If you’re looking for a respite from New Year’s arctic blast, Santa Anita’s terrific renewal of the $75,000 Joe Hernandez on Monday should warm you up. The about 6 1/2-furlong dash down the hill features a graded-quality field, including recent Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) runner-up Richard’s Boy and Om, who missed by a whisker in the same race last year.
The Peter Miller-trained Richard’s Boy, just denied by stablemate Stormy Liberal in an international cast at Del Mar, has since escaped the horrific fire that swept through his San Luis Rey base in early December. The gray got right back to work after settling into his new Del Mar digs, posting a trio of moves, and bids to regain the winning thread here. On the board in eight of nine starts over this unique track and trip, the Cal-bred has also been able to take his game on the road as far as Dubai, where his solid fifth in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) proved his class. Richard’s Boy rates a slight advantage in BRIS Prime Power in this ultra-competitive heat.
Om has come close in both of his previous course-and-distance tries, nearly nailing Obviously in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and finishing third to Mr. Roary and Tribalist in the September 29 Eddie D. (G3). But the Dan Hendricks pupil has spent more time in turf routes, successfully as a multiple Grade 2-winning sophomore in 2015. He stretched out again for the November 4 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), winding up eighth, and in the November 26 Seabiscuit (G2), where he finished fourth to prolong his losing skid to 11 in a row. Although winless for the past two seasons, Om has collected nine graded placings, and usually is thereabouts. The cutback to sprinting down the hill could help.
But shortening up also stands to benefit Phil D’Amato’s Pee Wee Reese, who ran his rivals off their feet in his sole effort down the hill last March. Later tackling a mile, he wired the American (G3) over Om on July 4. Pee Wee Reese wasn’t seen again until the Seabiscuit, and his front-running gambit fell short as he was caught late and relegated to third. Second off the layoff here, and reverting to a sprint, the speedy son of Tribal Rule has been installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite. Richard’s Boy and Om rank as the co-second choices at 7-2.
The Joe Hernandez has attracted an overflow field of 13, including three also-eligibles. Other contenders in the main body of the field are the aforementioned Mr. Roary, like Om exiting unplaced efforts in the Breeders’ Cup Mile and Seabiscuit; Green Flash winner Tribalist, unraced since placing to B Squared and Richard’s Boy in the California Flag here October 21; San Vicente (G2) runner-up Law Abidin Citizen, sidelined since capturing his first downhill try eight months ago; New York transplant Next Shares, a new recruit for Richard Baltas; Cimpl Man, who makes his stakes debut off a course-and-distance allowance win; Gold Rush Dancer, unplaced in three straight since his career high in the Longacres Mile (G3); and reformed claimer Krsto Skye.
The also-eligible list comprises Smokey Image from the Carla Gaines barn; Sycamore Lane first off the claim for David Jacobson; and John Sadler comebacker Conquest Daddyo.