Ultimate Eagle, who capped a four-race winning streak in the Grade 1
Hollywood Derby at last year's Turf Festival, will kick off the 2012 Festival by
making his comeback in Friday's Grade 2, $250,000
Handicap at Hollywood Park. Sidelined for nine months since weakening to
10th in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, the Michael Pender trainee will clash
with stablemate and defending champion Jeranimo; East Coast shipper Data Link
and his frequent foe Doubles Partner; and former Argentinean Horse of the Year
Ultimate Eagle was one of the surprise packages of 2011. Winless in his first three career starts over Hollywood's Cushion Track, he relished a switch to turf at Del Mar and promptly broke his maiden. In his follow-up in an entry-level turf allowance, Ultimate Eagle employed the front-running tactics that would soon become his trademark. Overlooked at 34-1 in his stakes debut in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby, he held on gamely by a half-length. The step up in trip to 1 1/4 miles for the Hollywood Derby proved to be no problem, as Ultimate Eagle once again defied the odds by scoring a front-running upset at odds of 14-1.After suffering his first turf loss when third in the Grade 2 Sir Beaufort at Santa Anita last December, Ultimate Eagle tried dirt for the first time in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes on February 4, and turned in a spectacular performance. With his high cruising speed being a natural fit for dirt, he romped by 7 1/4 lengths. He tried to repeat the feat in the March 3 Big 'Cap, but engaged in a wicked speed duel and gave way.
Ultimate Eagle, the only confirmed front runner in the 1 1/16-mile Citation, promises to play catch-me-if-you-can from post 1. Regular rider Martin Pedroza will be back aboard the Mizzen Mast colt, who seeks to continue his sire's hot streak. Mizzen Mast was responsible for two Breeders' Cup winners earlier this month -- Juvenile Fillies Turf victress Flotilla and Turf Sprint heroine Mizdirection.
Stablemate Jeranimo has the opposite running style, preferring to rally from
well off the pace. The Pender charge aims to become the third horse to win
back-to-back runnings of the Citation, following Forlitano (1987-88) and Good
In last year's Citation, Jeranimo rebounded from a seventh in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs. This time, he comes off a sixth in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita, and he hopes that the pattern holds true.
Jeranimo figures to enjoy the scene shift to Hollywood, where he sports a three-for-four mark over the local turf. Aside from his impressive 2 3/4-length Citation victory, Jeranimo bolted from last to first in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile here on June 30, beating eventual Breeders' Cup Turf hero Little Mike. Jose Valdivia Jr. picks up the mount on the 122-pound highweight.
Garrett Gomez, who had been riding Jeranimo, instead teams up with Data Link. The Stuart Janney III homebred invades from Belmont Park for Shug McGaughey, who is always dangerous on transcontinental raids.
One of the up-and-coming milers in the first half of the season, Data Link got up in time to defeat Turallure in the Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland April 13 and overhauled Get Stormy in the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes on June 10. The second half of 2012 hasn't been as productive for the War Front colt. In the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga September 1, Data Link did about as well as he could when chasing the loose-on-the-lead Dominus, to whom he was conceding eight pounds. Back at Keeneland for the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile October 6, Data Link encountered traffic trouble and closed belatedly for fifth, beaten 7 3/4 lengths by subsequent Breeders' Cup Mile star Wise Dan.
Also exiting the Shadwell Turf Mile is Doubles Partner, who will be meeting
Data Link for the fifth time this campaign. Doubles Partner has beaten Data Link
in three of their four clashes.
The two first squared off in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream Park March 3, when Doubles Partner successfully returned from a 10-month layoff and won in a sparkling time of 1:32 2/5 for the mile. The Todd Pletcher pupil left Data Link back in third and Little Mike in fourth. Data Link exacted revenge next time in the the Maker's 46 Mile, where Doubles Partner was a mightily-troubled third.
Their third meeting came in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs. Neither threatened Little Mike, but Doubles Partner beat Data Link when the pair were fourth and fifth, respectively. The familiar foes filled those exact same spots in the Shadwell Turf Mile. Doubles Partner deserves extra credit for his late-running fourth, considering that he had not raced since their May 5 clash.
Originally pre-entered for the Breeders' Cup Mile, Doubles Partner was absent from the final declarations. The well-bred son of Rock Hard Ten reunites with Julien Leparoux, who last guided him in the Canadian Turf.
Interaction hasn't quite blossomed into the next South American-bred star for Ron McAnally, but the Argentinean import has shown ability since joining the Hall of Fame trainer. The winner in his debut for the barn off a lengthy layoff in June, Interaction next finished a clear second to champion Acclamation in the Grade 1 Eddie Read at Del Mar July 21.
Perhaps significantly, both of those were 1 1/8-mile events, and Interaction hasn't exactly thrived going longer. He was only fifth in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap over 1 3/8 miles on August 25, and a better third in the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship over 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita September 30.
The cutback in trip for the Citation could serve Interaction well. Even in his homeland, he had the speed to capture a seven-furlong Group 1 as a juvenile before excelling over longer distances.
Rounding out the field are Calimonco, the third-place finisher in the 2011
Citation who exits a poor effort in the Grade 3 Eddie D. on Santa Anita's
downhill turf September 28; Tale of a Champion, who stretches out off an eighth
in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint; and Temple's Door, most recently third in the
October 28 Lure at Santa Anita.
Earlier on Friday's card, the $65,000 Cool Air Stakes shapes up as a rematch from the Grade 3 Sen. Ken Maddy October 20 at Santa Anita. Broken Dreams ran down Kindle in the final strides of that about 6 1/2-furlong dash down the hill, thus winning the Maddy for the second straight year. Speed merchant Kindle, who had opened up by five lengths before wilting late, will appreciate the fact that the Cool Air is only six grassy furlongs.
Givine, fourth in the Maddy, has run well in her prior attempts at this course and distance. The Julio Canani mare landed the 2011 Great Lady M and dropped a photo-finish decision in last year's running of the Cool Air.
Schiaparelli, a daughter of Ghostzapper and downhill diva Cambiocorsa, brings a perfect two-for-two record into her stakes debut. Others lining up are the Argentinean-bred Journaliste, who makes her U.S. premiere for John Sadler, and the cleverly-named Madoffwiththemoney, a near-miss third in the Daisycutter Handicap at Del Mar four starts back.