Trainer John Sadler’s Zappa, a 6 1/4-length winner of the 2008 Cougar II Handicap, is back to defend his title against Mike Mitchell's top-weighted duo of Big Booster and Church Service in the $150,000 renewal of the 1 1/2-mile event Aug. 5 at Del Mar.
Ten are entered in the Cougar, a "Breeders' Cup Challenge" race that will mean an automatic berth in the $500,000 Breeders' Cup Marathon to the winner. This year’s Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Santa Anita Park will be run at 1 3/4 miles on Nov. 6.
Zappa, who will be ridden by Tyler Baze, finished seventh in last year’s Marathon, also at Oak Tree. Owned by Gary and Cecli Barber, the 7-year-old son of Afternoon Deelites ran third in Hollywood Park's Round Table Handicap (gr. IIIT) at 1 3/4 miles on turf in his most recent start June 13.
Big Booster, with Joel Rosario aboard, and Church Service, to be ridden by Garrett Gomez, will each carry 119 pounds, three more than Zappa.
Big Booster finished third in last year's Cougar and is winless in six starts since taking the 1 5/8-mile Gallant Man on Hollywood's Cushion Track in June 2008. The 8-year-old ran 12th of 13 in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) last month.
Church Service last raced in this year's Gallant Man, finishing second on May 17. The 6-year-old missed by a head while finishing second in last year's Breeders' Cup Marathon.
Trainer Bob Baffert will send out two horses as well -- Mr. Big and Richard's Kid. Mike Smith will ride Mr. Big and Victor Espinoza will be aboard Richard’s Kid.
Mr. Big will be making his stakes debut after romping by 8 3/4 lengths over first-level allowance rivals at Hollywood in his last start July 19. Richard's Kid, a stakes winner at Laurel earlier this year, is coming off a seventh-place showing in the Eddie Read (gr. IT) July 25.
Gangbuster, a shipper for trainer Keith Desormeaux, won the Fort Harrod at Keeneland in April and was runner-up in Arlington Park's Polar Expedition in his last start June 27. Corey Nakatani rides.
Unusual Suspect is a multiple stakes winner for trainer Barry Abrams.
$150,000 Cougar II Handicap (Race 8, 5:30 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 MIles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Ghetto (GB), J Talamo, 114, C Dollase
2. Zappa (KY), T Baze, 116, J W Sadler
3. Big Booster (KY), J Rosario, 119, M R Mitchell
4. Mr. Big (KY), M E Smith, 113, B Baffert
5. Quarter Moon (KY), M Garcia, 112, M F Stute
6. Church Service (KY), G K Gomez, 119, M R Mitchell
7. Richard's Kid (MD), V Espinoza, 115, B Baffert
8. Gangbuster (KY), C S Nakatani, 116, J K Desormeaux
9. Unusual Suspect (CA), A Quinonez, 116, B Abrams
10. Sir Dave (FL), M C Baze, 117, J Carava