s training track Sunday for the San Felipe was Easy Shot, who went four furlongs in company for Keith Desormeaux in a bullet 49 flat, the same time given stablemate Speedette.

Calumet Farm’s Sonneteer, bound for the Big ’Cap, also went in 49 for Desormeaux.

Ohio states his case for Grade 1 victory

Bargain claim Ohio goes for his first Grade 1 victory Saturday in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf. Taken by Michael McCarthy for $50,000 June 10, the 8-year-old Brazilian-bred gelding was third in the City of Hope Mile (G2), won the restricted Cotton Fitzsimmons at Turf Paradise, and was second by a half-length in the Thunder Road (G3).

“Everything’s status quo,” McCarthy said, alluding to his training regimen during the recent wet weather. “Luckily enough the rain hasn’t hampered our situation too much. We got a nice work into him on Friday (four furlongs in 47:80).

“He runs turf, dirt, whatever.”

Others expected for the Kilroe include Caribou Club (Joe Talamo), Desert Stone (Geovanni Franco) Hunt (no rider), River Boyne (Flavien Prat) and True Valour (Andrea Atzeni).

Giant Expectations back sprinting in San Carlos

Giant Expectations shortens up to seven furlongs in Saturday’s San Carlos Stakes after seven straight routes at a mile or a longer.

Not to worry, says Peter Eurton.

“He’s done well doing that on occasion,” the trainer said of the 6-year-old horse bred in New York, a two-time Grade 2 winner and earner of more than a million dollars. “In the Pat O’Brien he shortened up and ran a huge race, probably the best race he’s ever run.”

That was in August 2017 when he rallied from sixth under Gary Stevens to win the seven-furlong race by a length and a half.

Joel Rosario, who rode the son of First Giant for the first time last out finishing third on a sloppy track in the San Pasqual Stakes at 1 1/8 miles Feb. 2, rides back Saturday.

Also expected for the San Carlos are Ax Man (Drayden Van Dyke), Dr. Dorr (Joe Talamo), Kanthaka (Flavien Prat), St. Joe Bay (Victor Espinoza) and Touching Rainbows (Tiago Pereira).

St. Joe Bay worked five furlongs on a fast main track Sunday in 59.80 for John Sadler.

FINISH LINES: Congratulations to apprentice Jorge Velez on winning his first race at Santa Anita yesterday aboard Just Be Held for trainer Craig Dollase in the third event. “It felt good,” said the native of Puerto Rico, who came back to win the seventh on Coil to Strike for trainer Bill Morey . . . Impressive maiden winner Bizwhacks runs Saturday in the Honeybee (G3) at 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-old fillies at Oaklawn Park. Mario Gutierrez has the mount on the daughter of Fed Biz trained by Doug O’Neill for J. Paul Reddam . . . Santa Anita will be dark for live racing Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but resume live action Friday, March 8 at noon. There will be simulcast wagering Wednesday and Thursday with free general admission and free parking. Admission gates open at 10 a.m.


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