GIRL AND GRASS POWER FUEL WIDE OPEN BIG 'CAP, 14 SET TO CONTEST SANTA ANITA’S SIGNATURE EVENT ON SATURDAY

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 3, 2010) – With the leading contenders including 5-year-old mare St Trinians, who will be attempting to further racing’s surge in “girl power” and 6-year-old grass racing specialist Loup Breton transitioning from the only surface he has ever known, Saturday’s 73rd running of the Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino may be one of the most unconventional in its storied history.

A full field of 14 starters was entered in the Grade I, $750,000 classic at 1 ¼ miles. Contenders such as Neko Bay, Mast Track, Jeranimo and Misremembered have approached the Big Cap via its traditional stepping stones. St Trinians and Loup Breton, on the other hand, defy tradition. And they have been established as the race favorites on Santa Anita handicapper Jon White’s morning line with St Trinians the mild choice at 7-2 followed by Loup Breton at 4-1.

Perhaps inspired in some measure by the enormous success of Zenyatta and Rachael Alexandra while racing against males, British-bred St Trinians will aim to distinguish herself by becoming the first filly or mare ever to capture the Big ‘Cap. And some luminous females have tried—including Dahlia, Life’s Magic and Serena’s Song. The best Big ‘Cap finish by a female, however, dates to 1951 when runner-up Next Move lost by a neck to Moonrush.

Since being purchased by Dr. Daniel Capen and Laura Chavers and imported to the United States stable of trainer Mike Mitchell, St Trinians has won four successive starts against her sex by a combined 16 ½ lengths capped by a 1 ¾ -length triumph under jockey Joel Rosario in the Grade II Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 13.

Mitchell opted for the Santa Anita Handicap over the March 13, $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap for fillies and mares while explaining, “We’ll get the three-pound sex allowance in weights, and I think that’s important going the distance. Besides, my mare is really good right now.” At 113 pounds, St Trinians will be spotted four pounds. Four entrants, including Loup Breton, will carry co-high weight of 117 pounds.

Irish-bred import Loup Breton’s situation is similar in some respects to that of St Trinians. Trainer Julio Canani made his Big ‘Cap decision following the Wildenstein Stable runner’s third race in this country, a victory at 3-5 odds in the Grade II San Marcos Handicap at 1 ¼ miles on Jan. 24. Loup Breton would be perfect in the U.S. Except for a neck defeat by Proudinsky in the Grade II San Gabriel Handicap on Dec. 27.

His showing in the San Marcos convinced Canani to try the son of Anabaa over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface in the Big ‘Cap. “Anabaa is the leading synthetic sire in Europe,” noted Canani. Said Garrett Gomez, who rides Loup Breton, “He probably can make the conversion because he works well on synthetic all the time, although working on it and running on it are two different things. But his (late-running) style is good for this distance, and he’s a really nice horse.”

Big ‘Cap runners who made a successful conversion from grass to Santa Anita’s main track include Perrault, who crossed the finish line a nose ahead of legendary John Henry in 1982 only to be disqualified to second for stretch interference. The immensely popular Vigors would have entered the race in 1978 with only a grass background except that his victorious prep in the San Marcos was moved from turf to dirt because of weather. “The White Tornado,” as Vigors was called, stormed home to win the Big ‘Cap by 2 ½ lengths. More recently, Champs Elysees ran a credible third in the 2008 event while converting from grass.

The Santa Anita Handicap will be contested as the 10th race on an 11-race program that includes two other Grade I stakes races: the $250,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf and the $250,000 Santa Anita Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles. The Grade III, $150,000 Sham Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles, rained out last Saturday, has been added to the lineup. First post is at 12 noon. HRTV will televise the entire card.

A field of 11 is set for the Kilroe Mile including Mitchell’s Ever a Friend, who won the event in 2008. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s Blind Luck is likely to be a heavy favorite among eight entrants in the Santa Anita Oaks. Trainer Mike Machowsky’s Nextdoorneighbor, Bob Baffert’s The Program, Eoin Harty’s Kettle River and Richard Mandella’s Setsuko are among 10 3-year-olds hoping to solidify their Triple Crown aspirations in the Sham.

