Grade I winner Great Hunter and Etisalat Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) winner Spring at Last are working well for trainer Doug O’Neill and may race before the end of the year. Both are returning from surgery to remove ankle chips.
"The Malibu would be an obvious major target for Great Hunter," O’Neill said Nov. 14 from his Hollywood Park barn. "We’ll probably be looking for something for both of them in mid-December, though Great Hunter could debut in the Malibu."
The seven-furlong Malibu Stakes (gr. I), the first leg of Santa Anita’s Strub Series, is slated for Dec. 26, opening day of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. O’Neill indicated that Great Hunter could be pointed toward the entire series. Three-year-olds have the opportunity to stay within their own age group in the Malibu, followed by the Jan. 12 San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) and the Feb. 2 Strub Stakes (gr. II).
A 3-year-old son of Aptitude—Zenith ( by Roy), Great Hunter won the 2006 Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland and the 2007 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita en route to the Triple Crown. He finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and was headed for the June 9 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) when O’Neill discovered a chip in the colt’s right front ankle.
J. Paul Reddam owns Great Hunter and is partners with WinStar Farm in Spring at Last, a 4-year-old son of Silver Deputy—Winter’s Gone (by Dynaformer). Spring at Last finished second in the 2006 Malibu and 2007 Strub Stakes before winning the Godolphin Mile. O’Neill had hoped to run him in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) before the injury sidelined him last May.
O’Neill said that while he doesn’t have a specific comeback race in mind for Spring at Last, "we’d love to go to Dubai again with him."