Lochte, impressive 39-1 winner of the Feb. 9 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT), will attempt to repeat his success during his first trip to California when he faces nine others in the March 8 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park.
With an approximate post time of 3:30 p.m. PST, the one-mile turf race for 4-year-olds and up is one of four graded stakes on the card and precedes the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) featuring Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Mucho Macho Man and Clark Handicap (gr. I) victor Will Take Charge (full preview here).
Trainer Marcus Vitali said he's not concerned about Lochte drawing the rail because the Medaglia d'Oro gelding won the Gulfstream Park Turf from that position after stalking the pace and drawing off to a 2 3/4 length victory.
"He's training good, eating good, and acting good," Vitali said, noting that Lochte shipped to California a week ago and handled the cross-country trip with ease. "He's doing everything right going into the race, so we're hoping for the best. I feel pretty confident going into it."
Bred in Kentucky by Maura Gittins, Lochte was a $475,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale. He races for Carolyn Vogel's Crossed Sabres Farm and is out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Lemon Kiss.
"We're trying something different," Vitali said. "I've never raced in California before, so it's a treat for me. We'll just hope for the best."
Lochte will retain the services of jockey Orlando Bocachica, who was aboard for the Gulfstream Park Turf, and will carry highweight of 123 pounds. He enters the race with a record of 3-2-3 from 10 starts, for earnings of $276,007. In his most recent work, the gelding completed three furlongs at Calder Casino & Race Course in a bullet :35 1/5.
One of Lochte's biggest competitors figures to be last year's Kilroe Mile winner Suggestive Boy, who attempts to rebound from a fifth-place effort in the Feb. 1 Arcadia (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita. It was his first start in 11 months. The son of Easing Along, a multiple group I winner and champion in his native Argentina, will be ridden by Joe Talamo from post 4.
Other Arcadia contenders Winning Prize and Regally Ready are also in the mix. Like Suggestive Boy, Winning Prize is an Argentinean champion, with three group I victories to his credit in that country. The son of Pure Prize also has the advantage of already winning at the Kilroe distance on the Santa Anita turf course.
Optimizer, a three-time grade III victor who has not raced since being eased in last summer's Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap (gr. IT), is looking for a comeback in the Kilroe. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, his last victory came in the 2013 Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT).
Rounding out the field is 2012 Knickerbocker Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Za Approval, runner-up to two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) last time out; other California stakes winners Silentio (2013 Citation Handicap, gr. IIT), Lakerville, and Tom's Tribute ; and Santa Anita allowance winner Horizontalyspeakin.
$350,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT, approximate post time 3:30 p.m. EDT), 4YOs and up, one mile (turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Lochte (KY), O Bocachica, 123, M J Vitali
2. Regally Ready (KY), M E Smith, 118, S M Asmussen
3. Optimizer (KY), L Saez, 118, D W Lukas
4. Suggestive Boy (ARG), J Talamo, 118, R L McAnally
5. Za Approval (KY), J Rosario,118, C Clement
6. Winning Prize (ARG), C S Nakatani, 118, N D Drysdale
7. Horizontalyspeakin (MD), E A Maldonado, 118, J W Sadler
8. Tom's Tribute (KY), G L Stevens, 118, J M Cassidy
9. Silentio (KY), R Bejarano, 118, G Mandella
10. Lakerville, K J Desormeaux, 118, B Abrams