The complete field for the Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, with jockeys, weights and morning line in post position order: Pick Six, Alex Solis, 114, 20-1; St Trinians, Joel Rosario, 113, 7-2; Rendezvous, Joseph Talamo, 114, 20-1; Neko Bay, Mike Smith, 117, 8-1; Eagle Poise, Tyler Baze, 114, 20-1; Loup Breton, Garrett Gomez, 117, 4-1; Mast Track, David Flores, 117, 12-1; Pool Play, Chantal Sutherland, 114, 15-1; Marsh Side, Martin Pedroza, 117, 12-1; Tiger’s Rock, David Cohen, 114, 15-1; Dakota Phone, Victor Espinoza, 114, 20-1; Delightful Kiss, Juan Leyva, 115, 10-1; Misremembered, Martin Garcia, 116, 8-1, and Jeranimo, Rafael Bejarano, 116, 8-1.

While racing seven times in England prior to her sale, St Trinians faced males five times and won three of those competitions. In one of those races over Polytrack at Wolverhampton, she scored a 14-1 upset while going 1 3/16 miles in a field of 10. Her overall record is 7-0-3 in 11 starts for earnings of $268,587.

Loup Breton raced 18 times overseas, predominantly in France, before joining Canani’s stable last fall. He was victorious in Group II and Group III events. He lost by three-quarters of a length when second to Vision d’Etat in the Group I Prix Ganay at Longchamp last April. Loup Breton competed against such European standouts as Goldikova, Never on Sunday and Duke of Marmalade. His career record of 5-4-2 in 21 races on turf has generated earnings of $677,645.

John Shirreffs, the trainer of Zenyatta, sends out a pair of Big ‘Cap entrants, Mast Track and Neko Bay. The later is coming off a 1 ¾-length win in the Grade II San Pasqual Handicap, a traditional Santa Anita Handicap prep. Mike Smith rides the 7-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway who has compiled a 5-5-1 record in 13 races for Jerry and Ann Moss with earnings of $323,020.

Mast Track, owned by Stronach Stables and bred by the late Bobby Frankel, registered his biggest career win in the 2008 Hollywood Gold Cup. The 6-year-old son of Mizzen Mast does his best running on the front end. His presence, along with Marsh Side and Misremembered, should ensure a lively pace in this year’s Big ‘Cap. David Flores rides Mast Track, whose earnings of $922,822 are derived from a record of 6-4-1 in 21 races.

With past runnings of Santa Anita’s signature event having been dominated by 4-year-olds – 33 have won, with 5-year-olds next at 19 – trainer Bob Baffert’s Misremembered might top that age group. Although upset by 11-1 Jeranimo as the 7-10 favorite in the Feb. 13 Strub Stakes, Misremembered’s record of 4-4-0 in 10 starts for earnings of $738,589 testifies to his consistency and class. Martin Garcia rides the Candy Ride ridgling owned by Natalie J. Baffert and George Jacobs.

Rafael Bejarano, runaway leader in Santa Anita’s jockeys’ standings, takes the call on upstart Jeranimo for trainer Michael Pender. Garcia was aboard in the Grade II, $250,000 Strub, Jeranimo’s first stakes victory. It was the third win in 13 starts for the son of six-time Grade I winner Congaree and lifted his earnings to $264,600 for B.J. Wright. Jeranimo will attempt to become the eleventh winner of the Strub to also prevail in the Big ‘Cap.

The wealthiest entrant in this season’s Santa Anita Handicap is trainer Neil Drysdale’s Marsh Side, a 7-year-old Gone West offspring who has banked $1,829,870. The majority, $1,109,640, was gained with a 29-1 shocker in the $1,851,250 Pattison Canadian International at Woodbine on Oct. 4, 2008, while racing 1 ½ miles on turf. With a record of 5-3-1 in 26 starts for Robert Evans, Marsh Side has failed to hit the board in five starts in California. He was seventh in the recent San Antonio, but finished only 2 ½ lengths behind Richard’s Kid. Martin Pedroza, who won the 1989 Big ‘Cap aboard Martial Law to pay $103.60, will try his hand atop Marsh Side.

