MILLER, ESPINOZA TEAM VERSUS EIGHT TURF VETERANS
ARCADIA, Calif. (March 18, 2015)–Late running Finnegans Wake heads a field of nine older horses as he seeks his fourth consecutive graded stakes victory in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Luis Rey Stakes, to be run at the marathon distance of 1 ½ miles on turf.
With Victor Espinoza aboard, the 6-year-old horse by Powerscourt has rallied for victories in three straight Grade II turf stakes; the 1 ½ miles Hollywood Turf Cup at Del Mar on Nov. 27, the 1 1/8 miles San Gabriel on Jan. 3 and the 1 ¼ miles San Marcos on Feb. 7.
Originally based in the Midwest, Finnegans Wake was transferred to trainer Peter Miller late last summer and was a close second from off the pace in the Grade II, 1 ¼ miles turf John Henry Turf Classic at Santa Anita on Sept. 28, which was his Southern California debut.
A close 10th, beaten just 5 ¼ lengths by eventual Eclipse Award winning Older Male and Older Turf Male, Main Sequence in the Grade I, 1 ½ miles Breeders’ Cup Turf Nov. 1, Finnegans Wake has three wins from five starts for Miller and is 27-6-3-3 overall. Owned by Donegal Racing and Rockingham Ranch, he has one win from three tries at 1 ½ miles on grass and has earnings of $1,065,375.
Finnegans Wake’s biggest opposition could come from trainer Neil Drysdale’s Power Foot, who ran a troubled fourth, beaten 2 ¼ lengths by “Finnegan” last out in the San Marcos Feb. 7. Although third early, Power Foot was well back of lone pacesetter Diamond Bachelor into the far turn and appeared to have a big shot at running second or third, if not for lugging in badly and clipping heels under Kieran Fallon in deep stretch.
A 6-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Powerscourt, Power Foot will be ridden for the first time on Saturday by Flavien Prat and would benefit from a realistic early pace. Owned by Stepaside Farms, LLC, Power Foot is one for two at the San Luis Rey distance and is 20-4-0-4 overall with earnings of $244,564.
Hard hitting Play Hard to Get comes off a head victory in a second condition allowance going 1 ¼ miles on turf Feb. 27 and is one of several deep closers in the San Luis Rey field. Trained by Eric Kruljac, the 4-year-old chestnut gelding by Purim was ridden to victory last out by the recently injured Corey Nakantani, and will be ridden Saturday by Kent Desormeaux, who guided him to a first condition allowance score four starts back on Nov. 15 at Del Mar. Owned by Kings River Ranch, Play Hard to Get has three wins from nine starts and has earnings of $132,750. He’ll try 1 ½ miles for the first time Saturday.
A Grade III winner at age three, 7-year-old Joes Blazing Aaron could pose an elusive target on the front end with Joe Talamo up. Claimed for $62,500 out of a close third place run going 1 ¼ miles on turf Feb. 27 by trainer Bob Hess, Jr., “Joe” will make his 38th career start in the San Luis Rey. Winless in two lifetime tries at 1 ½ miles on turf, the Graeme Hall gelding is 37-7-3-4 overall and has earnings of $393,491. He’s currently owned by Loooch Racing Stables, Inc., and Summertime Racing.
Trainer Peter Eurton’s California-bred Ashleyluvssuger comes off a second condition allowance win in open company at 1 1/8 miles on turf Feb. 5 and is an up-and-comer who has proven effective stalking or rallying from well off the pace. Owned by his breeders, Sharon Alesia, Bran Jam Stable and Ciaglia Racing, LLC, the 4-year-old Game Plan gelding will try graded stakes company for the first time on Saturday. A winner of three out of his last five starts with Mike Smith aboard, he’ll be ridden for the first time by Gary Stevens, as Smith will be riding on Saturday at Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky.
With an overall mark of 9-4-0-2, Ashleyluvssugar is one for three on grass and will try 1 ½ miles for the first time. He has earnings of $215,504.
Beaten 22 ¾ lengths in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, Diamond Bachelor gets back to his preferred surface on Saturday and will be reunited with Martin Pedroza, who put him on the lead and guided him to a close second place finish behind Finnegans Wake three starts back in the San Marcos Stakes. Trained by Patrick Biancone and owned by Diamond 100 Racing Club, LLC, Mrs. Susan Magnier and Robert Trussel, Diamond Bachelor is 18-2-3-0 with earnings of $189,520.
Trainer John Sadler’s English-bred Raise Your Gaze comes off an even sixth place finish in a one mile turf allowance and will make his second stateside start Saturday. Owned by Hronis Racing, LLC, the 4-year-old gelding won a pair of minor stakes going 1 ¼ miles on turf last summer in England and will try 1 ½ miles for the second time.
The complete field for the Grade II San Luis Rey Stakes, to be run as the eighth race on a nine race card Saturday, with jockey and weights in post position order: Raise Your Gaze, Tyler Baze, 118; Play Hard to Get, Kent Desormeaux, 118; Diamond Bachelor, Martin Pedroza, 118; Power Foot, Flavien Prat, 118; Buymeabond, Iggy Puglisi, 118; Joes Blazing Aaron, Joe Talamo, 118; Fly Lexis Fly, Edwin Maldonado, 118; Finnegans Wake, Victor Espinoza, 123, and Ashleyluvssugar, Gary Stevens, 118.
First post time on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.