46TH RUNNING OF TURF FIXTURE ATTRACTS WIDE-OPEN FIELD OF 10 OLDER HORSES
ARCADIA, Calif. (Sept. 25, 2014)–A 5 ¼ length winner of the Grade II Del Mar Handicap Aug. 23, Big John B will face nine rivals as he seeks his fourth consecutive win in Sunday’s Grade II, 1 ¼ miles John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita.
Favored on each occasion and a winner of his last three starts by a combined 13 ¾ lengths, Big John B is a deep closer who’s reached the apex of his game since shipping west from Kentucky and joining the barn of trainer Phil D’Amato this past June. A 5-year-old gelding by Hard Spun, he has been ridden to victory in all three races by Mike Smith, who has the call in the John Henry.
A winner of his last two races over the Del Mar turf at 1 3/8 miles, his only previous try at a mile and quarter resulted in a resounding starter allowance win at Santa Anita three starts back on June 29.
The John Henry co-high weight at 124 pounds, Big John B will hope to get a ground saving trip from his rail post and have a legitimate pace to run down late. Owned by Michael House, “Big John” has won six of nine starts this year and is 28-11-5-3 overall with earnings of $458,805.
Trainer Dale Romans’ Finnegans Wake exits the best race, having run fifth in the prestigious Grade I Arlington Million on Aug. 16. Although based at Churchill Downs, the 5-year-old horse by Powerscourt has worked twice locally at San Luis Rey Downs, his most recent drill a five furlong move in 1:01.40 on Sept. 23.
A winner of the Grade III, 1 ¼ miles turf Arlington Handicap two starts back on July 12, Finnegans Wake has a win, two seconds and a third from seven tries at the distance. Although he had come from well off the pace in most of his races, he sat a close second throughout in the Arlington Handicap and prevailed by a head. All three of his lifetime wins have come from 17 starts on grass and his overall mark stands at 22-3-2-3. Owned by Donegal Racing, he has earnings of $635,375.
A front-running winner of Santa Anita’s Grade II San Juan Capistrano Stakes on June 29, Ontario, Canadian-bred Big Kick showed the way early and tired badly to finish last in the $400,000 American St. Ledger Stakes, run at the unusual distance of 1 11/16 miles on turf Aug. 16 at Arlington Park. Trained by Mike Machowsky, Big Kick has worked four times since–with his last three on Santa Anita’s main track.
A 5-year-old gelding by Tiznow, Big Kick opened up by 10 lengths coming down the hill in the San Juan Capistrano and he figures to be winging early in the John Henry. Owned by Machowsky, Shaw, Walters and partners, he was an impressive 3 ¼ length allowance winner in his only try going 1 ¼ miles on turf June 13. He has five wins, two seconds and a third from 20 starts with earnings of $258,631.
Second to Big John B in the Del Mar Handicap, California-bred Bench Light rallied from off the pace to register an impressive 6 ¼ length allowance win going 1 3/8 miles on turf July 24. Claimed four starts back for $40,000 on May 31, Bench Light rallied from far off the pace in the Del Mar Handicap and figures to employ the same strategy Sunday under Kent Desormeaux, who’s ridden him in his last three races.
A 5-year-old gelding by Benchmark, Bench Light is owned by Cobb, Cunningham, Herbertson and partners. With one win from two starts at a mile and a quarter on grass, Bench Light is 24-7-4-3 overall with earnings of $254,591.
Third, beaten 5 ½ lengths by Big John B in the Del Mar Handicap, Bright Thought should be forwardly placed with new rider Tyler Baze up. Winless in his last seven starts, he’ll be making his second start for new trainer Phil D’Amato. He has a win from two tries at a mile and a quarter on turf and has four wins and three thirds from 14 overall starts.
Owned by Dye or Venneri Racing, Inc., Bright Thought has earnings of $219,161.
The complete field for the Grade II John Henry Turf Championship, to be run as the seventh race on a nine-race program with jockeys and weights in post position order: Big John B, Mike Smith, 124; Bench Light, Kent Desormeaux, 119; Si Sage, Brice Blanc, 119; Poshsky, Edwin Maldonado, 119; Unbridled Command, Tiago Pereira, 119; Starspangled Heat, Corey Nakatani, 119; Big Kick, Victor Espinoza, 124; Bright Thought, Tyler Baze, 119; Irish Surf, Elvis Trujillo, 119, and Finnegans Wake, Joe Talamo, 119.