Champ Pegasus will try to spoil Bourbon Bay's five-for-five mark on the Santa Anita turf course as the likely favorites among 13 entered in the $150,000 San Luis Obispo Stakes (gr. IIT) Feb. 19.
Bourbon Bay, trained by Neil Drysdale, won last year's San Luis Obispo by 4 1/4 lengths as part of a four-race win streak, all over the Santa Anita grass. David and Jill Heerensperger's 5-year-old son of Sligo Bay started his 2011 campaign in the 1 1/4-mile San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT) Jan. 17, collaring favored Champ Pegasus past the eighth pole. He won by 1 3/4 lengths.
Trainer Richard Mandella is hoping that Champ Pegasus, the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) runner-up in November, will show more resilience this time.
"It looked like he might have needed the outing in the San Marcos," Mandella said of the 5-year-old son of 2000 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Fusaichi Pegasus . "He seemed tired afterward, but that race ought to put him in pretty good shape.”
Winner of Oak Tree's 10-furlong Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. IT) -- when he defeated Bourbon Bay at Hollywood -- as well as the Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) last year, Champ Pegasus worked one mile on the Santa Anita main track in 1:40 1/5 Feb. 11. The Kentucky homebred owned by Diamond A. Racing and Arturo Vargas has not won in two prior tries at 12 furlongs, finishing second both times. His overall record stands at 4-4-1 in 10 starts and earnings of $928,520.
Distance is no issue for Bourbon Bay, who has won all three of his starts at 12 furlongs and also captured the San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT) at about 1 3/4 miles last season. He has banked $509,424 while posting a career mark of 6-2-3 in 15 races.
Bourbon Bay, who drew the rail with regular pilot Rafael Bejarano aboard, and Champ Pegasus, guided from post 5 once more by Joel Rosario, are both carrying 123 pounds. Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) winner Haimish Hy also was assigned with 123.
The latter, a 4-year-old Ecton Park colt, scored by a neck with a big stretch move at 11-1 odds in the Nov. 28 Hollywood Derby for trainer Art Sherman. He tried dirt for the first time in his most recent start, the San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) Jan. 15, and was no factor while finishing sixth.
Haimish Hy has won three of four starts on the turf but is yet to go this long. Garrett Gomez, aboard him for the first time in the Hollywood Derby, has the call.
Sunset Handicap (gr. IIIT) winner Marlang, who set the pace in the San Marcos for Drysdale before fading to ninth, may find a similar role this time. Tiz Argent, stepping out of an optional claiming allowance win for John Sadler, and Unbridle's Dream, a high-priced allowance winner last time from the Steve Asmussen barn, should also be forwardly placed.
Others in the 'Obispo field coming out of the San Marcos are Brazilian-bred Imponente Purse (fourth), Riviera Cocktail (sixth), and Irish-bred Buenos Dias (11th).
Rain is expected at Santa Anita this weekend, raising the possibility that the race could be transferred off the turf. That has happened only three times since the San Luis Obispo was inaugurated on the grass in 1954. It is the third race on a program that also includes the San Carlos Handicap (gr. II) for sprinters at seven furlongs, and is scheduled to go off at 1:31 p.m. PST.
$150,000 San Luis Obispo Stakes (gr. IIT, Race 3, 1:31 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/2 MIles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Bourbon Bay (KY), R Bejarano, 123, N D Drysdale
2. Haimish Hy (KY), G K Gomez, 123, A Sherman
3. Riviera Cocktail (KY), A Quinonez, 118, N D Drysdale
4. Juniper Pass (KY), B Blanc, 118, T R Bell, II
5. Champ Pegasus (KY), J Rosario, 123, R E Mandella
6. Pode Ir (BRZ), O A Berrio, 118, A C Avila
7. Interpatation (KY), C Santiago Reyes, 118, J Metz
8. Falcon Rock (IRE), P A Valenzuela, 118, S Callaghan
9. Unbridle's Dream (KY), J Talamo, 118, S M Asmussen
10. Marlang (ON), D R Flores, 118, N D Drysdale
11. Tiz Argent (CA), V Espinoza, 118, J W Sadler
12. Imponente Purse (BRZ), M Garcia, 118, A C Avila
13. Buenos Dias (IRE), M A Pedroza, 118, R L McAnally
Blinkers On: Falcon Rock