June 23, 2024

Awesome Again among five Santa Anita stakes with Breeders’ Cup implications

Mo Forza (outside) edges Smooth Like Strait in the 2021 Del Mar Mile (Benoit Photo)

Santa Anita will offer five stakes on Saturday’s 11-race program, including three “Win & You’re In” events for the Breeders’ Cup in early November.

Awesome Again (G1) – Race 10 (8 p.m. ET)

After scratching from last Saturday’s Pennsylvania Derby (G1), Medina Spirit will stay at home to face seven rivals in the $300,000 Awesome Again (G1). The three-year-old will make his first start against elders in the 1 1/8-mile race, which guarantees a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

Last seen winning the Aug. 29 Shared Belief S. at Del Mar following a layoff, Medina Spirit also finished first in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Robert B. Lewis (G3) earlier this season. He’s one of two runners for Bob Baffert, who will also send out recent allowance scorer Azul Coast.

Pacific Classic (G1) winner Tripoli is a major player for John Sadler, and Tiago Pereira rides the improving four-year-old Kitten’s Joy colt. Pacific Classic runner-up Tizamagician and Express Train, who finished sixth as the favorite, are also back for the Awesome Again.

Idol will make his first appearance since capturing the Santa Anita H. (G1) in early March, and Joe Bravo will pick up the mount on the four-year-old Curlin colt for Richard Baltas.

Rodeo Drive (G1) – Race 9 (7:30 p.m. ET)

Nine fillies and mares are set for the $300,000 Rodeo Drive (G1), which will award a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), and Going to Vegas enters on the upswing after taking the Sept. 4 John C. Mabee (G2) at Del Mar by 2 1/4 lengths.

Umberto Rispoli retakes the assignment on the four-year-old filly for Baltas, who will also be represented by Luck. A two-time winner in France, the four-year-old filly stamped herself as one to watch for in the American stakes ranks when rolling to a convincing win in her U.S. debut, an Aug. 7 allowance at Del Mar. Flavien Prat will guide.

Other contenders include Mabee runner-up Dogtag; Grade 2 winner Magic Attitude, who invades from the East Coast for Arnaud Delacour; and Grade 1 heroine Red Lark, second in a recent stakes following a layoff.

Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2) – Race 8 (7 p.m. ET)

C Z Rocket will make a title defense, and the top three finishers from last year will return for the $200,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2). A qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), the six-furlong test will feature six runners.

Most recently second in the Pat O’Brien (G2), C Z Rocket has won four stakes over the last two seasons for Peter Miller, and Florent Geroux will pilot the seven-year-old gelding.

Dr. Schivel has won two straight since returning from a lengthy layoff, and four consecutive starts overall, and the three-year-old colt exits a game neck score in the July 31 Bing Crosby (G1). Prat will be up on the stalker for Mark Glatt. Grade 1 victor Flagstaff, third in the Pat O’Brien, is another top contender.

City of Hope Mile (G2) – Race 3 (4:30 p.m. ET)

The stakes action kicks off with a dynamite renewal of the $200,000 City of Hope Mile (G2).

Grade 1 hero Mo Forza, who returned from a 10-month layoff with a head score in the Del Mar Mile (G2), is the one to beat. His main rivals, Grade 1 winners Smooth Like Strait and Hit the Road, finished second and third, respectively, in the Del Mar Mile.

John Henry Turf Championship (G2) – Race 11 (8:30 p.m.)

After recording a comfortable win last year, United will seek to go back-to-back in the $200,000 John Henry Turf Championship (G2).

The six-year-old gelding posted a nice win in the Eddie Read (G2) two back, but United is trying to rebound after a fourth as the favorite in the Del Mar H. (G2). Flavien rides the stalker for Richard Mandella.

Master Piece and Award Winner, second and third in the Del Mar H., are also back for the John Henry. Other runners of interest include Acclimate, Neptune’s Storm, and Red King.