Bourbon Bay, a four-time graded stakes winner in California, looks to get back on track when he leads a field of eight in the $125,000 Cougar II Handicap (gr. III) July 29 at Del Mar.
The 1 1/2-mile Cougar II, for 3-year-olds and up on Polytrack, tops Del Mar’s eight-race Friday program. David and Jill Heerensperger’s Bourbon Bay will tote top weight of 121 pounds and break from the rail under Joe Talamo. His biggest threat could come from Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) runner-up Setsuko, who is in desperate need of a win.
The Cougar II is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Marathon (gr. II) at Churchill Downs.
Bourbon Bay, a 5-year-old son of Sligo Bay, is seeking his first win since the Jan. 17 San Marcos (gr. IIT), a 1 1/4-mile turf event that he won by 1 3/4 lengths. Since that race, which was his sixth lifetime victory, the Neil Drysdale trainee was second in the San Luis Obispo (gr. IIT), 11th in the Sheema Classic (UAE-I) in Dubai, third in the Charles Whittingham (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park, and fourth last out in the July 2 United Nations (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park—all of them on turf.
In fact, this will be just the second synthetic surface start for Bourbon Bay in his 20th career start, all the others having come on turf. In 2010, the bay gelding won three graded stakes during an impressive four-race win streak that came to a narrow end in the grade I Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship to end his season.
Bourbon Bay was bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs and is out of the Conquistador Cielo mare Coral Necklace.
Wertheimer and Frere’s homebred Setsuko has been able to hold his own against some of the top horses in California over the last couple years but is still in search of his breakthrough win. The 4-year-old son of Pleasantly Perfect has been runner-up in four graded stakes, including the March 5 Santa Anita Handicap when beaten a heartbreaking nose by Game On Dude. He came back to finish second to Twirling Candy in the Californian (gr. II) and was fourth last out in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I).
But Setsuko has won just once in 14 career starts, that lone win coming in December 2009 when breaking his maiden at Hollywood. Despite that, he has earned $456,686. Victor Espinoza will have the mount for trainer Richard Mandella.
The only Cougar II entrant entering off a win is New Zealand-bred gelding Dahoud, who scored an optional claimer by a head June 4 on the Hollywood turf for Jerry Hollendorfer. The 5-year-old was runner-up in the San Luis Rey (gr. IIT) in March.
$125,000 Cougar II Handicap (gr. III, Race 7, 7 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Polytrack) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Bourbon Bay (KY), J Talamo, 121, N D Drysdale
2. Pode Ir (BRZ), C Santiago Reyes, 114, A C Avila
3. Erbeia (KY), A Quinonez, 112, J W Sadler
4. Setsuko (KY), V Espinoza, 118, R E Mandella
5. Times Gone By (KY), R Bejarano, 113, M R Mitchell
6. Dahoud (NZ), J Rosario, 116, J Hollendorfer
7. Mindblower (KY), G K Gomez, 111, M Puype
8. Oilisblackgold (KY), M Garcia, 112, C Dollase