O’Neill duo joins Big ‘Cap hopefuls on Santa Anita’s
A word of caution from Team O’Neill: Handsome Mike is not a
one-hit wonder. Those who thought the same of I’ll Have Another after his 43-1
upset in last year’s Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis paid the price if they missed the
boat when he went on to capture the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Handsome Mike is considerably less accomplished than I’ll
Have Another, having won only a maiden race besides the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby
last September. Next
up is the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 2, a 1 1/4-mile classic that could set up well for the
four-year-old Scat Daddy colt owned by J.
“Handsome Mike can rate,” said trainer Doug O’Neill’s
brother, Dennis. “When he won the Pennsylvania Derby, he was sitting right in
behind them on the outside and rallied. So he would love to get another pace
scenario like that.
“Game On Dude broke real good in the (Grade 2) San Antonio (on
February 3). You really have to get to him, when he breaks like that. You don’t hope
he breaks bad, but if he does, and you’re in front of him, it compromises his
Handsome Mike sped six furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast
main track Friday morning in 1:11 4/5 with regular rider Mario Gutierrez aboard.
“He worked really well,” Doug O’Neill said. “He cooled out good so we’re going
to take a shot in the Big ‘Cap. We were happy with him.”
Another O’Neill Big ‘Cap candidate, veteran Grade 1 king Richard’s Kid, who
disappointed in the grassy Grade 2 San Marcos on February 9, logged six furlongs
under Tyler Baze in 1:13 4/5.
worked by himself,” O’Neill said. “We’ll see how Richard’s Kid cools out, but plans right now
are to run in the Big ‘Cap.”
Handsome Mike and Richard’s Kid weren’t the only Big ‘Cap contenders on Santa
Anita’s track Friday.
Called to Serve, an easy winner of the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap and Broad
Brush in his last pair to close out 2012, registered his third straight bullet work
in preparation for the Santa Anita Handicap when recording a co-bullet five furlongs in
:59 1/5 with Gary Stevens up. The Hall of Fame
rider, who turns 50 on March 6, has the mount aboard the Afleet Alex
four-year-old in the Big ‘Cap.
“I got him in :59 and one and had him home in (one) :23 flat
(for seven furlongs) and out the three-quarters in (one) :10 and three,” said
trainer Nick Canani, son of trainer Julio Canani, who won the Santa Anita
Handicap in 1989 with 50-1 shot Martial Law.
“I was very pleased with the work. He worked great. He did
it the right way and I really couldn’t ask for much more. I’m happy that Gary
breezed him a second time.”
The Called to Serve has now five straight bullet moves, with his last coming
on February 16 when going six furlongs in 1:13 2/5. Prior to that, the dark bay worked five-eighths at Belmont Park on
February 1 in 1:00 3/5.
“I know Gary’s got to go to New Orleans (he rides at the
Fair Grounds on Saturday) and catch a plane this morning, but I think having him
work him one more time allowed them to get to know each other a little bit
better. The second time’s always better than the first,” Canani remarked.
As far as digesting and planning pre-race strategy, the conditioner
was understandably ambivalent.
“I don’t think we can change our horse’s style,”
he said. “I really think the mile and a quarter’s going to benefit us. I think
that’s the horse’s true distance and what he really wants to do.
“The best horse will prevail, hopefully.”
Other Big ‘Cap workers Friday included Grade 3-placed stakes hero Stephanoatsee, who went six furlongs in company with an unnamed
Richard Mandella three-year-old in 1:14 4/5, while multiple Grade 3-placed stakes scorer Clubhouse
Ride went seven furlongs in 1:25 1/5 for trainer Craig Lewis.
“He went well,” trainer Graham Motion said of Stephanoatsee
before catching a flight back East. “He worked in company because he’s not a
good work horse, but I was happy with his effort.”
Stephanoatsee, a four-year-old son of A.P. Indy, was last seen finishing
second in the Grade 2 Strub, while Clubhouse Ride, a Candy Ride five-year-old,
was runner-up in the Grade 2 San Antonio nearly three weeks ago.
Probable for the Santa Anita Handicap are Game On Dude, Ron the Greek,
Called to Serve, Guilt Trip, Stephanoatsee, Handsome Mike, John Scott, Clubhouse
Ride, Tritap and Richard’s Kid.
Not only will Santa Anita present three Grade 1 races on
Big ‘Cap Day, fans on track will receive free a Santa Anita tote bag
with paid admission while supplies last. Festivities also will include popular premium Food Trucks,
a KROQ concert featuring Youngblood Hawk, a microbrew and craft beer
presentation and a $400,000 guaranteed late Pick 4.
First post time on Big ‘Cap is noon (PST). Gates open at 10