Trained by Dan Hendricks, Daytona has captured six of his past seven starts dating back to last fall's Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT) and owns a pair of grade I wins on the Hollywood lawn. He'll carry top weight of 123 pounds in the 1 1/8-mile turf test against a field that includes Hyperbaric and Becrux, a grade I winner returning from an absence of more than seven months.
A 4-year-old Indian Ridge gelding, Daytona is coming off back-to-back wins in the Arcadia Handicap (gr. II) and the Shoemaker, both at eight furlongs. But his rivals can't take much comfort in the American's extra furlong since the chestnut has won three of four at the 1 1/8-mile distance. About the only thing that might slow him down is a soft course, an extremely unlikely occurrence in parched Southern California these days. Daytona's only loss in his current streak came on yielding ground at Fair Grounds when he finished third, one length behind Proudinsky, in the Munoz Handicap (gr. IIT).
Daytona didn't get off to a great start for regular rider Alex Solis in the Shoemaker but sat off the leading Ever a Friend on the outside before rallying in deep stretch to win going away by 1 1/2 lengths.
Owned by Skyline Stables, Bienstock and Winner Stables, Lenner, et al, Daytona has won eight of 15 lifetime starts while earning $967,690. He'll break from post 7 with Solis aboard.
His main rival appears to be Prestonwood Racing's Hyperbaric, the lightly raced 5-year-old gelding making his fourth start of the year for trainer Julio Canani after laying up for 14 months. Hyperbaric, a Kentucky-bred son of Sky Classic, was just a neck behind Daytona in a game effort across town in the April 5 Arcadia. In the Shoemaker, he kicked home well while just missing the runner-up spot, 1 3/4 lengths behind the top pick.
Hyperbaric raced at equal weights of 124 pounds in the Shoemaker but this time he'll carry 116 and gain the services of top national rider Garrett Gomez.
Becrux, owned by Team Valor International and Gary Barber and trained by Neil Drysdale, has not been seen since an eighth-place showing in Japan's Mile Championship (Jpn-I) at Kyoto last November. Fourth in the American Invitational last year, the Italian-bred won the Woodbine Mile (Can-I) in 2006 and has earnings of $1,002,447 while winning nine of 28 starts.
Also returning from a layoff since November is the multiple graded winner Worldly, trained by Ben Cecil for owner Christopher Wright. Worldly put together four wins in a row last season, including the La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) at Del Mar, which the Great Britain bred was awarded after the fact when Medici Code was disqualified for a medication violation.
Bobby Frankel enters a pair in Heroi Do Bafra and Storm Military. The Brazilian-bred Heroi Do Bafra won a third level allowance test at 1 1/16 miles over the Hollywood turf June 1. The Argentina product Storm Military was second by a nose in the May 26 Dallas Turf Championship (gr. IIIT) at Lone Star Park last time out.
Storm Military and Albertus Maximus, making his turf debut for trainer Gary Mandella, would appear the most likely candidates to try to soften up Daytona.
$250,000 American Invitational Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 5, 2 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Whatsthescript (IRE), 114, Isaias D. Enriquez
2. Storm Military (ARG), 115, Rafael Bejarano
3. Worldly (GB), 118, Victor Espinoza
4. Heroi Do Bafra (BRZ), 115, Aaron T. Gryder
5. Hyperbaric (KY), 116, Garrett K. Gomez
6. Becrux (ITY), 118, David Romero Flores
7. Daytona (IRE), 123, Alex O. Solis
8. Albertus Maximus (KY), 113, Corey S. Nakatani