Trainer Vladimir Cerin is hoping his trainee Publication will indicate to him just how good he is when the 4-year-old son of Petionville tackles 10 other runners in Sunday's grade II San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
With that fact aside, Cerin said, "The idea is to win it. We're not practicing. This is for real." A win, however, would validate the talent the gelding has shown this year.
Though Publication has not been a route of ground since being sent to Cerin's barn by owner Ernest Moody's Mercedes Stable, the horse ran the San Diego distance three times as a 2-year-old. In his most recent outing, Publication was a fast-closing second to Joey Franco in Hollywood Park's seven-furlong grade I Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Invitational July 5.
So does Cerin expect the added distance to benefit Publication? "You never know," the trainer said. "Sometimes late-running sprinters don't stretch out around two turns; sometimes they do." Having mentioned late-running sprinters, Cerin was quick to say he doesn't necessarily consider him one. "I just consider him a very good horse. What he is, he'll tell us as time goes on.
"He's a very young horse and he hasn't had a whole lot of chances. He's performed exceptionally well this year." Could the Pacific Classic be in his future? "We're looking for the San Diego Handicap and our best performance," Cerin said.
It might take a career performance to handle the San Diego field, which has several horses that routinely run -- and win -- at distances of 1 1/16 miles and beyond. Fitting that description are Reba's Gold, Gondolieri, Western Pride, Kela, Danthebluegrassman and Daunting.
Western Pride, Reba's Gold and Danthebluegrassman have graded stakes wins on their resumes. The Chilean-bred Gondolieri won a couple of group races in his native land.
The field, in post order:
Reba's Gold, 116, David Flores
Primerica, 112, Gary Stevens
Gondolieri, 117, Frank Alvarado
Bayou the Moon, 115, Alex Solis
Joey Franco, 117, Patrick Valenzuela
Legendary Weave, 111, Martin Pedroza
Western Pride, 118, Jose Valdivia Jr.
Daunting, 111, Julie Krone
Danthebluegrassman, 115, Mike Smith
Publication, 114, Kent Desormeaux
Taste of Paradise, 111, Victor Espinoza.