Millionaire Delightful Kiss ships in from Florida after finishing a distant third to dynamic Quality Road in the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 6. Trained by Pete Anderson for Ceen Stable and PARJ Stable, the 6-year-old gelded gray by Kissin Kris is 2-for-3 over synthetics while earning $1,058,033 from an overall record of 7-4-5 in 27 starts. Juan Leyva, who once was based at Santa Anita, returns from Florida to ride.

Assigned 119 pounds, Battle of Hastings will be the starting high weight in the Kilroe Mile. The 4-year-old gelding, trained by Jeff Mullins for Michael House, ran second as the favorite to streaking The Usual Q.T. in his last two starts, the Grade II Oak Tree Derby and the Grade I Hollywood Derby.

With the Usual Q.T. skipping the Kilroe, Battle of Hastings is likely to go favored with regular rider Tyler Baze in the irons. The British-bred has demonstrated his consistency since joining Mullins’ barn in the fall of 2008 with four wins and as many second in 10 starts. Battle of Hastings has earned $1,096,592 with an overall record of 6-4-0 in 15 career races.

Ever a Friend, who won the 2008 Kilroe Mile by 3 ¾ lengths at odds of 9-1, has only raced three times since. Mitchell’s $62,500 claim ran second to Daytona in Hollywood Park’s Grade I Shoemaker Mile following his Kilroe score, but then went to the sidelines for over 17 months. Ever a Friend returned to win an optional claimer sprinting before running second to Fluke in Hollywood Park’s Grade I Citation Handicap, his last start on Nov. 27. Rosario takes over in the saddle at 118 pounds as the 7-year-old grey gelding seeks to replicate his Kilroe showing of two years ago for Dr. Capen and partners Steve, Charlene and Jeff Ustin. Ever a Friend has posted a 6-4-2 record in 21 lifetime starts while earning $526,568.

Brazilian-bred Fluke registered his first stakes victory in the Citation for Humberto Ascanio after having been trained by Frankel, whom Ascanio assisted up until Frankel’s passing last November. Joe Talamo, who will be back aboard, thinks the lightly raced 5-year-old (5-3-0 record in 11 starts for earnings of $308,348) is just beginning to peak. “He’s a real nice horse,” Talamo commented, “and I think he’s going to go on to some big things.”

In addition to Ever a Friend, Mitchell will saddle the 6-year-old gray gelding Monzante with Gomez in the saddle. A deep closer unlike his stablemate, Monzante rallied from far back to take Del Mar’s Grade I Eddie Read Handicap in July of 2008. He’s comfortable at the distance, having posted a three-length score in the 2008 Santana mile at Santa Anita. Sired by Maria’s Mon and owned by Scott Anastasi and Jay and Gretchen Manoogian, Monzante has winnings of $508,874 from a 5-3-3 mark in 19 career starts.

The complete field for the Frank E. Kilroe Mile, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Red Sun, Espinoza, 111; Blue Chagall, Solis, 114; Awesome Gem, Flores, 117; Acclamation, Garcia, 114; Ever a Friend, Rosario, 118; Red Alert Day, Bejarano, 113; Monzante, Gomez, 115; Proviso, Smith, 114; Fluke, Talamo, 116; Battle of Hastings, Tyler Baze, 119, and Tuscan Evening, Felipe Valdez, 116.

Three-time Grade I winner Blind Luck likely will be an odds-on choice in the 71st running of the Santa Anita Oaks despite a scare in her most recent outing when she rallied for a desperate nose victory over longshot Evening Jewel at odds of 1-5 in the Grade I Las Virgenes Handicap at Santa Anita over one mile on Feb. 13.

“In the back of my mind, once I looked at this race, I was worried about the distance,” said Jerry Hollendorfer, co-owner and trainer of Blind Luck, after the Las Virgenes. “There were just a few horses in the race, and that’s always a concern. I think the speed sets up better when there are more horses. I think she showed herself a pretty good filly today.”

