ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 22, 2014)–Graded stakes winning Sweet Swap returns to the hill once again Saturday after being beaten only a length last time in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Nov. 1. Bettys Bambino, Eddie’s First and Lil Bit Bit O’Fun also bring solid credentials to Saturday’s $100,000 Daytona Stakes, a wide-open affair that has attracted a field of eleven 3-year-olds and up going 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s unique hillside turf course.
A winner of the Grade III San Simeon down the hill April 13, the John Sadler trained Sweet Swap was fifth, beaten a length by Bobby’s Kitten in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Nov. 1 and rates a big chance for owner Kosta Hronis Saturday. The 5-year-old horse by Candy Ride was second in a five furlong allowance turf sprint in his last out at Del Mar Nov. 14.
Sweet Swap will break from the rail and will be reunited with Corey Nakatani. He has been in the money seven of nine times over the course and four of his six career wins have come from the hill. He is 14-6-3-1 overall with earnings of $330,133.
Downhill turf specialist Bettys Bambino will look for his third win in-a-row Saturday. The Peter Eurton trained gelding has never been out of the money when racing down the hill and has earned three of his four overall wins the same way. The 4-year-old by Unusual Heat is owned by Sharon Alesia, Bran Jam Stable and Ciaglia Racing LLC. He is 8-4-0-3 overall with earnings of $198,036.
Sixth in the Grade III Eddie D. Stakes at Santa Anita Sept. 26, Eddie’s First went on to win a five furlong allowance turf sprint in his last out at Del Mar Nov. 16. The 3-year-old, trained by Doug O’Neill, seeks his second win over the course Saturday. He put in a solid final work Monday morning at Santa Anita in preparation; a four furlong drill on the main course in 47.20, good for fourth of 47 at the distance. The Reddam Racing LLC-owned colt by Square Eddie is 11-2-2-0 overall with earnings of $99,010.
Veteran Lil Bit O’Fun gains a new rider in Rafael Bejarano and an outside post as he attempts to conquer the hill for trainer Philip D’Amato. Third in the Grade III Eddie D. three starts back, he will shorten up after his last two races and will make the 6 1/2 furlong effort for only the fourth time Saturday in his 35 race career. Never out of the money in his four recent attempts down the hillside turf, the 6-year-old gelding by Langfuhr is owned by Philip Belmonte, Henry Cohen, Mark Gorman and Sterling Stables.
He is 35-7-5-2- overall with earnings of $405,273.
Top money-earner of the field, millionaire Clubhouse Ride will make his 41st start for trainer Craig Lewis Saturday. A two-time winner of the Grade II Californian Stakes, the 6-year-old horse by Candy Ride was second in the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita June 28. Tenth behind top 3-year-old Shared Belief in the Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 24, Lewis explains that he wasn’t a hundred percent that day. “He hurt his back in the Pacific Classic and had some soft tissue damage near his pelvis. He’s such a tough horse though that we didn’t know anything was wrong until we did a nuclear scan.”
Clubhouse Ride worked at Santa Anita Monday morning over the main track in his final drill in preparation for the Daytona; five furlongs in 59.40, good for seventh of 79 at the distance.
The Nikolas Petralia and Six-S Racing Stable owned chestnut will shorten up and attempt the hillside turf for the sixth time in his 4 year career. He is 40-5-9-10 overall with $1,320,632 in earnings.
The complete field for Saturday’s Daytona Stakes, to be run as the eighth race on a nine race program, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Sweet Swap, Corey Nakatani, 121; Fleet Eagle, Tiago Pereira, 119; Clubhouse Ride, Joe Talamo, 121; Eddie’s First, Mario Gutierrez, 117; Indianapolis, Gary Stevens, 117; Ankeny Hill, Tyler Baze, 119, Majestic Kitten, Martin Pedroza, 117; Mr. Sexy, Elvis Trujillo, 119; Bettys Bambino, Martin Garcia, 119; Play Hard To Get, Alex Solis, 117;Lil Bit o’Fun, Rafael Bejarano, 124.