Bea Oxenberg's 8-year-old Best of the Rest is expected to make the final start of his standout career in Saturday's $100,000 Fred W. Hooper Handicap (gr. III) at Calder, but faces one his biggest challenges as he concedes plenty of weight to several highly accomplished rivals.
Jockey Eibar Coa will be back aboard the gray or roan son of Skip Trial, who carries topweight of 122 pounds in the 1 1/8 miles test, that drew a field of nine, including defending champion Sez Who Thoroughbreds' 4-year-old The Judge Sez Who.
Trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr. has carefully guided Best of the Rest's career of 31 races with 16 victories and earnings of nearly $1.4 million. The Florida homebred appears to be as good as ever after winning the Carl Rose Classic on Florida Million day for the second year in a row.
The Judge Sez Who won the Fred Hooper last year with Best of the Rest second. Trained by Milt Wolfson, The Judge Sez Who was in receipt of five pounds that day and gets seven in Saturday's renewal with jockey Cornelio Velasquez.
The Judge Sez Who is a homebred son of Judge T C with earnings of over $750,000, earned mostly while on the road as a 3-year-old last year, competing in Derbies in five states. He finished a good third last out behind Best of the Rest in the Carl Rose in his first start since April.
Another dangerous contender in Saturday's race is Patricia Pavlish's Aeneas with his usual partner Gary Boulanger. Trained by Marty Wolfson, the 4-year-old homebred by Capote is based at Calder but has been on the road with considerable success in major handicap races in the Midwest and East through the summer and fall.
Aeneas last raced in Florida when second in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) in late March. He has started in five major stakes since, bringing back a substantial check in the last four, including the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) and Clark Handicap (gr. II) in his last two starts.
Completing the field are Predawn Raid, Dancing Guy, Demeteor, Regal Sanction, Deeliteful Guy and Dusty's Birthday.