Chrome, Hard Aces return in San Pasqual
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.”