The Kentucky Derby trail is in full swing with just over 10 weeks remaining on the schedule. The 2013 Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct this weekend features a few horses who could make it to the big race in May (Overanalyze and Vyjack among others). However, it is not the main attraction this weekend. The main event is on the West coast at Santa Anita where multiple Grade 1 winning horses will do battle.
2013 SANTA ANITA HANDICAP (G1) – $750,000 – 1 1/4 miles – Dirt
Game on Dude is the reigning King of Southern California. The Bob Baffert trained six year old by Awesome Again has won 8 of the his last 11 stakes races at Southern California tracks, not including the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic. In the other three, he finished 2nd, 4th and 2nd. He had two bad races and that cost him Horse of the Year honors. First, he finished a disappointing 12th in the Dubai World Cup last March and 7th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. Had he won the BC Classic, he would have been crowned Horse of the Year, not Wise Dan. Since the Classic, he has resumed his local dominance by winning the Native Diver Stakes (G3) at BetFair Hollywood Park in December and San Antonio Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita in January. The nine time graded stakes winner will not have an easy task this time around as he will carry the high weight of 125 lbs, have to deal with some up and coming local threats, as well as last year’s winner, Ron the Greek.
In 2012, Ron the Greek ran seven times with just two wins. Those two wins were quite impressive though. The Bill Mott trained six year old was a slight upset winner in the Big Cap (this race nickname) last year in which he made a serious late move to win draw off and win by 3 1/2 lengths. The other was the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs. He defeated a deep field including eventual Horse of the Year Wise Dan by a head. Despite just two wins, he finished 2nd on three occasions; Florida Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes, Oaklawn Handicap (G2) at Oaklawn Park and the Whitney Invitational Handicap (G1). He finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to end the year. His first and only start of the year was a cake walk in the Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes at Gulfstream Park on January 19. He won by 11 1/4 lengths going 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.19.
Richard’s Kid might finally be showing his age. The eight year old by Lemon Drop Kid who has won five graded stakes in his career (two Grade 1) hasn’t won since taking the Cougar II Handicap (G3) at BetFair Hollywood Park last July (five races) and has just two wins in 13 starts. He’s had some decent showings such as 3rd in the Pacific Classic (G1) behind Dulahan and Game on Dude, plus 3rd in the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) and 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He finished a distant 4th in the Native Diver Stakes and 10th after a bad trip on turf in the San Carlos Stakes (G2) on February 2. It’s tough to think an eight year old could return to form, but he has showed he still can compete. I just think enough to topple the big boys.
Baffert will saddle his new graded stakes winner Guilt Trip in here as well. The just turned four year old Pulpit colt won the Strub Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita on February 2 going 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.97. He is lightly raced with just seven career races. He has three wins and a third but has come on strong as of late.
John Scott will be making his first attempt beyond 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. The Carla Gaines trained six year old does come off a turf win last time out going 1 1/8 miles in the Crystal Water Stakes at Santa Anita on January 26. He has six wins in 12 career starts with just two off the board results. However, he is still searching for his first graded stakes win. This is a tough challenge, but he is a consistent competitor that could steal.
Trainer Nick Canani brings Called to Serve back to Southern California where he broke his maiden as a two year old in 2011 for then trainer Peter Eurton. The four year gelding by Afleet Alex was moved to the Canani barn after finishing a West to East trip that included a 5th in the Swaps Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita, 3rd in the West Virginia Derby (G2) at Mountaineer Park and 3rd in the Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park. His first race with Canani was a 2nd in the Temperence Hill Stakes at Belmont Park. He easily won the Discovery Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct by 3 1/2 lengths going 1 1/8 miles. That race included two from here; Stephanoatsee and Guilt Trip. His last was on December 31 where he destroyed the field in the Broad Brush Stakes at Laurel Park going a 1 1/8 miles again. This will be his first attempt at 1 1/4 miles.
POST POSITION & FULL ENTRIES
1. Ron the Greek – Jockey Jose Lezcano – Trainer William Mott – 122 lbs
2. Handsome Mike – Jockey Mario Gutierrez – Trainer Doug O’Neill – 117 lbs
3. Deacon Speakin’ – Jockey Alberto Delgado – Trainer Michael Pender – 108 lbs
4. Called to Serve – Jockey Gary Stevens – Trainer Nick Canani – 118 lbs
5. Clubhouse Ride – Jockey Rafael Bejarano- Trainer Craig Lewis – 115 lbs
6. Richard’s Kid – Jockey Tyler Baze – Trainer Doug O’Neill – 118 lbs
7. John Scott – Jockey Martin Garcia – Trainer Carla Gaines – 116 lbs
8. Stephanoatsee – Jockey Julien Leparoux – Trainer Graham Motion – 116 lbs
9. Game On Dude – Jockey Mike Smith – Trainer Bob Baffert – 125 lbs
10. Guilt Trip – Jockey Joe Talamo – Trainer Bob Baffert – 117 lbs
ORDER OF FINISH
1. Game on Dude
2. Clubhouse Ride
3. Called to Serve
4. Ron the Greek
5. Guilt Trip
6. Richard’s Kid
7. Handsome Mike
8. Deacon Speakin’