Eight-year-old Karelian, who scored the biggest win of his career in the Maker's Mark Stakes (gr. IT) last month, bids for consecutive grade I victories when he tangles with nine rivals in the $250,000 Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park May 31.
Among his Southern California opponents in the turf event are the speedy Compari, on a six-race winning tear, and Mr Gruff, another speedster who has won four in a row. The Shoemaker headlines the Memorial Day program at the Inglewood, Calif., track, and will go as the ninth race on the program at 5:05 p.m. PDT.
Trained by Rusty Arnold for owner/breeder Green Lantern Stables, Karelian arrived at Hollywood May 26. The well-traveled Bertrando gelding is no stranger to Southern California, having raced in last fall's TVG Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Santa Anita, finishing sixth at odds of 40-1.
A 10-time winner in 21 lifetime starts with earnings of $738,675, he has won both of his starts in 2010, starting the year with a front-running nose victory in the Tampa Bay Stakes in Florida Feb. 20. Karelian returned to capture Keeneland's Maker's Mark April 9, repelling the challenge of favored Court Vision to register a smart 1 1/4-length win.
Julien Leparoux, who rode Karelian in the Maker's Mark, is out with a back injury and will be replaced in the Shoemaker by Rafael Bejarano. They break from post 8 with equal weight of 124 pounds.
Compari, who will vie for the early lead, drew the far outside post as he goes for his seventh victory in a row. John Harris and partners' 4-year-old California-bred gelding by Redattore is coming off a half-length score over Fluke and Battle of Hastings in the one-mile Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT) April 3. The Arcadia was Compari's first stakes try against open company and improved his career mark to six wins in seven starts with earnings of $422,640.
Three-for-three at the distance, Compari owns a win over the Hollywood Park turf, taking an allowance race last December. Joel Rosario replaces regular rider Garrett Gomez.
Razor-sharp Mr Gruff will attempt to expand the brilliance he has displayed so far beyond the 6 1/2-furlong hillside turf course at Santa Anita, where he has won five of six starts, including the San Simeon Handicap (gr. IIIT) in his most recent effort April 17.
Trained by Ron Ellis for owner Gary Broad, the 6-year-old son of Mr. Greeley was sidelined for 11 months before returning in March with an easy optional claiming allowance win down the hill March 19. He then ran away from six rivals while under steady handling when tallying by two lengths in the San Simeon, a race he also won in 2009, one month later. Mr Gruff, like his two main rivals, likes to be on or near the lead. Joe Talamo gets the call here, replacing Rosario, and they will have the rail.
Besides Karelian, the other grade I winner in the field is Global Hunter, who claimed Del Mar's Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT) last summer at odds of 14-1. Global Hunter, a 7-year-old Argentina-bred son of Jade Hunter trained by A.C. Avila for L-Bo Racing, has not been out since finishing second in the Oak Tree MIle (gr. IIT) Oct. 10. Global Hunter has trained forwardly at Santa Anita for his return.
Trainer Julio Canani bids for his fourth Shoemaker Mile win with Blue Chagall, who tuned up with a second-place finish in a conditional allowance May 8.
“There is a lot of speed in the race, and that should help,” said Canani, who has tabbed Brice Blanc to ride.
Blue Chagall, a French-bred 5-year-old gelding named for a famous French artist, won the Prix des Chenes (Fr-III) at Longchamp in 2007 and the Lure Stakes at one mile at Santa Anita in October.
In addition to Shoemaker victories by Silic in 1999 and 2000 and Ladies Din in 2002, Canani has also finished second with Special Ring in 2003, Charmo in 2006, and Hyperbaric last year -- a head behind winner Thorn Song. If Blue Chagall were to upset the field, Canani would tie Jim Nazworthy for most wins in the Shoemaker, which was originally known as the Premiere Handicap.
Gallant Son has shown a liking for the Hollywood course, winning the Inglewood Handicap (gr. IIIT) for trainer Frank Lucarelli by 1 3/4 lengths in his last start April 25. Mike Smith, who rode Thorn Song to the upset victory in last year's Shoemaker, rides Gallant Son.
The rest of the Shoemaker cast includes Victor's Cry , who was second behind Mr Gruff in the San Simeon, Golden Balls, whose last victory came in the 2007 La Puente at Santa Anita, and the John Sadler-trained tandem of Noble Court and Tangled Tango.
$250,000 Shoemaker Mile Stakes (gr. IT, Race 9, 5:05 p.m.), 3 & Up (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Mr Gruff (KY), J Talamo, R W Ellis
2. Victor's Cry (VA), C S Nakatani, E G Harty
3. Gallant Son (KY), M E Smith, F Lucarelli
4. Global Hunter (ARG), O A Berrio, A C Avila
5. Golden Balls (IRE), C Santiago Reyes, J M Cassidy
6. Noble Court (KY), T Baze, J W Sadler
7. Blue Chagall (FR), B Blanc, J C Canani
8. Karelian (KY), R Bejarano, G R Arnold, II
9. Tangled Tango (KY), V Espinoza, J W Sadler
10. Compari (CA), J Rosario, M F Jones
All carry 124 pounds.