Eleven older horses passed the entry box for the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT), the premier grass event on the Fair Grounds calendar. Highweighted California shipper A to the Z, second to grade I winner Star Over the Bay in his last start in the Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita, and the red-hot G P Fleet lead a group of horses most familiar with each other postward with half-a-million dollars on the line.
Andrew and Paula Capestro's gelding A to the Z will carry 121 pounds and Victor Espinoza over the 1 1/8-mile contest, starting from post 10. Bred in Florida by Sentinel Thoroughbred Farms, the 5-year-old chestnut son of Benchmark will be making his 21st start, his last six coming on the turf where he seems to have found his best stride.
A to the Z was a half-length second to superstar Leroidesanimaux in last year's Citation Handicap (gr. IT) prior to his Sunshine Millions placing; his last workout came March 10 at Santa Anita, and it was a bullet (5f, F, 59.00, H, 1/14) for trainer Paula Capestro. Look to see how early he can settle into his preferred stalking position starting 10 spots out from the rail.
Joining A to the Z from the far outside post 11 will be Richard, Bertram, and Elaine Klein's G P Fleet, winner of five of his last seven starts, including a score last time out over the track in the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap.
Another 5-year-old chestnut gelding, the Florida-bred son of Northern Afleet
was produced out of the Spectacular Bid mare Come on Bid by breeder George Parrish. Claimed for the Kleins by trainer Bernie Flint early in his career, G P Fleet has hit the board 17 times in his 24 trips postward for earnings of $432,504.
G P Fleet will carry a second-high impost of 118 with regular rider Jose Martinez in the irons.
The always dangerous connections of Juddmonte Farms, Bobby Frankel, and Jerry Bailey combine forces with 6-year-old Burning Sun. Bred at their Lexington nursery, Juddmonte's son of Danzig will be making his second start off an eight-month lay-off and was third by just a length last time out in Gulfstream's Mac Diarmida Handicap (gr. IIIT).
A group II stakes winner in Europe prior to his importation to Frankel's West Coast barn early last year, Burning Sun should use post four to gain his preferred stalking position with the skills of Hall of Famer Bailey. Burning Sun will get six pounds from A to the Z, carrying 115.
Fair Ground regulars Honor in War (by Lord At War), Rapid Proof (by Fast Play), America Alive (by American Chance), and Chilean-bred Sienne make for an interesting and competitive affair.Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT), 4-year-olds and upward, about 1-1/8 miles, $500,000, 4:25 PM CST.
PP -- Horse, weight, jockey
1--Candid Glen, 115, Elvis Perrodin
2--Social King, 114, Tracy Herbert
3--Rapid Proof, 115, Brian Hernandez
4--Burning Sun, 115, Jerry Bailey
5--Demeteor, 113, Lonnie Meche
6--Seinne, 115, Gerard Melancon
7--America Alive, 116, Robby Albarado
8--Doctorate, 117, Larry Melancon
9--Honor in War, 117, James Graham
10--A to the Z, 121, Victor Espinoza
11--G P Fleet, 118, Jose Martinez