ARCADIA, Calif. (April 19, 2014)–Fresh off victory going 1 ½ miles on turf in the Grade II San Luis Rey Stakes March 22, Neil Drysdale’s Fire With Fire seeks his third consecutive win in Friday’s Grade III, $100,000 Last Tycoon Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf, which headlines an eight-race program on Santa Anita’s Spring Meet opening day.
Formerly run as the Inglewood Handicap at the now-shuttered Hollywood Park, The Last Tycoon attracted a half dozen 3-year-olds and up and will keynote Santa Anita’s first-ever Spring Meet, which will run through Sunday, June 29.
Owned by David Heerensperger, Fire With Fire came from off the pace to win the one mile turf Cotton Fitzsimmons Handicap Jan. 18 at Turf Paradise and took the San Luis Rey in gate to wire fashion under Tyler Baze, who rides back on Friday.
A 6-year-old gelding by Distorted Humor, Fire With Fire has had four works over Santa Anita’s training track since his San Luis Rey score, his most recent a five furlong move in 1:02.60 on April 16. With earnings of $515,354 and an overall mark of 30-6-7-5, he appears strictly the horse to beat in the Last Tycoon.
Second in the one mile turf Thunder Road Stakes April 6, Jerry Hollendorfer’s Joelito earned a career-best 97 Beyer Speed figure and will return to a distance that he won at two starts back on March 6. Although he ran from off the pace in the Thunder Road, the 4-year-old colt by Rock Hard Ten has plenty of speed if regular rider Corey Nakatani needs it.
Owned by J.W. Singer, Inc., Joelito is on the improve for Hollendorfer and boasts an overall mark of 10-3-3-0. He has earnings of $155,657.
Along with Joelito, it could be up to John Sadler’s Spring Up to try and pressure Fire With Fire early. Drawn outside, Spring Up comes off an off the pace win in a second condition allowance going a mile on turf March 30, but the 4-year-old Spring At Last colt laid close to a lively pace when winning a 1 1/8 miles turf allowance five starts back on Oct. 25.
Owned by Gary and Cecil Barber and Tsujihara, he is 4-2-1-1 over the Santa Anita turf and has five wins from 11 overall starts and earnings of $158,687. With Nakatani opting to stick with Joelito, he’ll be ridden for the first time by Victor Espinoza.
Stronach Stables’ homebred Rookie Sensation comes off a big second, beaten a head, in a 1 1/8 miles turf classified allowance and rates a big look from off the pace under Mike Smith. A 4-year-old Kentucky-bred colt by Unbridled’s Song, he lacked room from the quarter pole to the eighth pole and should be very tough with a clean trip. A close fifth after showing the way three starts back in the Grade I, 1 ¼ miles turf Hollywood Derby Dec. 1, he’ll hope for a fast early pace.
Lakerville demonstrated a tremendous late kick when second, beaten a half length in the Grade III San Simeon Stakes on April 13 and will be asked to stretch out from 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf.
Trained, owned and bred in-part by Barry Abrams, Lakerville, a 6-year-old California-bred horse by Unusual Heat, overcame a 17 ½ month layoff to win the 6 ½ furlong turf Clockers’ Corner Stakes on Jan. 26 and he’ll be making his fifth start of the year in the Last Tycoon.
Co-owned by CHRB member Madeline Auerbach, he is 10-5-4-0 with earnings of $312,910. Ridden by Nakatani in both the San Simeon and Clockers’ Corner by Nakatani, he’ll be handled for the first time by Brice Blanc on Friday.
Hall of Famer Ron McAnally will send out Chilean-bred Quck Casablanca, who was winless in five stateside starts for trainer Christophe Clement, his most recent start a fifth place finish on dirt in the 1 1/8 miles Slew O’ Gold Stakes at Aqueduct Nov. 17. A Group I winner in Argentina, the 6-year-old horse by the Smart Strike stallion Until Sundown is 16-3-6-4 overall with earnings of $488,580.
The complete field for the Last Tycoon Stakes, to be run as the fourth on an eight-race card Friday, with jockey and weights in post position order: Quick Casablanca, Joe Talamo, 120; Lakerville, Brice Blanc, 120; Joelito, Corey Nakatani, 120; Rookie Sensation, Mike Smith, 124; Fire With Fire, Tyler Baze, 124 and Spring Up, Victor Espinoza, 120.
Santa Anita will offer a special twilight first post time of 3 p.m. on opening day, Friday. Admission gates will open at 11 a.m.