Dakota Phone, the only California-based horse to win a Breeders’ Cup race last month, will return Dec. 4 in the $100,000 Native Diver Handicap (gr. III) at Hollywood Park.
The favorite will carry top weight of 123 pounds in the Native Diver, spotting his six rivals from six to nine pounds apiece. The eighth race on the card with a scheduled 4:05 p.m. PST., this will be Dakota Phone's first race since he rallied from last to win the $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) by a head at odds of 37-1 Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs.
After a six-furlong work in 1:14 3/5 at Hollywood Nov. 26, Dan Ward, assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, pronounced the 5-year-old Zavata gelding "ready to go" for the 1 1/8-mile Native Diver over the Cushion Track.
The win at Churchill was just Dakota Phone's second in 11 starts for 2010, but the hard-trying bay has finished in the money on seven other occasions. Among those placings were thirds in the Goodwood Stakes at Hollywood, the Pacific Classic and the Santa Anita Handicap (all gr. I).
Dakota Phone's other victory this year came in Del Mar's San Diego Handicap (gr. II) prior to the Pacific Classic. Dakota Phone has had three breezes locally since the Breeders' Cup.
Joel Rosario, who guided Dakota Phone in most of those earlier races and the Breeders' Cup as well, has the return call. Dakota Phone has been in the money in 22 of 32 lifetime starts, including six wins, and earned $1,273,810 for the ownership group that includes Hollendorfer, John Carver, Halo Farms and George Todaro. He breaks from post 5 seeking his first win at nine furlongs.
Also returning to action for the first time since the Breeders' Cup is Romp, whose experience at Churchill Downs was opposite that of Dakota Phone. Sisters in Racing Stable and Jeff Siskin's 6-year-old Argentina-bred gelding was roughed up, and he and jockey Martin Garcia were nearly knocked over by a hemmed-in Prince Will I Am in the Breeders' Cup Marathon (gr. III) a day earlier. Romp finished 10th (moved up to ninth) after clipping heels, beaten by 32 lengths in the 1 3/4-mile Marathon.
Trainer Kristin Mulhall has tabbed Mike Smith to take over on Romp for Garcia, who is reportedly having visa problems in Mexico and isn't expected back to Southern California until the start of the Santa Anita meet Dec. 26. Mulhall says Romp, a four-time winner in 42 starts with lifetime earnings of $221,463, is training forwardly for the Native Diver and she is expecting a big effort.
Soul Candy, winner of the California Cup Classic at the Native Diver distance in his last start Oct. 30, is one of two entered by Paddy Gallagher. The Cal Cup Classic was the first stakes victory in the career of Soul Candy, a 4-year-old son of Birdonthewire owned by E Z Eight Racing Stable and Madera Thoroughbreds, who bred him. Soul Candy, to be ridden again by Rafael Bejarano, has won three of his past four starts.
Gallagher also entered Aggie Engineer, coming off a win as the favorite at 1 1/16 miles Oct. 22 against a high-priced optional claiming allowance field. The 5-year-old E Dubai gelding worked a bullet seven furlongs in 1:27 3/5 Nov. 28.
Humberto Ascanio saddles Philatelist, who has not been out since running fourth as the favorite in the Tokyo City Handicap (gr. III) in March for owner Stella Perdomo. Philatelist, who was sidelined by a splint injury, drilled five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 Nov. 28. Ascanio won last year's Native Diver with Mast Track.
$100,000 Native Diver Handicap (gr. III, Race 8, 4:05 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Synthetic)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Philatelist (KY), G K Gomez, 114, H Ascanio
2. Romp (ARG), M E Smith, 114, K Mulhall
3. Soul Candy (CA), R Bejarano, 117, P Gallagher
4. Aggie Engineer (KY), J Talamo, 116, P Gallagher
5. Dakota Phone (KY), J Rosario, 123, J Hollendorfer
6. Achak (IRE), A Quinonez, 114, M R Mitchell
7. Spurrier (KY), V Espinoza, 115, B Baffert