ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 25, 2016)–Trainer Phil D’Amato’s Irish-bred Hunt, a sharp first condition allowance winner on Feb. 4, will hope to parlay his recent good form over the course into victory in Sunday’s $75,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes for older horses at 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. Named in honor of the original Voice of Santa Anita, the Hernandez attracted a wide-open field of seven.
Ridden for the first time by Flavien Prat, Hunt was attentive to the pace as the 5-2 favorite on Feb. 4, opened up by two lengths crossing the dirt at the top of the lane and prevailed by three quarters of a length in his hillside debut. A 4-year-old gelding, Hunt is owned by Michael House and is 12-2-5-1 overall with earnings of $91,109.
A close second going a mile on turf in his U.S. debut at Del Mar Aug. 30, Hunt will be making his sixth stateside start on Sunday and will be ridden back by Prat.
A winner of the Grade III Eddie D. Stakes over the course in September, 2014, Tarabilla Farms’ Home Run Kitten never threatened here in the downhill Clockers’ Corner Stakes Jan. 24, but had been idle since May 9 and was likely in need of the race. Trained by David Hofmans, Home Run Kitten has two wins from five tries down the hill and he has an abundance of back class to draw upon.
A 5-year-old horse by Kitten’s Joy, Home Run Kitten is 16-4-2-5 overall with earnings of $342,300.
D’Amato will also send out Papacoolpapacool, who has been idle since well beaten in the Grade II Del Mar Derby Sept. 6. The Hernandez will be his first start down the hillside turf course.
Devoid of early speed, trainer John Sadler’s Bench Warrant has two wins from five tries down the hill and has been finishing well in his last two hillside starts, the Clockers’ Corner Stakes on Jan. 24 and the Grade III Daytona Stakes on Dec. 26. Owned by Doubledown Stables, Inc., the 4-year-old colt by Street Boss is 12-3-0-1 overall with earnings of $191,470.
The speed of the field is trainer Vann Belvoir’s Rocket Heat, who opened up early and was tagged late in both the Daytona and Clockers’ Corner Stakes and was most recently fourth, beaten 5 ¾ lengths, in the Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes at six furlongs on dirt Feb. 7. A 4-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Latent Heat, Rocket Heat is owned by Mike Sanchez. With an overall mark of 14-5-4-1, he has earnings of $214,680.
Trainer Doug O’Neill’s Guns Loaded comes off a sharp second condition allowance win here going 6 ½ furlongs on the main track Feb. 20 and has a win and a second from four tries over the course. Owned by Westside Rentals.com, Haymes, Rodriguez and Rothblum, the 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding by the D’wildcat is 24-6-3-4 overall with earnings of $299,470.
Class Racing Stable’s Holy Lute was attentive to the pace in the Clockers’ Corner Stakes here Jan. 24 and has a win and four seconds from seven hillside tries. Trained by Jim Cassidy, the 6-year-old horse by Midnight Lute figures to get a stalking trip under Victor Espinoza. With an overall mark of 24-4-6-3, he has earnings of $402,042.
The complete field for the Joe Hernandez Stakes, to be run as the fourth race on a nine-race card Sunday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Home Run Kitten, Joe Talamo, 120; Hunt, Flavien Prat, 122; Papacoolpapacool, Brice Blanc, 120; Rocket Heat, Rafael Bejarano, 120; Holy Lute, Victor Espinoza, 120; Guns Loaded, Santiago Gonzalez, 120, and Bench Warrant, Tyler Baze, 120.
First post time on Sunday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.