Twelve evenly-matched grass sprinters were entered in the about 6 1/2-furlong test, one of two turf stakes on the penultimate program of Santa Anita's 2007-08 season. The other stake is the $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT) for older fillies and mares going 10 furlongs. Santa Anita will close out the season with the $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap (gr. IIT) at about 1 3/4 miles as the program highlight April 20.
In the San Simeon, Cheroot, Council Member and the Chilean-bred and raced El Manuel were assigned co-high weight of 116 pounds.
Through racing of April 14, two dozen offspring of Unusual Heat have been victorious during the current meet. The 4-year-old Unusual Suspect, trained by Barry Abrams, ran twice during the stand, finishing 10th in the opening day Malibu Stakes (gr. I) Dec. 26 and returning just five days later to run fifth down the hillside in the Impressive Luck Handicap. This will be Unusual Suspect's first try since winning five of 14 starts in 2007, including his first graded victory in the six-furlong Hollywood Turf Express (gr. IIIT) at odds of 16-1 across town Nov. 24.
Unusual Suspect, who has earned $471,177 in his career with six victories in 21 tries, is an Abrams family venture. Barry Abrams, who also trained the sire, partly owns Unusual Suspect with David and Dyan Abrams. David Abrams, Barry's brother, bred Unusual Suspect, who is out of the Crested Wave New Zealand mare Penpont. Tyler Baze, who guided the dark bay in the Turf Express, is back aboard and they will break from post 4.
The 6-year-old gelding El Manuel looks for his first graded stakes win in North America. The Mike Puype trainee, owned by Little Red Feather Racing, emerged from a Feb. 25 allowance tilt down the hillside with a nose victory most recently. The son of Hussonet ran fifth, less than one length behind Unusual Suspect in the Turf Express. He draws the rail here and is to be ridden for the first time by Victor Espinoza.
Puype also starts the Argentina-bred Carrilero, owned by Gary Tanaka, who finished second in the Malibu at odds of 42-1. The lightly raced 4-year-old Royal Academy colt -- a two-time winner in six starts -- returned to run fourth in a synthetic allowance test March 6. Carrilero won down the hillside against first-level allowance foes last fall during Oak Tree.
Charlotte M. Wrather's Cheroot, disappointing in his last two starts against California breds, won the Daytona Handicap over the downhill course Feb. 17. The 7-year-old Smokester gelding, a seven-time winner who will be making his 30th lifetime start, leads the field in earnings with $494,501.
Council Member, a 6-year-old Seattle Slew horse owned by Karen and Mickey Taylor, makes his first U.S. start on grass for trainer David Hofmans. Council Member has made one start at the meet, finishing fourth, less than five lengths behind In Summation, in the El Conejo Handicap (gr. III) on the synthetic surface.
Soul City Slew ran a solid third, 1 1/4 lengths behind standouts Surf Cat and Greg's Gold in the San Carlos Handicap (gr. II) on the synthetic main track Feb. 16. After a subsequent third-place showing to allowance foes, Mike Mitchell returns the 5-year-old gelding to the grass, where the son of Slew City Slew has won once in three tries down the hillside.
$100,000 San Simeon Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 7, 4:30 p.m.), 4 & Up, About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. El Manuel (CHI), 116, Victor Espinoza
2. Stoneside (IRE), 114, Martin A. Pedroza
3. Scat Thief (KY), 113, Martin Garcia
4. Unusual Suspect (CA), 115, Tyler Baze
5. Carrilero (ARG), 115, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
6. Soul City Slew (KY), 114, Rafael Bejarano
7. Don't Ya Lovett (NZ), 114, Joseph Talamo
8. Cheroot (CA), 116, Corey S. Nakatani
9. Tenga Cat (KY), 114, Alonso Quinonez
10. Giovanni (NZ), 113, Joel Rosario
11. Night Chapter (GB), 115, Brice Blanc
12. Council Member (KY), 116, Richard Migliore