Welcome back for the second half of our weekend preview – the West Coast edition. It’s going to be all go at Santa Anita with the Santa Anita Oaks, the Kilroe Mile, and, of course, the Big Cap. This year’s Oaks is a big test for Stardom Bound; a victory here should send her to the Santa Anita Derby to face off against Pioneerof the Nile and The Pamplemousse – just those three together would make that one of the best Kentucky Derby preps in recent memory. Following in the footsteps of Winning Colors is no simple task, however – nine other fillies will try to get the better of Stardom Bound on Saturday. While none of her competitors has anything like her resume, Hooh Why and Beltene seem best placed to pull an upset – but I don’t expect one this time around.
The Kilroe Mile is often overlooked on Big Cap day, but it’s got an interesting lineup; Artiste Royal, Mast Track, Gio Ponti and Ventura are the headliners. Ventura won’t be getting much in the way of allowances as a mare – she’s the second-highest weight in the field, and rightly so (even if trainer Bobby Frankel thinks one-turn dirt miles are more to her liking). But I’m also a fan of Artiste Royal (how many other 8-year-old stallions are still racing at this level?), although I tend to like him better at longer distances. Versatility is a fine thing, though, and I think either he or Ventura will wind up in the winner’s circle.
And so on to the Big Cap – and with a full field of fourteen, this should be great. Naturally, I’m partial to my favorite, Einstein (pictured), and I like the reasoning for seeing him entered here:
“It should be very interesting because (people say) that grass horses should like it,” trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi said about all-weather tracks. “I’ve got a horse that is probably more of a grass horse than a dirt horse, but he does deal with both very well. A million dollars is enough of a reason to find out.”
Even with the loss of Tiago to a minor illness, this is a highly competitive field; Colonel John and Court Vision seem to be maturing nicely and Chilean-bred Matto Mondo (recently featured on ‘Jockeys‘) is finally starting to display some of the talent he’d hinted at in his native country. Despite (or perhaps partially because of) the high weight assignment, I’m not loving Cowboy Cal here (even with his fine recent record – there’s no good reason for it) – but I am very intrigued to see whether or not Zambezi Sun figured out how to run in the US after his less-than-spectacular San Luis Obispo effort two weeks ago. And I am looking forward to seeing him run against his ‘uncle‘ Champs Elysees – here’s hoping neither one scratches this time around.