The San Francisco Mile, Northern California's only grade II race, headlines a 10-race program. The turf contest for 3-year-olds and up is also the region's richest race. Six horses are entered in this year's edition with Becrux a 9-5 selection on the morning line. Defending champion Charmo is the second choice at 2-to-1.
Neil Drysdale trains Becrux, and the 5-year-old gelding will be ridden by Russell Baze. Bred in Italy, Becrux has won seven of his 16 races on turf and earned $806,336 on grass.
Becrux scored his biggest victory in the Woodbine Mile last September when he surged to the lead in the stretch and then gamely fought off Rebel Rebel to prevail by a neck in 1:33.99.
The SF Mile will mark the first start of the year for Becrux, who hasn't raced since running seventh in the Citation Handicap (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park on Nov. 24.
Charmo charged from seventh in a field of eight to win last year's running by a length over Aragorn in 1:34.28, the second-fastest running of the feature since it was moved to the turf in 1979.
Julio Canani, who leads all trainers in SF Mile victories with five, trains Charmo. A 6-year-old horse owned by television producer David S. Milch, Charmo has earned $406,927 in 25 career starts. Canani said in a conference call Thursday that "Charmo is training great and ready to run a very big race."
Chinese Dragon will be making his first start in more than a year. Trained by Bob Hess, Jr., Chinese Dragon has been idle since running second in the Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita on April 8, 2006. A 5-year-old horse who has six victories in 11 starts, Chinese Dragon won his only try on the Golden Gate turf when he captured the one-mile Alcatraz Breeders' Cup in 2005.
Sound Breeze was undefeated in four starts in Great Britain in 2005, didn't race in 2006, and finished a game second in his U.S. debut on March 31 at Santa Anita. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Sound Breeze was beaten a nose by Stormin Away in a nine-furlong allowance race on the Santa Anita turf. Sound Breeze is unbeaten in three one-mile grass races.
Vega's Lord won two stakes in Germany last year but ran last when he made his U.S. debut in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) last November. Vega's Lord will also be making his first start of the year Saturday.
$300,000 San Francisco Mile (gr. IIT, Race 9, 5:08 p.m.), 3 & Up, (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, ML Odds
1. Vega's Lord (GER), Chad Phillip Schvaneveldt, 12/1
2. Becrux (ITY), Russell A. Baze, 9/5
3. Sound Breeze (GB), Joel Rosario, 4/1
4. The Fourteenth (KY), Francisco Duran, 20/1
5. Charmo (FR), Martin A. Pedroza, 2/1
6. Chinese Dragon (KY), Mike E. Smith, 7/2
Each assigned 123 pounds.