Mitchell said On the Acorn, a 7-year-old English-bred gelding by Inchinor, needed a break after a grueling 12-month campaign.
“He got to where his feet were bothering him,” said the trainer. “He was getting body sore.”
After a third-place finish in last year's San Luis Obispo, his first stakes try for Mitchell, On the Acorn rattled off back-to-back victories in the about 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita last April and the 1 1/2-mile Jim Murray Memorial (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park three weeks later. He has not raced since.
On the Acorn, claimed at Hollywood in November 2006, races for the Indizguys Stable of brothers Jack and Doug Disney, former Angels’ manager Buck Rodgers, Hall of Fame baseball writer Ross Newhan, Fred Krueger and Paul Salata. After being claimed, the dark bay proceeded to earn $398,400 during the next five months for his new connections.
Victor Espinoza, who was aboard for both of the graded victories, has the return call. On the Acorn was assigned high weight of 117 pounds for the San Luis Obispo. He expects to face 10 well-matched rivals, including San Luis Obispo defending champion Obrigado and Italian group I victor Sudan, making his U.S. debut for owner Gary Tanaka and trainer Bobby Frankel.
Mitchell said that On the Acorn has trained well for his comeback race but admits he's not sure how the stayer will respond to such a marathon distance after the lengthy layoff.
“I’ve never tried this before,” he said. On the Acorn owns a career record of 7-3-3 in 28 starts for total earnings of $560,812.
Irish-bred Sudan, winner of the Gran Primero di Milano (Ity-I) last June, will make his first U.S. start for Frankel. Michael Baze rides the 5-year-old son of Peintre Celebre who was assigned 116 pounds.
Sudan has campaigned primarily in France. Recently purchased by Tanaka, Sudan has posted a 2-2-3 record in 12 starts for earnings of $361,323.
French-bred Obrigado has not won in seven starts since the 2007 San Luis Obispo, although he comes off a strong third behind the impressive Champs Elysees in Santa Anita's 10-furlong San Marcos (gr. IIT) Jan. 19 for trainer Neil Drysdale.
Rafael Bejarano, who was aboard the 5-year-old bay gelding for the first time in the San Marcos, rides once more. Gary Seidler and Peter Vegso's Obrigado shows career earnings of $516,424 from a 5-4-5 record in 22 races, including his first seven in France.
Spring House took the Carleton F. Burke (gr. IIIT) over 1 1/2 miles during last fall’s Oak Tree meet before finishing third behind Sunriver and Champs Elysees in the Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) on Dec. 8. Leading rider Garrett Gomez, who won the Burke for owner R. D. Hubbard and trainer Julio Canani, has the return assignment.
A 6-year-old son of Chester House, Spring House was wide much of the way at Hollywood, finishing five lengths behind the victorious Sunriver.
“He was five-wide on each turn,” Canani said of the Turf Cup, which was run on a “good” grass course. “He has a good tracking style and with better luck, we expect a strong performance.”
Rocket Legs, who ran second to Champs Elysees in the San Marcos, should be another factor in the contentious marathon. A 4-year-old son of Dynaformer owned and bred in Kentucky by Alex G. Campbell Jr., Rocket Legs made his stakes debut for trainer Todd Pletcher in the San Marcos. He broke his maiden going 12 furlongs.
$150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 7, 3:30 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Porfido (CHI), 114, David R. Flores
2. Sohgol (IRE), 109, Joseph Talamo
3. Sudan (IRE), 116, Michael C. Baze
4. Obrigado (FR), 115, Rafael Bejarano
5. Spring House (KY), 116, Garrett K. Gomez
6. Add Heat (CA), 112, Tyler Baze
7. Isipingo (KY), 115, Aaron T. Gryder
8. Rocket Legs (KY), 115, Mike E. Smith
9. Church Service (KY), 111, Martin Garcia
10. On the Acorn (GB), 117, Victor Espinoza
11. Niagara Causeway (KY), 112, Jon K. Court