ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 1, 2014)–Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 City of Hope Mile (turf) at Santa Anita has attracted a wide open field of 12, and trainer Tom Proctor’s ultra consistent Avanzare would appear to head a crowded field of 3-year-olds and up.
Avanzare will shorten up off a front running win in the Grade III, 1 1/8 miles (Polytrack) Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park on Aug. 30, and could likely be favored in his Southern California debut for owners Donato Lanni and John F. Youngblood.
A 4-year-old gelding by Grand Reward, Avanzare has only been off the board once in nine starts, all but one on turf–a close fourth two starts back in the Grade III, 1 ¼ miles Arlington Handicap on July 12.
With two wins and two seconds from four tries at a mile, Avanzare is 9-5-3-0 overall, with earnings of $217,180. Ridden by Chris Emigh in his last start, he’ll be handled Saturday by top apprentice Drayden Van Dyke, who rode him in the Arlington Handicap.
With jockey Rafael Bejarano’s services in keen demand, Florida invader Grand Tito must be respected. A close third in a minor turf stakes at Gulfstream Park going 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 13, Grand Tito was a three-length winner of a one mile classified allowance on Aug. 22. A winner six starts back of the Grade III, one mile Miami Handicap, run on an off-track April 19 at Calder Racecourse, Grand Tito has two wins and a second from seven turf mile starts.
Trained by Antonio Sano, the 4-year-old colt by Candy Ride is owned by Grupo 7C Racing Stable. He has six wins, three seconds and two thirds from 20 overall starts, good for earnings of $216,570.
Trainer David Hofmans will be represented by Amerman Racing’s homebred Schoolofhardrocks, who finished fourth after employing front-running tactics in the Grade III, 1 1/16 miles turf La Jolla Handicap Aug. 9. A close fourth as 6-5 favorite in Arlington Park’s Grade III, 1 3/16 miles turf American Derby July 12, the 3-year-old colt by Rock Hard Ten was on the Kentucky Derby trail earlier this year, but was switched to turf following disappointing runs in both the Grade II San Felipe Stakes and the Grade I Santa Anita Derby.
Trainer Leonard Powell’s Soi Phet, claimed for $16,000 in May, 2013, comes off the best race of his career–a 7 ¼ length score in the $200,000 Los Alamitos Mile on Sept. 6. However, he’ll be without the services of recently injured Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux, who was a perfect three for three aboard the 6-year-old California-bred gelding, and will be ridden instead by the relatively unknown Olivier Doleuze.
Soi Phet’s most recent turf try came four starts back at Santa Anita on June 8, when he was a game nose winner of a one mile turf starter allowance.
Although beaten 12 ½ lengths by Soi Phet in the Los Alamitos Mile, trainer Craig Dollase’s Rock Me Baby should appreciate a return to turf, as he’s amassed three wins, three seconds and a third from nine starts on grass–including a 3-1-1-1 mark at one mile.
Highly regarded California-bred Big Bane Theory appears dangerous with a recent race under his belt. A close second two starts back in the Grade II Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park on Nov. 29, 2013, he comes off a big second, beaten a head, in Del Mar’s Harry F. Brubaker Stakes going one mile on Polytrack Aug. 30. Trained by Carla Gaines and owned by his breeders, Scott Gross and Mark Devereaux, Big Bane Theory will be making his 11th overall start and all three of his lifetime wins have come on grass.
The complete field for the Grade II City of Hope Mile, to be run as the ninth on a 10-race card Saturday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Fast Track, Kayla Stra, 119; Mr. Commons, Tyler Baze, 119; Avanzare, Drayden Van Dyke, 119; Big Bane Theory, Joe Talamo, 119; Poshky, Elvis Trujillo, 119; Trend, Tiago Pereira, 119; Schoolofhardrocks, Martin Garcia, 117; Grand Tito, Rafael Bejarano, 119; Soi Phet, Olivier Doleuze, 119; Pepper Crown, Martin Pedroza, 119; Starspangled Heat, Alonso Quinonez, 119, and Rock Me Baby, Corey Nakatani, 119.