Two of the top contenders in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 John Henry Turf Championship Stakes (formerly the Clement Hirsch) at Santa Anita, Bourbon Bay and Slim Shadey, will return to races following a stint on the sidelines. Bourbon Bay makes his first appearance since capturing the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap in April, and Slim Shadey has been freshened since a fifth in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes on Del Mar's opening weekend.
The connections of both horses are hoping for a strong showing that will set them up for the Breeders' Cup Turf over the same course on November 3.
Bourbon Bay is a fan of the turf in Arcadia, California, winning seven of nine starts at Santa Anita, including six Grade 2 tallies. After opening 2012 with a fourth to Slim Shadey in the Grade 2 San Marcos, the Neil Drysdale-trained gelding gained a measure of revenge in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey next out, posting a head score over his rival. The six-year-old displayed a dynamic finishing kick to prove best aforementioned San Juan Capistrano, registering a 109 BRIS Late Pace rating while rallying past the entire field in the stretch, and he's recorded five workouts this month in preparation for the 1 1/4-mile John Henry. Rafael Bejarano will ride.
After his second to Bourbon Bay in the San Luis Rey, Slim Shadey proceeded to fill the same position in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and Grade 1 Charles Whittingham, finishing behind a notable foe each time, Little Mike and Acclamation. He faltered as the favorite in the Grade 1 United Nations next out, checking in fifth, and received some time off following his disappointing effort in the Eddie Read. Ten furlongs is a good fit for the four-year-old gelding, who captured both the San Marcos and a Santa Anita allowance at the distance last winter, and Garrett Gomez has the assignment for trainer Simon Callaghan.
Todd Pletcher will be represented by a dangerous shipper in Turbo Compressor, winner of the United Nations and the lucrative Colonial Turf Cup this summer. The confirmed front runner could not sustain his speed when trying 12 furlongs in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga last time, weakening to last in the stretch run, but Turbo Compressor should relish the cutback in trip and looks like the controlling speed with Joe Bravo.
Casino Host captured the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Jr. Memorial at Fair Grounds earlier this season under the direction of Chad Brown, but the four-year-old colt was shipped to California and transferred to Ron Ellis following unplaced efforts in his next two outings. After recording a solid third in the Eddie Read, Casino Host returned to the win column in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap, closing stoutly in the final furlongs for a neck decision. He will attempt to carry that momentum forward Sunday with a returning Joe Talamo.
Eddie Read runner-up Interaction was a classy performer in Argentina before joining Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally's barn, earning Horse of the Year honors in 2010, and the six-year-old was beaten less than two lengths when fifth in the Del Mar Handicap most recently. He will be seeking his first U.S. stakes win with new jockey Victor Espinoza.