Cecil and Gary Barber's Kentucky-bred 6-year-old Afternoon Deelites gelding was in steep last time out in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). But Zappa outperformed his 44-1 odds, closing for fifth, 4 3/4 lengths behind the victorious Heatseeker. Zappa had captured three of four starts starts on all-weather racing surfaces, including the San Pasqual by one length on Jan. 12, prior to a seventh-place showing in the San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) Feb. 9.
Zappa was the longest shot in the field in the San Pasqual when he put away the pacesetting Well Armed in deep stretch and also defeated Heatseeker to win his graded stakes debut. On a blazing Cushion Track surface he ran a record time of 1:39.58 for the 1 1/16-mile distance.
Besides Zappa, six other older horses, all looking for a first graded stakes win, were entered in the Tokyo City.
Zappa will carry top weight of just 116 pounds and 20-year-old Joel Rosario, aboard for the gelding's past five starts, retains the mount. Zappa has won 11 of 29 lifetime starts while earning $345,220. Zappa was popular on the Northern California claiming circuit before Sadler moved the bay out of the for-sale ranks.
La Bahia Stud's Niagara Causeway in the only horse in the field coming off a victory. Trained by Leonard Powell, the 5-year-old Giant's Causeway horse put it all together to snap a five-race losing skid with a 2 1/2-length allowance triumph at 1 1/16 miles. Jon Court rides him back. Niagara Causeway has won three of 19 lifetime starts.
Big Booster, making his third start for Mike Mitchell after an absence of more than four months in the Santa Anita Handicap, never found his late gear and finished 10th. The 7-year-old Accelerator gelding ran third in both the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) and Goodwood (gr. I) last year after being claimed out of Gulfstream Park race for $62,500 more than a year ago.
Mitchell also conditions Church Service, a $50,000 claim locally on Jan. 20. The 5-year-old gelding by Pulpit ran second behind Spring House in the San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT) on grass in his only start for his new connections Feb. 23.
Trainer Bobby Frankel sends the Irish-bred Rathor, owned by Flaxman Holdings, most recently eighth in the San Antonio. The 6-year-old Machiavellian horse is making his third start since returning from eight months on the sidelines. Rathor's last win came over allowance company on Keeneland's Polytrack last April.
Todd Pletcher starts Alex G. Campbell Jr.'s homebred Rocket Legs, who failed to rally while finishing seventh in the San Luis Obispo last time out. The 4-year-old Dynaformer colt was the runner-up behind Champs Elysees in a big stakes debut in the San Marcos (gr. IIT) prior to that.
Marcelo Polanco tries going long with Everest Stables' Plug Me In, who comes off a third-place effort in the Presidents' Day Memorial at Bay Meadows Feb. 18.
$100,000 Tokyo City Cup Handicap (gr. III, Race 9, 4:30 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Rathor (IRE), 115, Michael C. Baze
2. Plug Me In (KY), 115, Alonso Quinonez
3. Rocket Legs (KY), 114, Mike E. Smith
4. Church Service (KY), 112, Victor Espinoza
5. Niagara Causeway (KY), 114, Jon K. Court
6. Big Booster (KY), 115, Richard Migliore
7. Zappa (KY), 116, Joel Rosario