In the field of five, Blind Luck flew home under regular rider Bejarano to nail Evening Jewel right on the money following some tepid early fractions. The narrow victory sent the Pollard’s vision filly’s earnings to $859,050 from a 5-1-1 record in seven races. She previously had won Hollywood Park’s Grade I Hollywood Starlet at 1 1/16 miles by seven lengths.

The larger field in the Oaks should benefit Blind Luck’s style. The only other stakes winner in the lineup is Crisp, who won Santa Anita’s Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes before finishing fourth to Blind Luck, 3 ¼ lengths back in the Las Virgenes. John Sadler, who trains Crisp, also will send out the fast-developing Cozi Rosie, an impressive winner of her last two starts routing following a pair of losses sprinting.

The complete field for the Santa Anita Oaks, with jockeys in post position order (all starters carry 122 pounds): Sister Dawn, Espinoza; Crisp, Rosario; Riviera Chic, Michael Baze; All Due Respect, Gomez; Blind Luck, Bejarano; Warren’s Jitterbug, Talamo; Cozi Rosie, Smith, and Zilva, Jose Valdivia Jr.

Eight of Saturday’s 10 Sham entrants were originally engaged to run in the 3-year-old prep for the Santa Anita Derby last Saturday, including the race’s leading contenders. The Feb. 27 Sham was cancelled due to wet track conditions and rescheduled for Saturday. Run at the same distance as the April 3 Santa Anita Derby, the Sham has proven to be a useful tool in the advancement of promising youngsters.

Any of the entrants in this year’s Sham would need to take a large step forward to be considered a major factor in the Santa Anita Derby, but the race provided a solid foundation for fourth-place Giacomo in 2005 en route to his Kentucky Derby upset at odds of 50-1.

Machowsky already trains a Santa Anita Derby contender in the unbeaten California-bred Caracortado, but, with Nextdoorneighbor, he is optimistic about having a pair of runners in the Derby picture.

Nextdoorneighbor signaled his distance readiness by breaking his maiden by four lengths while running 1 1/16 miles in 1:43 4/5 on Jan. 24. A loser of his first two starts sprinting, the Florida-bred son of Lido Palace came back to prepare for the Sham with a blistering work of 1:10 3/5 for six furlongs on Feb. 15. Mike Smith will ride.

Baffert’s The Program, whom he trains for Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable, is coming off a pair of solid efforts at 1 1/6 miles, a win and a third. He preceded those racs by finishing 1 ½ lengths behind stablemate Lookin At Lucky, the Kentucky Derby Future Book favorite, when fourth in Hollywood Park’s Grade I CashCall Futurity at 1 1/16 miles last Dec. 19.

A son of Pleasantly Perfect trained by Mandella for Wertheimer and Frere, Setsuko has raced around two turns in his last five starts with a win, a pair of seconds and a pair of thirds. He is coming off a fast-closing second to Alfarabi when beaten by one-half length over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Jan. 27. Bejarano will be back aboard Setsuko. He also had been the rider of Nextdoorneighbor.

After finishing off the board in his sprint debut at Saratoga last summer, Kettle river broke his maiden routing on turf at Santa Anita last November before coming back with a solid allowance victory at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 6. The Program finished third in that race. Brice Blanc rides the son of Congaree for Darley Stable.

The complete field for the Sham Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Marcello, Valdivia Jr., 116; The Program, Garcia, 118; Outlaw Man, Gomez, 116; El Mirage King, Tyler Baze, 116; Boulder Creek, Espinoza, 116; Kettle River, Brice Blanc, 118; Setsuko, Bejarano, 116; Wolf Tail, Sutherland, 116; Nextdoorneighbor, Smith, 116, and Alphie’s Bet, Solis, 116.

Saturday’s four graded stakes races will be begin with the Sham as the seventh race. It will directly followed by the Santa Anita Oaks, eighth; the Kilroe Mile, ninth, and the Santa Anita Handicap as the 10th race.

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