Jack Preston, owner of Prestonwood Racing, and trainer Julio Canani could have another shot at the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) in their future with Hyperbaric, who appears to be the horse to beat in the $200,000 Oak Tree Mile (gr. IIT) on the Santa Anita turf Sept. 28.
The Oak Tree Mile is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" Challenge race for the BC Mile Oct. 25 on the same Santa Anita grass course. Hyperbaric, who has put six in-the-money performances together this year in as many tries and comes into the race with back-to-back wins, could be in the right spot to land a guaranteed spot.
Preston, with brothers Art and J.R., formed Prestonwood Farm and won the 1996 and '98 Mile with Da Hoss in partnership with Wall Street Racing Stable. Canani, for separate owners, took editions of the Mile in in 2001 with Val Royal and in 1999 with Silic.
Hyperbaric, who was out of action for 14 months before resurfacing at Santa Anita in February, is yet to land a graded stakes score while coming close three times this season. The 5-year-old Sky Classic gelding missed by a neck while second in the Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita in April, then followed that up with a pair of fine efforts at Hollywood Park when third in both the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) and American Handicap (gr. IIT).
In his most recent start, Hyperbaric dominated the Harry F. Brubaker at Del Mar Aug. 20, winning by 2 1/4 lengths. With a record of 5-2-2 in 10 career starts for earnings of $294,476, Hyperbaric will once again have the services of top national jockey Garrett Gomez.
The other leading contender would appear to be Awesome Gem, who, according to trainer Craig Dollase, is instead destined for the All American Handicap (gr. III) on the Tapeta track at Golden Gate Fields Sept. 27.
Dollase also entered Tropic Storm, who scratched from the opening day Morvich Handicap (gr. IIIT), for West Point Thoroughbreds. Tropic Storm has just one turf start, finishing second, and is coming off successive third-place finishes in the Triple Bend Handicap (gr. I) and Longacres Mile (gr. III).
Aaron Gryder will ride Tropic Storm. Dollase said he liked the spot for Tropic Storm. The 4-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic is 2-2-3 from eight starts this year against strong competition.
“If he runs a good race here, then we might have Breeders’ Cup plans,” Dollase said of Tropic Storm. “We have a lot of options.”
The Irish-bred Golden Balls, winner of the La Puente Stakes in his U.S. debut in the spring of 2007, is scheduled to make his first start since May 3. “He broke a splint bone in the Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs,” trainer Jim Cassidy said. “We had to take it out and give him time, but he’s a very nice horse, and a beautiful horse, too.”
Before his injury, Golden Balls ran third in the Arcadia, beaten less than two lengths by Daytona.
Others who should draw attention are Argentina-bred Global Hunter, third last time out at odds of nearly 30-1 in the Del Mar Mile (gr. IIT) Aug. 24, and Ferneley, an Irish-bred who ran fifth in his U.S. debut in the Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT) at Del Mar. A group III winner in Ireland, Ferneley is also entered in the Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IT) Sept. 27.
$200,000 Oak Tree Mile Stakes (gr. IIT, Race 7, 3:30 p.m.), 3 & Up (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Awesome Gem, 119, Tyler Baze
2. Global Hunter, 119, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
3. Hurry Up Austin, 119, Jon K. Court
4. Tybalt, 119, Rafael Bejarano
5. Dilemma, 119, Alex O. Solis
6. Ferneley, 123, Victor Espinoza
7. Hyperbaric, 119, Garrett K. Gomez
8. Tropic Storm, 119, Aaron T. Gryder
9. Golden Balls, 119, David R. Flores