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Bourbon Bay, Champ Pegasus clash in San Luis Obispo

Bourbon Bay scored his fifth win from six starts in the San Marcos (Benoit Photos)

BOURBON BAY (Sligo Bay [Ire]) and CHAMP PEGASUS (Fusaichi Pegasus), the West Coast's foremost turf marathoners, renew their rivalry in Santa Anita's $150,000 San Luis Obispo S. (G2) going 1 1/2 miles on Saturday. It is the third such time the pair have met, with each taking a win in their prior two appearances.

Bourbon Bay got the better of favored Champ Pegasus most recently in the January 17 San Marcos S. (G2) going 10 furlongs. Before that, Champ Pegasus made good on his 8-5 favoritism when besting third-place Bourbon Bay by one length in Oak Tree's Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship S. (G1) over 1 1/4 miles at Hollywood Park on October 3.

It is expected that the more recent San Marcos result, which separated the pair by 1 3/4 lengths, will elevate Bourbon Bay to slight favoritism when attempting to defend his title among 13 entrants in the 55th running of the San Luis Obispo.

Although inclement weather is a distinct possibility on Saturday, it is hoped the San Luis Obisbo will remain on Santa Anita's Camino Real Turf Course. First run on turf in 1954, a surface switch has occurred just three times in San Luis Obispo history, most recently in 2005.

The defending champion's fondness for the turf course is well established. After winning a first-condition allowance race on January 6 of last year, Bourbon Bay stepped up to win the 2010 San Luis Obisbo by 4 1/2 lengths, igniting a streak of wins in three Grade 2 marathon events at Santa Anita before falling to Champ Pegasus seven months later in Hollywood Park's Hirsch.

Champ Pegasus flew home in last year's Hirsch (Benoit Photos)

With the San Marcos win, Bourbon Bay extended his perfection over Santa Anita's Camino Real Turf Course to five races for trainer Neil Drysdale.

Meantime, Champ Pegasus was rapidly developing last summer for conditioner Richard Mandella, and his Hirsch triumph was his fourth win in five starts. Champ Pegasus proceeded to run a bang-up second to Dangerous Midge (Lion Heart) in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs on November 6 and, like Bourbon Bay, was making his first appearance of the year in the San Marcos.

The match between the pair of five-year-old turf marathoners serves to provide a rivalry within a rivalry. Leading rider Rafael Bejarano accompanies Bourbon Bay. Joel Rosario, Bejarano's close pursuer in the Santa Anita jockey standings, is the regular rider of Champ Pegasus.

Rosario also has piloting duties aboard SMILING TIGER (Hold That Tiger), who will seek redemption with the rider switch as part of the six-horse field sprinting seven furlongs on the main track in Saturday's co-feature, the 73rd running of the $150,000 San Carlos H. (G2).

Smiling Tiger is looking to regain his Grade 1-winning from 2010 (Benoit Photos)

The four-year-old colt has been assigned high weight of 121 pounds despite dropping his past three starts, all against stellar company. Smiling Tiger's last win came in Oak Tree's Ancient Title S. (G1) on October 9, following which he finishing third to champion Big Drama (Montbrook) in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) and missed by a nose to the record-shattering Twirling Candy (Candy Ride [Arg]) in Santa Anita's opening-day Malibu S. (G1).

Last out, the chestnut four-year-old suffered the worst defeat of his 12-race career, running third by 4 1/2 lengths in the Palos Verdes S. (G2). Smiling Tiger was just a head up on VENTANA (Toccet), who finished fourth, and will be looking to return to his winning three-year-old form in this contest.

Ventana and Palos Verdes runner-up CAPTAIN CHEROKEE (Sir Cherokee) will attempt to spoil his chances once again in the San Carlos. Winner of the Potrero Grande H. (G2) last season, Ventana was second in the 2010 edition of the San Carlos. Captain Cherokee was no factor in stakes events as a three-year-old, but showed new life last year when second in the Harvey Arneault Memorial S. last year.

Also entered in the San Carlos are dual Grade 3 winner MYTHICAL POWER (Congrats), who captured an optional claimer last out off a near four-month break, and SUPREME SUMMIT (Cactus Ridge), a hard-charging fourth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint just a head back of Smiling Tiger.


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