Sky Kingdom Tries Turf in San Juan Capistrano

Sky Kingdom wins 2013 Tokyo City at Santa Anita.
Photo: Benoit Photo
Trainer Bob Baffert is hoping his Sky Kingdom thinks the grass is greener on the other side of the rail. A handy winner of the Grade III Tokyo City Cup going 1 ½ miles on dirt March 23, Sky Kingdom will try turf for the first time on Sunday as he joins six other horses in Santa Anita’s traditional closing day feature, the Grade II, $150,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at 1 ¾ miles on turf—a distance that none of the seven runners have ever attempted.

A 4-year-old colt by Empire Maker, Sky Kingdom pressed the pace in the Tokyo City, assumed command going to the quarter pole and went on to an authoritative 3 ¾ length victory under Martin Garcia—while earning a San Juan Capistrano best last-out Beyer Speed figure of 104.

“He looked great today,” said Baffert following the Tokyo City. “The only spot to run him was a mile and a half. I didn’t know if he could do it…it’s pretty exciting.”

Owned by Westrock Stables LLC, Sky Kingdom had never been beyond 1 1/16 miles prior to the Tokyo City. As he was on dirt, he figures to lay close to the pace in the San Juan Capistrano. Sky Kingdom has earnings of $233,730 from a career mark of 9-4-0-1.

Trainer Ron McAnally, who won his first of two San Juan Capistrano’s in 1980 with the legendary John Henry, will send out Argentine-bred Interaction, who comes off a disappointing fourth as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade II, 1 ½ miles San Luis Rey Stakes on March 16. Prior to that, the 7-year-old horse made a big run from off the pace but was second, beaten a length, as the 7-2 favorite in the Grade II, 1 ¼ miles San Marcos Stakes.

A multiple Group I winner in Argentina, Interaction was second in the Grade I Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar Aug. 25. He’ll be reunited on Sunday with Joe Talamo, who rode him to second place finishes in both the San Marcos and the Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 15.

Owned by Pozo de Luna Inc., Interaction is in search of his first win since June 16, 2012, a classified allowance score at Betfair Hollywood Park going 1 1/8 miles on turf. His overall mark stands at 22-6-5-2, and he has earnings of $624,463.

Second in the San Luis Rey and third in the San Marcos, the Pete Miller-trained All Squared Away is a solid fit in the San Juan Capistrano. Ridden by Edwin Maldonado at odds of 12-1 in the San Luis Rey, the 4-year-old Bellamy Road gelding sat much closer to the early pace than he had in his recent races and was beaten 3 ¼ lengths.

Owned by Brous Stable or Wachtel Stable or Wire to Wire Stables and partners, All Squared Away has earnings of $304,809 from a career mark of 20-4-3-3.

Trainer Neil Drysdale, who won the San Juan in 2010 and 2012 with Bourbon Bay, will send out Fire with Fire, who comes off a third place finish with Tyler Baze aboard in the San Luis Rey at odds of 20-1.

A 5-year-old gelding by Distorted Humor, Fire With Fire figures to again lay close to the pace, or perhaps be on the early lead in the San Juan Capistrano. Owned by David Heerensperger, his recored stands at 21-2-6-4, with earnings of $233,444.

Smart Ellis, trained by Richard Mandella, comes off a clever second condition allowance score going 1 1/8 miles on turf March 3 and will try to improve on the stretch out. Ridden by Gary Stevens last time, the 4-year-old colt by Smarty Jones laid close to a fast pace, came three-wide into the lane and won by a length. He’ll get the services of Garrett Gomez on Sunday.

Mandella, who won the San Juan in 1993 with Kotashaan, will try for his second win with Smart Ellis, who is owned by his breeders, Wertheimer and Frere. He has earnings of $151,840 from an overall mark of 11-3-1-1.

The complete field for the 74th running of the San Juan Capistrano Handicap, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Interaction, Joe Talamo, 118; All Squared Away, Edwin Maldonado, 117; Fire With Fire, Tyler Baze, 116; Lime Rickey, Rafael Bejarano, 112; Sky Kingdom, Martin Garcia, 120; Oilisblackgold, Martin Pedroza, 115, and Smart Ellis, Garrett Gomez, 115.



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