O’neill barn takes aim at rich Gold Rush card

Daily Racing Form Saturday Stakes Preview - - FRONT PAGE - – Steve An­der­sen – Mar­cus Hersh

Doug O’neill does not have to look far for a re­minder of his suc­cess with Cal­i­for­nia-breds.

One of his sta­ble ponies is Lava Man, the Cal­i­for­nia-bred who earned more than $5.2 mil­lion in the 2000s.

“Those were good times,” O’neill said.

These times aren’t bad ei­ther. O’neill won his sec­ond Ken­tucky Derby on May 7 with Nyquist, who was third in the Preak­ness Stakes at Pim­lico last Satur­day.

On Wed­nes­day, O’neill was back in Cal­i­for­nia, over­see­ing his Los Alami­tos sta­ble and mak­ing plans to start sev­eral run­ners in the Cal­i­for­nia Gold Rush pro­gram for Cal-breds at Santa Anita on Satur­day. There are five six-fig­ure stakes for Cal-breds on the pro­gram, and O’neill is set to have run­ners in four of them.

Ralis, the win­ner of the Grade 1 Hope­ful Stakes at Saratoga last Septem­ber, will race on turf for the first time in the $200,000 Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles. Avanti Bello, third in the Ber­trando Stakes for Cal-breds at Los Alami­tos last month, will run in the $150,000 Tiznow Stakes for older horses at a mile.

Smoove It, the win­ner of the Ir­ish O’brien Stakes for Cal-breds on the hill­side turf course in March, runs in the $125,000 Fran’s Valen­tine Stakes for fil­lies and mares at a mile on turf. Pay the Fine will run in the $100,000 Len­nyfrom­mal­ibu Stakes on the hill­side turf course.

O’neill will be ab­sent from the $200,000 Me­lair Stakes for 3-year-old fil­lies at 1 1/16 miles. The 11-race pro­gram is sched­uled to have races ex­clu­sively for Cal-breds, in­clud­ing maiden races and op­tional claimers.

Pay the Fine, Ralis, and Smoove It are owned by Paul and Zil­lah Red­dam, who own Nyquist. Avanti Bello is owned by a part­ner­ship that in­cludes Steven Keh, Pablo Suarez, and Won­der­land Rac­ing Sta­bles.

O’neill said on Wed­nes­day that he rates Smoove It as his best chance Satur­day. The 5-year-old mare has won 5 of 25 starts and earned $340,920. Since the Ir­ish O’brien, Smoove It has strug­gled, fin­ish­ing fifth in the Grade 3 Las Ciene­gas Stakes on April 10 and last of 14 in the Grade 2 Royal Hero­ine Stakes on turf May 5.

“She’s been run­ning in pretty tough com­pany,” O’neill said.

Try­ing Ralis on turf is an ex­per­i­ment, O’neill said. Ralis is win­less in five starts since the Hope­ful, with his best re­sult a fifth, beaten three-quar­ters of a length, in the Grade 3 Spi­ral Stakes on the syn­thetic sur­face at Tur­fway Park on April 2.

Ralis was 10th in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile on the Ken­tucky Derby card.

O’neill is hop­ing there is a cor­re­la­tion be­tween the start on the syn­thetic track at Tur­fway Park and Satur­day’s race on turf.

“If that per­for­mance is any in­di­ca­tion, he’ll run huge on grass,” he said.

Ralis is ex­pected to be part of a small field led by the first three fin­ish­ers of the Silky Sul­li­van Stakes for Cal-breds at Golden Gate Fields on May 1 – Gold Rush Dancer, Tough It Out, and Mid­night Ming.

Ar­ling­ton: Clas­sic, Matron

AR­LING­TON HEIGHTS, Ill. – A cou­ple 3-year-olds who at least wan­dered around the mar­gins of the Triple Crown trail, Cocked and Loaded and Candy My Boy, will take their ta­lents to turf Satur­day in the Grade 3 Ar­ling­ton Clas­sic, which shares top billing on the Satur­day card here with the Grade 3 Matron Stakes.

The Clas­sic, for 3-year-olds on turf, drew 12 en­trants, while the Matron, for older fe­males at nine fur­longs on Poly­track, got 11, and both look like de­cent bet­ter races. There is, how­ever, rain in the lo­cal fore­cast through­out the end of this week and the week­end, and the Clas­sic could wind up be­ing run on soft turf or even trans­ferred to Poly­track.

Cocked and Loaded, on the strength of a win in the Grade 3 Iro­quois and a close fifth in the Breed­ers’ Cup Ju­ve­nile, made the early Ken­tucky Derby fu­ture pool wager, but he has yet to show progress from age 2 to 3. He was a dis­tant third to the tal­ented Uni­fied in the Grade 3 Bay Shore to start his sea­son, but could only fin­ish 13th in the Pat Day Mile on Derby Day at Churchill.

Candy My Boy ac­tu­ally beat the good colt Fore­vamo in a Fair Grounds al­lowance race be­fore set­ting the pace and hold­ing fourth in the Risen Star Stakes. Most re­cently he tired to sixth in the Louisiana Derby, and will likely be found set­ting the pace Satur­day.

Sur­gi­cal Strike could wind up fa­vored af­ter fin­ish­ing third May 7 in the Grade 2 Amer­i­can Turf at Churchill Downs. He’ll race with blink­ers added in the Clas­sic but has won just once in seven turf starts.

Among the eight oth­ers, Te­quila Joe, a three-length Keeneland turf al­lowance win­ner last out, fig­ures to be com­pet­i­tive.

The Matron field in­cludes the still-promis­ing 4-year-old filly No Fault of Mine, who won a third-level Keeneland al­lowance race on turf last out, and is 2 for 2 on Ar­ling­ton Poly­track. Also en­tered is Brook­lyn­sway, who won the Dou­ble­dog­dare on dirt at Keeneland this spring; the mul­ti­ple stakes win­ner Flipcup; and the tal­ented In­di­anabred Lady Fog Horn, who has won nine of 16 races..

The high­light of Memo­rial Day week­end at Churchill Downs is the Grade 3, $100,000 Win­ning Col­ors for filly-and­mare sprint­ers on an 11-race Satur­day card that also in­cludes the $65,000 Keer­tana for filly-and-mare turf marathon­ers.

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