A change in the weather proved fortuitous for trainer Paco Gonzalez and Buckland Manor.
A son of turf specialist Bien Bien, Buckland Manor was entered in the Sir Beaufort Stakes scheduled for one mile on turf on Dec. 26. When inclement weather forced the race to be moved to the main track, Gonzalez opted to let Buckland Manor run anyway and the chestnut colt responded with a two-length victory.
Which brings the Kentucky-bred owned by John Toffan and Trudy McCaffery to Saturday's $300,000 Strub Stakes (gr. II) at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Exclusively for 4-year-olds, the Strub should prove to be the sternest test in Buckland Manor's nine-race career. But Gonzalez is optimistic.
"He's doing very good," Gonzalez said. "You can excuse his first start (sixth by 16 lengths) because he was still learning, and in the San Felipe (10th by 21 ½ lengths), he had a bad throat. He had a problem on the first turn and when they checked him, he couldn't breathe. They did surgery on his throat after that race. We were lucky it rained the day of the Sir Beaufort, because that's how we found out he could run well on the dirt. But he had run well before on dirt. He broke his maiden on dirt.
"I hope the extra distance (from one mile to 1 1/8 miles) isn't going to be a problem for him. He's bred to go long and he's learned to relax. In his last race he let the other horse (Saint Buddy) go by and even put a head in front but came back on the inside and opened up on him."
Buckland Manor, part of what could be the most contentious Strub field in its 57-year history, has a 4-1-1 record from eight starts with earnings of $154,320.Midas Eyes is the likely favorite in the Strub, but the son of 1997 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Touch Gold will not be a prohibitive choice. Besides Buckland Manor, other solid contenders include 2003 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Buddy Gil, San Fernando Breeders' Cup (gr. II) winner During, and San Fernando runner-up and Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) winner Toccet. Toccet was assigned top weight of 123 pounds.Midas Eyes was third by one length in the first leg of the prestigious Strub Series, the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) at seven furlongs on Dec. 26. Midas Eyes is trained by Bobby Frankel, who won the Strub last year with Medaglia d' Oro. Long-time Frankel client Edmund Gann owns both horses.Frankel, a record five-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation's top trainer, also won the 2002 Strub with Juddmonte Farms' Mizzen Mast.The highest-priced Strub favorite was Editor's Note, who went off at odds of $2.80-1 and finished last in the 1997 running.Hosco Heads San Vicente Cast
Saturday's supporting feature is the $150,000 San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs. Heading the race is the undefeated high weight Hosco, trained by Doug O'Neill, who set a record with 22 wins at last year's Oak Tree meeting.Hosco has led throughout in each of his three victories, including the San Miguel Stakes (gr. III) at six furlongs in his last race on Jan. 11.$300,000 Strub Stakes (gr. II, Race 9, 4:11 p.m. PST), 4-year-olds, 1 1/8 mile
PP. Horse, Jockey, Wgt.
1.Saint Buddy, Tyler Baze, 117
2. Toccet, Robby Albarado, 123
3. Mud Shark, Javier Santiago, 117
4. Buddy Gil, Gary Stevens, 119
5. Formal Attire, Mike Smith, 117
6. Buckland Manor, Corey Nakatani, 117
7. Domestic Dispute, Kent Desormeaux, 117
8. Anziyan Royalty, Jose Valdivia Jr., 117
9. Eye of the Tiger, Victor Espinoza, 117
10. Midas Eyes, Alex Solis, 119
11. During, David Flores, 121$150,000 San Vicente Stakes (gr. II, race 3, 1:02 p.m. PST), 3-year-olds, 7 furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Wgt.
1. Imperialism, Victor Espinoza, 116
2. Number Juan, Gary Stevens, 116
3. Teton Forest, David Flores, 116
4. Wimplestiltskin, Jose Valdivia Jr., 116
5. Consecrate, Kent Desormeaux, 116
6. Hosco, Tyler Baze, 120