Track permitting, Santa Anita Park has a superb dash on tap Jan. 23 when Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner Dancing in Silks takes on recent Malibu Stakes (gr. I) victor M One Rifle and a strong supporting cast in the $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II).
Southern California has been besieged by heavy rainfall this week and drainage problems with Santa Anita's synthetic track forced officials to cancel its special Martin Luther King Day program Jan. 18 as well as its Jan. 21 card. Forecasters say the wet conditions should clear up by the weekend, but whether that will be soon enough to have the problematic track surface in racing shape is the question.
If so, Dancing in Silks could make his first start since his game 25-1 stunner in the the $2 million BC Sprint at Santa Anita Nov. 7, when he prevailed by a nose over Crown of Thorns with a late surge. Trainer Carla Gaines’ 5-year-old gelding would bring a four-race winning streak into the six-furlong Palos Verdes, where he would likely be chasing M One Rifle, an easy front-running winner of the Malibu on opening day Dec. 26.
Nine entered the Palos Verdes, with graded winners Eaton's Gift and Kinsale King and multiple stakes victor Ez Dreamer adding to the potent top two. Dancing in Silks, with Joel Rosario back aboard, drew the rail and will carry high weight of 123 pounds. M One Rifle, who will start from post 3 with Mike Smith aloft, was assigned 120.
Owned by Ken Kinakin, the California-bred Dancing in Silks registered his first graded stakes victory in the Breeders’ Cup and was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for top sprinter. He was coming off wins in Oak Tree’s California Cup Sprint Handicap and Del Mar’s Pirate’s Bounty Stakes, both restricted to state-breds. Dancing in Silks likes to come from slightly off the pace, which should work to his advantage in a line-up with plenty of speed.
A son of Black Minnaloushe bred by Ronald E. Jex, Dancing in Silks heads into the Palos Verdes with earnings of $1,447,622 from a career record of 7-2-2 in 13 races.
M One Rifle, a 4-year-old California-bred gelding by One Man Army, has not been out of the money in eight lifetime starts for trainer Bruce Headley. He gained his first graded stakes win in the seven-furlong Malibu, running away by 2 1/2 lengths as at odds of 7-1.
Chased by multiple graded winner Misremembered and recent San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) winner Papa Clem , M One Rifle turned the Malibu into a procession while leading every step in a sprightly 1:21.05.
“I’m so proud of the way he’s been improving,” Smith said following the Malibu. “He ran super.”
Headley, along with Ed Bernstein and Bryan Greenspun, bred and own M One Rifle. Headley won the Palos Verdes with Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) champ Kona Gold in 2000.
M One Rifle has has compiled a 4-1-3 record worth $378,572.
Eastern challenger Eaton's Gift, training in California for Mike Mitchell, held off heavily favored Benny the Bull in the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II) at Calder Casino and Race Course in July.
Front-running winner of the Swale (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park in 2008, Zayat Stables 5-year-old son of Johannesburg has not been out since finishing a distant fifth in the A.G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II) at Saratoga Aug. 9. The speedster, who adds blinkers for the Palos Verdes, has won once in four tries over synthetic tracks.
Tyler Baze takes the mount on Eaton's Gift, who has five victories from 13 races in his career while banking $471,715. They are to break from post 5 with 117 pounds.
Super Horse's Kinsale King figures to add to a speed-laden field. The 5-year-old Yankee Victor gelding led all the way in scoring a hard-fought neck victory over Delta Storm in the Vernon O. Underwood (gr. III) at Hollywood Park Dec. 6, handing trainer Carl O'Callaghan his first graded stakes victory.
Kinsale King, who breaks from post 8 with Martin Garcia once again on board, will have the rest of the speed horses to his inside.
Ez Dreamer won four of nine starts in 2009, including the Iowa Sprint Handicap in June, and is coming off a 5 1/4-length romp over four rivals in Turf Paradise's Cactus Wren Handicap Dec. 19. Kory Owens trains the 5-year-old Arizona-bred son of In Excess for Triple AAA Ranch. A consistent midwest sprinter, Ez Dreamer raced in California earlier in his career and has a second and a third in two starts at Santa Anita. Alex Solis takes the call.
Supreme Summit closed from last in the 13-horse Malibu after a half-mile to finish fourth, 3 1/4 lengths behind M One Rifle. Trained by Doug O'Neill for Joseph Lacombe Stables, the 4-year-old Cactus Ridge colt ran second in Oak Tree's Damascus Stakes prior to the Malibu. He won back-to-back races at Santa Anita last year.
Trainer Bob Baffert has entered the 4-year-old Ventana, who won a second-level allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs Dec. 27 at Santa Anita.
Rounding out the field are Paul's Hope, who missed by a nose in an optional claiming allowance event Dec. 31 for Jerry Hollendorfer, and the Jack Carava-conditioned Quietly Mine, fourth last time in the Impressive Luck Handicap on the hillside turf course.
$150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), 4 & Up, 6 furlongs (Synthetic)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Dancing in Silks (CA), J Rosario, 123, C Gaines
2. Ez Dreamer (AZ), A O Solis, 116, R K Owens
3. M One Rifle (CA), M E Smith, 120, B Headley
4. Paul's Hope (FL), V Espinoza, 115, J Hollendorfer
5. Eaton's Gift (KY), T Baze, 117, M R Mitchell
6. Quietly Mine (KY), G K Gomez, 113, J Carava
7. Supreme Summit (KY), R Bejarano, 114, D F O'Neill
8. Kinsale King (KY), M Garcia, 116, C O'Callaghan
9. Ventana (KY), J Talamo, 113, B Baffert
Blinkers On: Eaton's Gift