Grade I winner Well Armed will make his first start since a ninth-place finish as the 6-5 choice in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile more than two months ago when he tackles the $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita Jan. 10.
The WinStar Farm homebred will carry the high weight of 121 pounds and is among the dozen entered for the San Pasqual, a 1 1/16-mile event for older horses on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride racing surface. The opposition for the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) prep race includes graded stakes winners Ball Four, Cowboy Cal, Magnum, Marchfield, Noble Court, and Slew's Tizzy. Well Armed figures to be on the pace in a field that drew quite a bit of early speed.
Trained by Eoin Harty, the 6-year-old Well Armed had a big year in 2008, earning $1,460,000. He won Santa Anita's San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) and Goodwood (gr. I) and Del Mar's San Diego Handicap (gr. II), finished a narrowly beaten second in the Pacific Classic (gr. I), and ran third in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I). But he was nowhere to be found in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, breaking slowly under regular rider Aaron Gryder and checking twice from the quarter-mile marker to the three-sixteenths pole before struggling home in ninth, nearly 10 lengths behind the victorious Albertus Maximus.
“The rest helped him, and he’s been working super,” Harty said of the bay Tiznow gelding. Talking about the trouble Well Armed experienced in his last start, the affable trainer conceded, “It was pretty bad.”
Well Armed, second by a length to Zappa in last year’s San Pasqual, has a 6-3-1 lifetime record from 20 starts with earnings of $1,530,803. Gryder, who has been aboard Well Armed for his previous nine U.S. starts, has the mount once again, and they'll break from post 7.
Harty also starts Past the Point for owner Darley Stable. The 5-year-old son of Indian Charlie ran second to Curlin in the Saratoga's Woodward (gr. I) last summer and is coming off a runner-up showing in the Native Diver Handicap (gr. III) on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track Dec. 6.
Magnolia Racing Stable's Cowboy Cal has done his best running on the turf, but his previous try on a synthetic track in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland in April was a good one. The Todd Pletcher trainee nearly pulled off an 8-1 upset, leading all the way before losing by a neck to Monba in a game effort.
Following a ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), the 4-year-old son of Giant's Causeway won the Bryan Station (gr. IIIT) on disqualification at Keeneland Oct. 12. In his last start, the dark bay colt turned in another huge effort with a runner-up finish to Court Vision in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT). Cowboy Cal has four wins and three seconds in nine starts and earnings of $507,708.
Pletcher also conditions the speedy Ball Four, who ran third in the Native Diver following a front-running victory in Keeneland's Fayette Stakes (gr. III) Oct. 25. Now 8, the hard-knocking Grand Slam gelding won the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) in 2006 and has six victories with earnings of $621,520 in his career.
The San Pasqual also attracted the Native Diver winner, Slew's Tizzy. Doug O'Neill trains the Joseph LaCombe Stables' homebred. The 4-year-old son of Tiznow ran 11th in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at odds of 42-1.
Another 8-year-old, the Argentina-bred Magnum, makes his first start in more than five months.
“He had a quarter crack,” said trainer Darrell Vienna. “This is a logical starting point back for him, because he’s a horse without any conditions, and he’s got some age on him. He’s been a useful horse and he’s paid his way.”
Second to Lava Man in the 2006 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), Magnum has a 5-3-2 record from 24 starts, with earnings of $681,249 for owners William and Donna Herrick.
Marchfield invades from Woodbine for trainer Mark Casse. The Eugene Melnyk homebred son of A.P. Indy delivered a a half-length win in the Autumn Stakes (gr. II) in his last start Nov. 9. Champion Canadian rider Patrick Husbands has the call.
Noble Court, winner of the 2007 San Vicente (gr. II) at Santa Anita, stretches out for trainer John Sadler following a third-place finish as the choice in the six-furlong Vernon O. Underwood (gr. III) Nov. 22.
$150,000 San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Mostacolli Mort (KY), 114, Garrett K. Gomez
2. Marchfield (ON), 118, Patrick Husbands
3. Informed (KY), 113, Michael C. Baze
4. Cowboy Cal (KY), 117, John R. Velazquez
5. Noble Court (KY), 114, Mike E. Smith
6. Past the Point (KY), 116, Rafael Bejarano
7. Well Armed (KY), 121, Aaron T. Gryder
8. Magnum (ARG), 113, Martin A. Pedroza
9. Blue Exit (KY), 113, David R. Flores
10. Ball Four (KY), 118, Christopher P. DeCarlo
11. Racketeer (KY), 113, Chantal Sutherland
12. Slew's Tizzy (KY), 116, Joel Rosario