The multiple grade II victor has not won a route race since taking the 1 1/16-mile LeRoy by 3 1/2 lengths as the 1-5 choice over four rivals in 2006. Surf Cat was sidelined for nearly 14 months following that victory.
After struggling to find the winner's circle since coming back last July, the 6-year-old Sir Cat horse put it all together in winning the seven-furlong San Carlos Handicap (gr. II)—his fourth lifetime grade II triumph—with a come-from-behind effort Feb. 16 to defeat Greg's Gold at Santa Anita. Most recently, Surf Cat was runner-up to Greg's Gold April 5 in the 6 1/2-furlong Potrero Grande Handicap (gr. II).
Surf Cat, owned by Headley's wife Aase and Marsha Naify, was assigned top weight of 120 pounds and will break from post 3 with regular rider Alex Solis aboard. The consistent dark bay Kentucky-bred has won three of five starts at Hollywood Park and owns an 8-6-1 record in 17 starts with earnings of $835,420.
The LeRoy, which carries a $150,000 purse, drew a field of 10 to Hollywood's Cushion Track.
Trainer Paulo Lobo, who has won the LeRoy twice with Brazilian-bred imports, goes for his third this year with Fly Dorcego. The Brazilian-born conditioner won the race in 2005 with Ace Blue and last year with Molengao.
Lobo expects the 6-year-old horse, a group II winner in Brazil and winner of an allowance race at one mile in his last start at Santa Anita March 29, to close from off the pace. Fly Dorcego drew the outside post and will be ridden by Victor Espinoza.
“He was close to the pace in his last start because the pace was slow,” noted Lobo. “In his only start here, he was too close to a fast pace" and faded to fifth last November.
Fly Dorcego is owned by a pair of Brazilians who race under the name Brincaggiore Stable.
Zappa, trained by John Sadler, has lost three races in a row since winning the 1 1/16-mile San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita last January. Zappa ran fourth as the 8-5 choice in his last start, the Tokyo City Handicap (gr. III) at 12 furlongs March 29.
Monzante comes off a three-length win in the one-mile Santana Mile Handicap March 8 for trainer Mike Mitchell.
Bobby Frankel enters Giant Gizmo, the Stronach Stables homebred by Giant's Causeway who has won two of his past three starts. The 4-year-old Giant Gizmo seeks his first graded win.
$150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (gr. II, Race 7, 4:20 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Global Hunter (ARG), 115, Omar A. Berrio
2. Zappa (KY), 115, Joel Rosario
3. Surf Cat (KY), 120, Alex O. Solis
4. Buzzards Bay (FL), 116, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
5. Giant Gizmo (KY), 114, Martin Garcia
6. Desert Code (KY), 116, Aaron T. Gryder
7. Monzante (KY), 115, Rafael Bejarano
8. Neko Bay (KY), 113, Mike E. Smith
9. Mr Napper Tandy (GB), 113, Richard Migliore
10. Fly Dorcego (BRZ), 115, Victor Espinoza