With back-to-back runner-up finishes to Bob Black Jack and Kinsale King in graded stakes at the current Santa Anita meet, Ventana bids for his elusive first stakes victory once more in the $150,000 Potrero Grande Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita April 3.
Ventana has the same human connections -- owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, and trainer Bob Baffert -- as Lookin At Lucky , who is the prohibitive favorite in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) earlier on the card. The Potrero Grande, at 6 1/2 furlongs on the Pro-Ride racing surface, attracted nine older sprinters, with Ventana the 120-pound highweight. It is the eighth race on the program at 3:37 p.m. PDT.
To be ridden for the first time by Garrett Gomez, Ventana will break from post six with a lifetime mark of 2-4-2 in 13 starts and earnings of $166,517. The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Toccet began the meet with an allowance victory Dec. 27, and was aimed for a couple of the stand's major sprints.
He responded well in both, giving ground grudgingly while edged by a half-length by Kinsale King in the Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II) Jan. 23, followed by a 2 1/4-length loss to Bob Black Jack in the San Carlos Handicap (gr. II) one month later.
Kinsale King, of course, went on to win the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) March 27. Ventana will shorten up a bit from the seven-furlong San Carlos, which was the final race for Bob Black Jack, who suffered a severe tendon injury while training recently.
Baffert has entered two others in the Potrero Grande, Darley Stable's Sangaree and Arnold Zetcher's E Z's Gentleman. Both are coming off victories, Sangaree taking the off-the-turf Joe Hernandez Stakes March 7, and E Z's Gentleman capturing an optional-claiming allowance sprint a day earlier.
Eaton's Gift faded to seventh in the Palos Verdes in his most recent start, his first since last August for new trainer Mike Mitchell. The grade II winner will race without blinkers in the Potrero Grande.
Rush With Thunder returns to action for trainer A.C. Avila for the first time since a game second to Zensational in the Triple Bend Handicap (gr. I) at Hollywood Park July 5.
One to watch out for is Golden Gate Fields shipper Off Kilter, who has raced just three times, winning twice for trainer Bill Morey. The 4-year-old Marino Marini gelding worked a bullet five furlongs in a sizzling :57 3/5 at Santa Anita March 29.
$150,000 Potrero Grande Handicap (gr. II, Race 8, 3:37 p.m.), 4 & Up, 6 1/2 Furlongs (Synthetic)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Eaton's Gift (KY), T Baze, 119, M R Mitchell
2. Rush With Thunder (CA), O A Berrio, 117, A C Avila
3. E Z's Gentleman (KY), J Rosario, 116, B Baffert
4. Sangaree (KY), J Talamo, 119, B Baffert
5. Off Kilter (CA), F T Alvarado, 114, W E Morey
6. Ventana (KY), G K Gomez, 120, B Baffert
7. Gallant Son (KY), M E Smith, 118, F Lucarelli
8. Gato Go Win (FL), R Bejarano, 117, R Troeger
9. Kanan Dume (KY), A Quinonez, 112, D F O'Neill
Blinkers Off: Eaton's Gift