Mike Pegram’s Preachinatthebar, whose most notable career accomplishment came in winning Santa Anita’s San Rafael Stakes (gr. II) three years ago, is expected to be a slight favorite to match that achievement in Sunday’s $250,000 San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) for older horses at Santa Anita.
First post for the Super Bowl Sunday racing card is 11 a.m. with the last of nine races scheduled to be run at 3 p.m.
A 6-year-old gray son of Silver Charm trained by Bob Baffert, Preachinatthebar will face eight opponents in the 1 1/8-mile San Antonio, an important stepping-stone toward the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino (gr. I) on March 3.
“I’m expecting his best performance ever,” said jockey Jon Court, who was aboard for victories in the Santa Anita’s Tokyo City Handicap and Lone Star Park’s Texas Mile, both grade III stakes, earlier this year. Court believes that Preachinatthebar was in need of his last effort, a third in the San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II) on Jan. 6 in which the horse did not display his usual speed. That effort followed a three-month layoff and Court feels Preachin' should be sharper this time around.
With earnings of $814,907 from a 9-1-4 record in 20 starts, Preachinatthebar is the most accomplished runner in this year’s San Antonio. His most memorable win came when he nosed out St Averill, the eventual Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) favorite, in the 2004 San Rafael. He has been assigned second high-weight of 116 pounds for the San Antonio.
Ball Four, who has campaigned primarily in the East, will carry the high impost of 117 pounds in search of his first West Coast victory after failing to hit the board in two previous efforts. He finished fifth as the 8-5 choice in Hollywood Park’s Native Diver Handicap (gr. III) in his last start on Dec. 10. Julien Leparoux returns to California to ride the Grand Slamgelding.
Trained by Patrick Biancone for Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor, Ball Four’s best career performance came on Sept. 30 when he scored a wire-to-wire victory at 12-1 odds in Turfway Park’s Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II), defeating Perfect Drift by one-half length. The 6-year-old has posted earnings of $465,920 from a 5-2-3 record in 18 starts.
Southern Africa, a strong closing second by a half-length to Saint Stephen in the Native Diver with Court aboard, gets jockey Aaron Gryder this time.
The entrant with the most impressive travel dossier is California newcomer Billy Allen, a 6-year-old Irish-bred who will make his first start for trainer Darrell Vienna and owner Gary A. Tanaka. Billy Allen has raced in Great Britain, Serbia, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates as well as in Kentucky, New Jersey, Illinois and New York.
$250,000 San Antonio Handicap (gr. II, Race 8, 2:30 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Backus (KY), 113, Garrett K. Gomez
2. Preachinatthebar (KY), 116, Jon K. Court
3. Porfido (CHI), 114, Alex O. Solis
4. Ball Four (KY), 117, Julien R. Leparoux
5. El Roblar (KY), 114, Richard Migliore
6. Molengao (BRZ), 114, Victor Espinoza
7. Fairbanks (KY), 113, David R. Flores
8. Southern Africa (KY), 113, Aaron T. Gryder
9. Billy Allen (IRE), 111, Michael C. Baze