Well-travelled The Pizza Man will make his way back to the West Coast for the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IIT) Nov. 26 at Del Mar.
Although a lung infection derailed a planned trip overseas to run in the Nov. 29 Japan Cup (Jpn-I), Midwest Thoroughbreds' homebred son of English Channel should be a significant favorite in the 1 1/2 mile Hollywood Turf Cup, a race he finished third in last year, behind winner Finnegans Wake and Patrioticandproud.
MITCHELL: The Pizza Man Will Miss Japan Cup
Since last year's Hollywood Turf Cup, however, the 6-year-old gelding has really hit his stride, most notably becoming the first Illinois-bred to win the Arlington Million (gr. IT) in August. He also won the Stars and Stripes (gr. IIIT) for the second year in a row, finished just a neck behind Grand Arch in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) , and came in fifth in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT).
What The Pizza Man won't have Thanksgiving Day, though, is regular rider Florent Geroux, who is scheduled to ride six races at Fairgrounds Race Course & Slots Thursday. Geroux has been aboard for the gelding's last 10 starts, but Hall of Famer Mike Smith will take over for the Hollywood Turf Cup.
The Pizza Man's most formidable opponent for the Hollywood Turf Cup appears to be Michael House's Big John B, who entered the Breeders' Cup Turf on a three-race win streak—including scores in the Cougar II Handicap (gr. III) and the Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT), both at the seaside racetrack over the summer—but broke slowly at Keeneland and never got involved, finishing 10th.
ANGST: Big John B Repeats in Del Mar Handicap
A Florida-bred son of Hard Spun trained by Phil D'Amato, Big John B has a four-for-four record at Del Mar and is three-for-three over the track's turf course.
The only other multiple graded stakes winner in the field is Sam-Son Farm's homebred Up With the Birds, Canada's 2013 Horse of the Year. The 5-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic trained by Graham Motion hasn't won in eight starts since a victory in last year's Nijinsky Stakes (Can-IIT), but could be primed for a winning run after finishing a solid second to Cannock Chase in the Pattison Canadian International (Can-IT) last time out Oct. 18 at Woodbine.
Del Mar, Thursday, November 26, 2015, Race 7
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Class Leader (KY) Santiago Gonzalez 120 John W. Sadler 20/1 2 2Up With the Birds (ON) Drayden Van Dyke 124 H. Graham Motion 4/1 3 3Danas Best (AUS) Victor Espinoza 120 Philip D'Amato 20/1 4 4Quick Casablanca (CHI) Tyler Baze 122 Ronald L. McAnally 30/1 5 5Procurement (FL) Corey S. Nakatani 120 Thomas F. Proctor 20/1 6 6The Pizza Man (IL) Mike E. Smith 126 Roger A. Brueggemann 5/2 7 7Ganesh (BRZ) Alex O. Solis 126 Richard E. Mandella 8/1 8 8Power Ped (KY) Mario Gutierrez 120 Neil D. Drysdale 20/1 9 9Texas Ryano (KY) James Graham 120 Carla Gaines 10/1 10 10Generoso (URU) Martin A. Pedroza 124 Paulo H. Lobo 30/1 11 11Southern Freedom (KY) Martin Garcia 120 Jerry Hollendorfer 20/1 12 12Power Foot (KY) Tiago Josue Pereira 120 Neil D. Drysdale 20/1 13 13Wanstead Gardens (ON) Gary L. Stevens 120 Neil French 20/1 14 14Big John B (FL) Rafael Bejarano 124 Philip D'Amato 3/1 15 15Flamboyant (FR) Brice Blanc 120 Patrick Gallagher 20/1 16 16Bird E House (KY) Kent J. Desormeaux 120 Michael Pender 30/1