ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 28, 2015) – Grade I winner Big Macher heads a field of strong sprint contenders in Saturday’s Gr. II, $200,000 Palos Verdes Stakes at 6 furlongs. Graded stakes winners Distinctiv Passion, Wild Dude and 2013 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle help round out competitive field of six older horses.
A winner of the Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar July 27 and most recently the Carey Grant Stakes at Del Mar Nov. 23, Big Macher was entered in the California Cup Sprint Stakes Jan. 24, but was reportedly scratched after drawing the rail in the 6 furlong sprint for Cal-breds. The 5-year-old gelding by Beau Genius had a final tune-up for the Palos Verdes Sunday morning instead with jockey Tyler Baze aboard. He worked five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 and will retain the services of Baze Saturday.
Best known for being claimed by trainer Richard Baltas out of a $20,000 maiden claiming race in 2013, he has since gone on to win six races, two of those in graded stakes. Owned by Tom Mansor and Tachycardia Stables, he has amassed earnings of $553,678 from an overall mark of 14-6-2-2.
Current leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and jockey Rafael Bejarano team with Wild Dude once again. Never worse than fourth in 10 lifetime starts, the defending champ by Wildcat Heir will attempt to add a second Palos Verdes win to his record Saturday. He is coming off a nine month layoff having last raced April 12, where he ran second to Big Macher in the Grade II Potrero Grande Stakes.
“He likes to come from behind,” said Bejarano, who has been on Wild Dude for seven of his races. “I don’t know how much speed will be in the race, but hopefully we’ll have a good trip.” Bejarano was up for his work on Jan. 22 six furlongs in 1:11 3/5 and said “He went really well.”
The 5-year-old horse is owned by Green Smith and Hollendorfer. He is 10-4-3-1 overall with earnings of $320,220.
Trainer Jeff Bonde’s Distinctiv Passion will be vying for his third straight win in the Palos Verdes. The 5-year-old horse by With Distinction was off for most of the year in 2014, but since his return in the Katella Stakes Sept. 20 at Los Alamitos he hasn’t been worse then second. He has drawn the rail Saturday and will again team with Hall-of-Fame jockey Mike Smith.
A winner of the Grade III Midnight Lute Stakes Dec. 27 and a five furlong allowance score on turf Nov. 14, Distinctiv Passion is owned Edward Brown, Jr., Alan Klein and Phillip Lebherz. He is 13-6-1-4 overall with earnings of $336,180.
The 2013 Breeder’s Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle returns once again in the Palos Verdes. A runner-up to Wild Dude in last year’s edition, he will attempt to win his first race in over a year. Second to Eclipse Award Sprint Champion Work All Week in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Secret Circle ran second to Private Zone in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct Nov. 29.
The 6-year-old by Eddington worked Sunday morning in company with Martin Garcia up, who will also be riding in the Palos Verdes. He worked four furlongs in 46.40, the best of 60 workers at the distance.
“He worked very well,” said trainer Bob Baffert following the work. Secret Circle worked in blinkers and will wear them on Saturday for only the second time in his career.
Owned by Karl Watson, Michael Pegram and Paul Weitman, he is 14-7-5-1 overall with $2,430,790 in earnings.
Mark Casse’s Conquest Two Step will try to propel his last effort into a winning one Saturday. Second to Shared Belief in the Grade I Malibu Dec. 26, the 4-year-old colt by Two Step Salsa has only been out of the money in one start, which was seven starts back in an allowance race at Churchill Downs May 26.
He is owned by Conquest Stables, LLC and is 9-2-5-1 overall with $189,408 in earnings.
The complete field for the Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes, to be run as the 6th race on a nine-race card Saturday, in post position order with jockeys and weights: Distinctiv Passion, Mike Smith, 118; Big Macher, Tyler Baze, 120; Conquest Two Step, Joseph Talamo, 118; Secret Circle, Martin Garcia, 118; Wild Dude, Rafael Bejarano, 120; Chief Lion, Martin Pedroza, 118.