(from Lone Star Park report)
Maryland-based 4-year-old gelding Sweetnorthernsaint, runner-up to Bernardini in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) last year, was made the 9-5 morning line favorite for Monday's $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III) after landing the outside stall in a compact field of five older horses.
The 1 1/16-mile Lone Star Park Handicap anchors six consecutive stakes events that comprise the Grand Prairie track's ninth annual Lone Star Million. The special 11-race Memorial Day program, featuring prize money totaling $1,172,500, begins at 1:35 p.m. CT.
Sweetnorthernsaint, scheduled to arrive in Texas on Sunday aboard an H.E. "Tex" Sutton Forwarding Co. charter flight, will be challenged by the Texas Mile (gr. III) one-two finishers Silent Pleasure and Bob and John; Essex Handicap (gr. III) champ Jonesboro, who'll be ridden by Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel; and Real Dandy, the only locally-based starter from the barn of Lone Star Park's all-time leading trainer Steve Asmussen.
Trained by Michael Trombetta and to be ridden by Mario Pino, Sweetnorthernsaint enters the Lone Star Park Handicap off a second-place finish to the Todd Pletcher-trained Master Command in the National Jockey Cub Handicap (gr. III) at Hawthorne on April 21.
"It was nice to know that Master Command wasn't going to be here," Trombetta said. "I think we have a couple of good challengers in Monday's race with the three of us weighted at 120. It ought to be an exciting time for all of us."
Despite Silent Pleasure's determined neck victory over Bob and John in the Texas Mile on April 28, the runner-up is the 2-1 second choice. Silent Pleasure, who'll attempt to join Dixie Dot Com (2001) as a Texas Mile-Lone Star Park Handicap champ, is the early 3-1 third betting choice.
Trombetta said that, unlike last time in the National Jockey Club Handicap, Sweetnorthernsaint would likely sit just behind the early pacesetters on Monday.
"We had no choice at Hawthorne with the short field where we broke out of the one-hole," Trombetta said. "We kind of had to hustle things along there. In a perfect world, our horse likes to stalk a horse or two and run that way. But he's versatile enough that if there's a slow pace he'll press that along as well."
The Randy Morse-trained Jonesboro finished fourth in the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) last time out.
Together, the cast has won 28 of 94 starts and $3.2 million (an average of more than $640,000 per horse).
$400,000 Lones Star Park Handicap (gr. III, Race 10, 5:47 p.m.), 3 & Up 1 1/16 Miles
1. Jonesboro (KY), Calvin H. Borel, 117, 9/2
2. Real Dandy (KY), Luis S. Quinonez, 114, 10/1
3. Bob and John (KY), Garrett K. Gomez, 120, 2/1
4. Silent Pleasure (KY), 120, 3/1
5. Sweetnorthernsaint (FL), Mario G. Pino, 120, 9/5
LADY OF VENICE HEADS OUIJA BOARD HANDICAP
Bob and John's pilot Garrett Gomez, who led all jockeys in money-won last year with more than $20.1 million, also has the mount aboard the much-heralded 4-year-old filly Lady of Venice for trainer Patrick Biancone in the $200,000 Ouija Board Handicap (gr. IIIT), formerly known as the WinStar Distaff.
She was made the even-money favorite in a field of eight fillies and mares that also includes stakes winners Brownie Points and Rich Fantasy. A winner of the Regret (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs last summer, Lady of Venice is using Monday's one-mile turf race as a steppingstone to the CashCall Mile Invitational Stakes (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park on July 6.
$200,000 Ouija Board Distaff Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 9, 5:19 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
1. Sweet Idea (TX), M. Clifton Berry, 114, 20/1
2. Brownie Points (KY), Luis S. Quinonez, 118, 3/1
3. Prospectors Spirit (KY), Bryan McNeil, 112, 30/1
4. My Three Sisters (KY), Shaun Bridgmohan, 115, 12/1
5. Barbette (KY), Quincy Hamilton, 110, 30/1
6. Rich Fantasy (IL), Calvin H. Borel, 117, 4/1
7. D Fine Okie (OK), Donald R. Pettinger, 114, 12/1
8. Lady of Venice (FR), Garrett K. Gomez, 118, 1/1
KENTUCKY INVADERS EMBOSSED, CRESTED HEAD DALLAS TURF CUP
Kentucky invaders Embossed and Crested lead the field for the $200,000 Dallas Turf Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT). Embossed, trained by Niall O'Callaghan, won the Kentucky Cup Turf (gr. IIIT) last fall and was most recently fourth in Santa Anita's San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT). Meanwhile, the Wally Dollase-trained Crested finished a close fourth in the Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita on April 7 and followed that effort with an impressive allowance win at Churchill Downs three weeks later.
Waupaca, a four-time winner over the Lone Star Park turf course but winless at the 1 1/8-mile distance, will contest the Dallas Turf Cup for the fourth straight year. Chicago-based grade III winner Major Rhythm is back for another try after finishing third in the 2005 renewal behind Sea Dub. Last year's champ, Trial by Jury from the Bruce Jackson barn, also returns to defend his Dallas Turf Cup title.
It appears almost certain that the turf course will be labeled something other than "firm" due to a recent deluge of rain. About two inches of rain has fallen in Grand Prairie, Texas, since Monday and the only day it hasn't rained was Wednesday. All told more than 6.6 inches of rain has fallen this month, up 57% from the average of 4.2 inches. As a result, there hasn't been a turf race at Lone Star Park since May 20, and 57 scheduled turf races were transferred to the main track though the first 27 days of the 67-day meet.
$200,000 Dallas Turf Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 7, 4:23 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. Major Rhythm (KY), Earlie Fires, 116, 5/1
2. Brego (CA), Eguard Tejera, 113, 20/1
3. More Than Regal (KY), Luis S. Quinonez, 114, 10/1
4. Waupaca (KY), Quincy Hamilton, 116, 9/2
5. Embossed (IRE), Garrett K. Gomez, 117, 8/5
6. Crested (GB), Shaun Bridgmohan, 115, 2/1
7. Trial by Jury (KY), Richard E. Eramia, 114, 20/1