Amazombie, the Eclipse Award winner as the nation's top sprinter in 2011, was tentatively entered for the $150,000 Palos Verdes Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Jan. 21.
Trainer Bill Spawr recently expressed reservations about Amazombie running in the Palos Verdes and said he was considering a couple of other possibilities. As entries were drawn Jan. 18, Spawr said that whether his 6-year-old gelding begins his 2012 campaign in the six-furlong event would depend on the weather and track conditions. There is a chance of rain in the forecast at Santa Anita, which has been bone dry since the current meet began Dec. 26.
“If (it rains and) they seal the track too tight, he won’t run,” Spawr told Daily Racing Form. “You don’t pass anyone on this track, but it’s gotten better in the last week.
“If I get beat, I want to get beat by a better horse and not the surface or a bias.”
Winner of the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) in his most recent start Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs, Amazombie comes off a season that included five wins from nine starts. He was never out of the money. Besides the BC Sprint, other victories included the Sunshine Millions Sprint, the Portrero Grande Stakes (gr. II) and the Ancient Title (gr. I).
In the Breeders' Cup, Amazombie rallied powerfully from mid-pack at odds of nearly 8-1 and registered a gritty neck victory over Force Freeze.
"It’s hard to surpass the year he had (in 2011), but we feel he could be as good,” said Spawr, who co-owns the lifetime winner of 10 races from 23 starts with earnings of $1,525,708. Tom Sanford is his partner in the California-bred son of Northern Afleet .
Spawr said that Amazombie is coming up to his initial start of the year in terrific fashion. If he goes, he will break from post 2 with regular rider Mike Smith aboard,
Seven opponents are signed up to face the champ, led by grade I winner Euroears, the defending Palos Verdes winner. The race is the eighth on the Santa Anita program with a 4:07 p.m. PST expected post.
Euroears, an 8-year-old son of Langfuhr trained by Bob Baffert for James and Marilyn Helzer, won last year's Palos Verdes by 2 1/4 lengths.
After a runner-up effort in the Gulf News Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) at Meydan in March, he returned from a freshening to capture the Bing Crosby Stakes (gr. I) on Polytrack at Del Mar July 31. He defeated Amazombie, who was third, in the Crosby.
The big chestnut was ninth in the BC Sprint when he vied for the lead and weakened after being bumped. Euroears drew the far outside post for the Palos Verdes and will have Martin Garcia aboard.
Amazombie and Euroears were each assigned top weight of 123 pounds.
Mensa Heat is another who could pass on the Palos Verdes if track conditions are not right. The 6-year-old California-bred by Unusual Heat won six of 13 starts last year for trainer Ted West and is coming off a victory in the state-restricted On Trust Handicap at 7 1/2 furlongs Dec. 18 on Cushion Track at Hollywood Park.
West claimed Mensa Heat for $25,000 in May and the gelding has won five of eight races since for owner Peter Redekop while competing mostly on synthetic surfaces. He ran a close third in the Ancient Title at Santa Anita in October, however.
There is one other grade I winner in the Palos Verdes, M One Rifle, who gets the rail for trainer Bruce Headley. The 6-year-old gelding concluded his 3-year-old season with a smashing 2 ½-length victory over Misremembered in Santa Anita’s Malibu Stakes (gr. I) on Dec. 26, 2009. M One Rifle’s only victory in nine starts since the Malibu, however, came in Hollywood Park’s non-graded Cool Frenchy Stakes last May.
Courtside has won three of his past five decisions with two seconds and steps into graded company for C R K Stable and trainer John Sadler.
Trainer Steve Asmussen enters Mike McCarty's Galientos, who is making his stakes debut after back-to-back allowance wins.
$150,000 Palos Verdes Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), 4 & Up, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. M One Rifle (CA), J Talamo, 118, B Headley
2. Amazombie (CA), M E Smith, 123, W Spawr
3. Galientos (KY), C S Nakatani, 118, S M Asmussen
4. Mensa Heat (CA), R Bejarano, 118, T H West
5. Frumious (CA), A L Castanon, 118, J Bonde
6. Canonize (KY), V Espinoza, 118, R W Ellis
7. Courtside (CA), J Rosario, 118, J W Sadler
8. Euroears (KY), M Garcia, 123, B Baffert