Student Council, who defeated the feisty Awesome Gem by a half-length over Del Mar's Polytrack in the Pacific Classic, was assigned high weight of 119 pounds in a field of nine. The 1 1/8-mile San Antonio, which also features four of the top five finishers from the recent San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II), shapes up as a highly competitive affair.
Millennium Farm's Student Council won four of nine starts and more than $1 million in 2007, a big chunk of that coming with his victories in the Aug. 19 Pacific Classic and the $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) six weeks later. Trained by Vladimir Cerin, the 6-year-old Kingmambo horse closed out the year by splitting a 16-horse field in the Japan Dirt Cup (Jpn-I) at Tokyo Nov. 24.
Richard Migliore, astride for Student Council's last three races, has the mount once again. The bay, a winner of seven of 23 lifetime starts, will break from the far outside post.
Awesome Gem, owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and partners, was last seen finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I), more than nine lengths behind the victorious Curlin over a sloppy Monmouth Park main track Oct. 27.
The 5-year-old Awesome Again gelding won just two of nine starts in 2007 for trainer Craig Dollase. But he earned more than $1 million thanks to his Breeders' Cup effort and runner-up finishes in the Goodwood (gr. I), Pacific Classic, and San Diego Handicap (gr. II) -- all on synthetic surfaces. Awesome Gem won the San Fernando Breeders' Cup (gr. II) in 2007 and owns a 4-7-1 mark in 15 lifetime starts.
Dollase wasn’t sure if he would run in the San Antonio. Awesome Gem was also entered in the Thunder Road Handicap Feb. 2 at one mile on turf.
The chestnut was assigned 118 pounds for the San Antonio and is teamed again with David Flores while breaking from the rail.
Sweetnorthernsaint, runner-up in the 2006 Preakness (gr. I), makes his first Southern California appearance for trainer Michael Trombetta. The 5-year-old gelding returned from a seven-month layoff to run sixth as the 6-5 favorite in Turfway Park's Holiday Cheer Stakes on Polytrack Dec. 29. The former Illinois Derby (gr. II) winner has won six of 16 lifetime starts and earned $860,675. The San Antonio winner’s share of $150,000 would elevate Sweetnorthernsaint to millionaire status.
Zappa gets the acid test after the John Sadler trainee produced a game one-length victory at odds of 13-1 in the 1 1/16-mile San Pasqual. That was the first stakes win for Gary and Cecil Barber's 6-year-old Afternoon Deelites gelding. Zappa was claimed for $32,000 at Bay Meadows last April.
A winner of 11 of 27 lifetime starts, Zappa overcame the front-running favorite Well Armed to win the San Pasqual handily. Joel Rosario, who delivered a smart tracking ride in the San Pasqual, guides the bay once again.
Well Armed, a gelded son of Tiznow , pulled early in the San Pasqual and that may have cost the 5-2 choice later after he opened a three-length lead down the backstretch. Eoin Harty trains the WinStar Farm homebred who was making his U.S. stakes debut.
Also coming out of the San Pasqual are William de Burgh's Heatseeker, who finished a close third for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, and Stronach Stables' Racketeer, who lacked much closing kick and ran a lackluster fifth for Bobby Frankel. The Irish-bred Heatseeker won the Native Diver (gr. III) at Hollywood Park in December.
Frankel also saddles the Irish-bred Rathor for Flaxman Holdings. The 6-year-old Rathor, third on the Santa Anita turf in his comeback heat Jan. 18, won an allowance race over Keeneland's Polytrack in April.
Big Booster, who ran third in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) last year, returns to action for trainer MIke Mitchell after a four-month break. The 7-year-old gelding finished third in the Goodwood in his most recent start.
$250,000 San Antonio Handicap (gr. II, Race 8, 2:37 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Awesome Gem (KY), 118, David R. Flores
2. Racketeer (KY), 113, Mike E. Smith
3. Big Booster (KY), 117, Michael C. Baze
4. Zappa (KY), 115, Joel Rosario
5. Rathor (IRE), 114, Garrett K. Gomez
6. Heatseeker (IRE), 116, Rafael Bejarano
7. Well Armed (KY), 114, Aaron T. Gryder
8. Sweetnorthernsaint (FL), 118, Tyler Baze
9. Student Council (KY), 119, Richard Migliore