Chrome, Hard Aces re­turn in San Pasqual

Daily Racing Form Saturday Stakes Preview - - FRONT PAGE - – Steve An­der­sen – Mike Welsch

ARCADIA, Calif. – Of the eight pro­jected run­ners in Satur­day’s $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita, Hard Aces is the only Grade 1 win­ner in Southern Cal­i­for­nia in 2015. His up­set win in the Grade 1, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita in June de­fined the sea­son for Hard Aces. He later fin­ished sixth in three con­sec­u­tive Grade 1 races – the Pa­cific Clas­sic, the Awesome Again Stakes, and the Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic.

Hard Aces has not raced since the BC Clas­sic, and trainer John Sadler is hop­ing the 6-year-old horse can re­bound Satur­day in a field that in­cludes 2014 Horse of the Year Cal­i­for­nia Chrome. Sadler said he was en­cour­aged by a six-fur­long work­out in 1:12.80 by Hard Aces last Satur­day.

“In my ex­pe­ri­ence, when you run in the Breed­ers’ Cup, you don’t want to come back too quick,” he said. “He’s do­ing well. He had his best work last Satur­day. He’s a no­to­ri­ously slow work horse.”

Owned by Kosta and Pete Hro­nis, Hard Aces has been over­shad­owed in the buildup to the San Pasqual by Cal­i­for­nia Chrome. The Grade 2 San Pasqual at 1 1/16 miles will be Cal­i­for­nia Chrome’s first start since a sec­ond in the $10 mil­lion Dubai World Cup in the United Arab Emi­rates last March. The same race on March 26 is a goal this year for Cal­i­for­nia Chrome.

The field for the San Pasqual in­cludes Hop­per­tu­nity, who won the 2015 San Pasqual, as well as Alfa Bird, Blingo, Im­per­a­tive, Mystery Train, and Point Piper.

Trainer Doug O’neill plans to have three starters in the $100,000 Sham Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile – Found Money, Sor­ryabout­noth­ing, and Sem­per For­tis.

Found Money is likely to run in the $250,000 Cal­i­for­nia Cup Derby on Jan. 30 if he per­forms well Satur­day. Sor­ryabout­noth­ing was sev­enth in the Grade 1 Los Alami­tos Fu­tu­rity in his stakes de­but Dec. 19.

“I think he can turn it around,” O’neill said. “We’re adding blink­ers.”

Sem­per For­tis has won con­sec­u­tive starts in a $62,500 claimer for maid­ens at Del Mar and an op­tional claimer at Los Alami­tos. The Sham Stakes will be his stakes de­but.

Other Sham con­tenders in­clude Dressed in Her­mes, a two-time stakes win­ner on turf, and I’mal­readythere, who was third in the Los Alami­tos Fu­tu­rity.

Gulfstream: Hal’s Hope

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Dirt or grass? Donn Hand­i­cap or Gulfstream Park Turf Hand­i­cap? Those are the ques­tions trainer Todd Pletcher is hop­ing to get an­swered here Satur­day when he sends out Mshaw­ish against a strong field in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope.

Mshaw­ish was con­sid­ered strictly a turf spe­cial­ist un­til he turned some heads while train­ing on dirt at Keeneland prior to his fourth-place fin­ish in the Breed­ers’ Cup Mile. A couple of more promis­ing drills over the main track at Bel­mont Park earned Mshaw­ish his first chance to com­pete over the main track in the Grade 1 Ci­gar Mile. At the eighth pole, Pletcher’s de­ci­sion looked like sheer ge­nius, as Mshaw­ish ap­peared to be head­ing to vic­tory. But the son of Medaglia d’oro could not sus­tain his mo­men­tum and fin­ished fourth, 1 1/2 lengths be­hind the win­ner, Ton­al­ist.

“We want to give him an­other try on the dirt, and this race will clar­ify which di­rec­tion we’re go­ing in later this year,” said Pletcher.

Un­der Javier Castel­lano, Mshaw­ish won the Gulfstream Park Turf here last win­ter by a nose over Slum­ber. He also won the Grade 2 Fort Laud­erdale by a neck here four weeks be­fore the Gulfstream Park Turf.

The Hal’s Hope will re­match the third- and fourth-place fin­ish­ers from the Ci­gar Mile, Ma­trooh and Mshaw­ish. Ma­trooh re­turns lo­cally for the first time since making his U.S. de­but here last win­ter with a con­vinc­ing 2 3/4-length al­lowance win.

The field for the one-mile Hal’s Hope also in­cludes Valid, a win­ner of three of his last four starts, in­clud­ing the Har­lan’s Hol­i­day here last month; Mr. Jor­dan, a tir­ing third af­ter set­ting the pace to mid­stretch in the Har­lan’s Hol­i­day in his first start since the Haskell last Au­gust; and Grande Shores, who wheels back three weeks af­ter his sec­ond-place fin­ish in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospec­tor.

Also on Satur­day’s 11-race pro­gram is the Grade 2 Fort Laud­erdale, with Pletcher try­ing to de­fend his ti­tle va­cated by Mshaw­ish with All In­cluded. He’s part of a large lineup that also in­cludes Fred­er­icks­burg, Heart to Heart, Key to Power, Lochte, Lukes Al­ley, Money Talker, Sky Flight, Slip By, Takeover Tar­get, and War Cor­re­spon­dent.

Pletcher also is hop­ing to get San­diva back on track when she re­turns to her fa­vorite course for Satur­day’s Grade 3 Marshua’s River.

San­diva won the Trop­i­cal Park Oaks and the Grade 3 Suwan­nee River here last win­ter but went win­less in four sub­se­quent starts, in­clud­ing a third-place fin­ish in the Grade 3 My Charmer Hand­i­cap across town at Gulfstream Park West on Nov. 21. San­diva had been idle for nearly six months go­ing into the My Charmer.

“I thought she ran well in her first start off the bench,” Pletcher said. “She hung a lit­tle bit the last part, and I ex­pect her to move for­ward hav­ing that race un­der her belt.”

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