Circular Quay Returns in San Carlos

Circular Quay Returns in San Carlos
Photo: Alexander Barkoff
2007 Louisiana Derby Winner Circular Quay makes his 4-year old debut in the San Carlos Handicap.
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Grade I winner Circular Quay, a contender on the Triple Crown trail last year for trainer Todd Pletcher, kicks off his 4-year-old campaign Feb. 16 in the $150,000 San Carlos Handicap (gr. II) at seven furlongs on the Santa Anita main track.

Michael and Doreen Tabor's  4-year-old Thunder Gulch   colt didn't land the softest of spots for his first start since last July. Included in the seven-horse field are the grade I winners Greg's Gold and Johnny Eves.

After winning the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) last March, Circular Quay was brought to the Kentucky Derby - Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) nearly two months later on works alone. The chestnut colt was far back early but finished well to be sixth, 9 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Street Sense. Circular Quay returned to run fifth in the Preakness (gr. I) before his final start of 2007, a sixth-place effort in the $1-million Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) at Colonial Downs in his turf debut July 21.

Though this would appear to be a tune-up for longer races down the road, Circular Quay has had success at seven furlongs, winning Saratoga's Hopeful (gr. I) by 4 1/4 lengths as a 2-year-old in September 2006. The colt ran second in his only prior start on a synthetic surface, the 1 1/16-mile Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) over Keeneland's Polytrack a month after the Hopeful.

Mike Smith will ride Circular Quay, who carries 117 pounds, for the first time.

“He’s a pretty straightforward horse, and Todd will give me all the insight, if there’s any to give,” said Smith. “Circular Quay is a classy individual. You point him in the right direction and he seems to go. I’m excited about riding him.”

The consistent 7-year-old gray gelding Greg's Gold is the 119-pound high weight for trainer David Hofmans and owner William Boswell. The son of Lake George rarely throws in a bad one, but the one time he did so recently was in the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) when he was never a factor and struggled home eighth by 16 1/2 lengths in the slop at Monmouth Park.

Jockey Victor Espinoza was quick to dismiss that effort.

“He hates a wet track,” said Espinoza, who was aboard the 7-year-old gelding in his last six races, including a victory in the On Trust Handicap at Hollywood Park Dec. 22. “He doesn’t like a wet track even if he’s walking on it to gallop or work out, so you can just draw a line through that race at Monmouth.”

Greg’s Gold has an 8-9-2 record from 23 starts. He would attain millionaire status with a San Carlos victory. His earnings stands at $917,923 and the San Carlos winner is guaranteed $90,000. Greg’s Gold worked five furlongs at Santa Anita Feb. 11 in :59 4/5.

Johnny Eves could be the hottest sprinter on the grounds of late off  his smashing victory in the seven-furlong Malibu Stakes (gr. I) on opening day of the Santa Anita meet. The Jay Robbins trained son of Skimming came right back in a route race, the 1 1/16-mile San Fernando (gr. II), to lose by just a nose for owners Mooncoin Jan. 12.

With regular rider David Flores to ride Idiot Proof for trainer Cliff Sise Jr. in the Phoenix Gold Cup at Turf Paradise, Robbins has engaged Rafael Bejarano to ride Johnny Eves.

“There shouldn’t be any adjustment necessary,” Robbins said. “The horse has an established style and he’s adaptable.”

Johnny Eves, assigned 118 for the San Carlos, worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s training track Feb. 10 in 1:02 4/5 with Bejarano up. Johnny Eves, a 4-year-old California-bred has a 5-3-0 record from 11 starts, with earnings of $364,720.

Surf Cat seeks his second victory in the San Carlos. The 6-year-old Sir Cat horse won the race in 2006, the first of three successive grade II wins that season for Bruce Headley's charge. After a lengthy break, Surf Cat has not won since but is coming off a third-place finish behind In Summation in the Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II) in his first start in more than three months Jan. 21.

Soul City Slew ran fourth in the six-furlong Palos Verdes for trainer Mike Mitchell.

$150,000 San Carlos Handicap (gr. II, Race 8, 4 p.m.), 4 & Up, 7 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Soul City Slew (KY), 113, Michael C. Baze
2. Men Only (KY), 113, Martin Garcia
3. Circular Quay (KY), 117, Mike E. Smith
4. Greg's Gold (CA), 119, Victor Espinoza
5. Surf Cat (KY), 118, Alex O. Solis
6. Johnny Eves (CA), 118, Rafael Bejarano
7. Cooperation (FL), 113, Tyler Baze

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