With the 2012 Breeders' Cup Marathon (gr. II) set for Santa Anita this fall, the $100,000 Tokyo City Cup (gr. III) is as good a place as any to find out which local horses can get the distance.
Eight were entered in Santa Anita's 1 1/2-mile Tokyo City March 24, a good early season prep for the 14-furlong BC Marathon. The dirt race is carded as the eighth of the day with a 4:07 PDT post.
One entrant that doesn't have to prove anything, at least as far as the distance is concerned, is Eldaafer, winner of the 2010 BC Marathon at Churchill Downs. The 7-year-old A.P. Indy gelding regressed in last year's marathon, however, finishing sixth.
Now trained by Brian Koriner for E-Racing.com and partners, Eldaafer has had one start in 2012, finishing fourth in the Turf Paradise Handicap Feb. 18 on the grass in Arizona.
Eldaafer, whose last victory came in August in an allowance race at Delaware Park, has won 11 of 34 lifetime starts and has earned a field-best $756,856. Eswan Flores will ride.
Trainers Mike Mitchell, Jeff Bonde, and Art Sherman have each entered a pair of runners.
Bonde has Twice the Appeal and Graeme Crackerjack, who drew the respective inside posts. Garrett Gomez, returning from a broken heel the week of March 19, is named to ride Twice the Appeal, who is seeking his first victory since taking the Sunland Derby (gr. III) one year ago. He was 10th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Twice the Appeal, the 120-pound high weight in the Tokyo City, has raced three times as a 4-year-old. He ran respectably in two starts at Oaklawn Park, finishing a close second in the Fifth Season Stakes and third in the Essex Handicap. But he was never a factor while seventh in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) March 3. The son of Successful Appeal won twice over the track in 2010-11.
Graeme Crackerjack makes his stakes debut. The 4-year-old Graeme Hall gelding was a fast-closing second in his most recent start, a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming race March 3.
Mitchell is represented by Coluda, a 5-year-old gelding he claimed on behalf of Jeffrey Sangara for $25,000 in January, and by Dhaamer, an Irish-bred making his United States debut.
Coluda, a front-running 3 1/2-length winner at the $20,000 maiden claiming level in his most recent start March 2, is likely to dictate the tempo as he stretches to a distance he has never come close to before. Dhaamer, a 5-year-old by Dubai Destination, won three of 10 lifetime starts in England and broke his maiden by 4 1/2 lengths in his only try over a synthetic track in August 2010.
Dynamic Host was taken by Sherman out of a 1 3/8-mile event for $40,000 optional claimers on the grass at Del Mar that the Dynaformer gelding won by a head last August. The 6-year-old is winless in four starts since the claim, though he was in the money in three of those races. Sherman also entered Highway Bandit, runner-up in a 10-furlong optional claimer on grass at Santa Anita Jan. 27.
Olympia Star's grade II winner Skipshot was an allowance winner at one mile on the Tapeta surface at Golden Gate Fields March 1 for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
$100,000 Tokyo City Cup Stakes (gr. III, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Twice the Appeal (KY), G K Gomez, 120, J Bonde
2. Graeme Crackerjack (FL), D P Vergara, 118, J Bonde
3. Skipshot (KY), K Krigger, 118, J Hollendorfer
4. Highway Bandit (KY), J Talamo, 118, A Sherman
5. Dhaamer (IRE), R Bejarano, 118, M R Mitchell
6. Eldaafer (KY), B Blanc, 118, B J Koriner
7. Coluda (KY), E Flores, 118, M R Mitchell
8. Dynamic Host (KY), D R Flores, 118, A Sherman