Multiple grade I winner Jeranimo is back to defend his title in the $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes (gr. IIT) Jan. 4 on the Santa Anita Park turf, one of two victories the gallant 8-year-old warrior earned last year.
Jeranimo, trained by Mike Pender for B.J. Wright and Robert LaPenta, makes his fourth start in the 1 1/8-mile San Gabriel. He ran second in 2012 and was victorious in the December 2010 renewal. Coming off a seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IT) Nov. 2, a race in which he closed quite a bit of ground on the hillside turf course, the full son of Congaree heads an 11-horse field.
The San Gabriel is one of two grade II races on the Saturday card, sharing top billing with the $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-old fillies at 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track. The San Gabriel is the eighth race on the program with a 4 p.m. PST scheduled post.
The versatile Jeranimo comes off a season in which he won two of seven starts and banked $293,964. His most recent win came four starts back in the Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT) at Del Mar July 20, when ridden by Rafael Bejarano.
He will be reunited with Bejarano for the first time since then on Saturday while carrying top weight of 123 pounds. They drew post 9.
Jeranimo now has a lifetime record of 10-6-5 in 38 starts, with earnings of $1,401,364.
Another fixture on the Santa Anita turf in recent years is Phil Cunningham's British homebred Slim Shadey, a 6-year-old gelding who drew the rail in the San Gabriel for trainer Simon Callaghan. Winless in his past five starts, the son of Val Royal was given a breather following his most recent race, a sixth-place finish after setting the pace in the 1 1/4-mile John Henry Turf Championship (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita Sept. 29.
Four of Slim Shadey's five lifetime wins have come on the Santa Anita grass course, including a repeat victory in the San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT) last February. Corey Nakatani will try his hand this time on the front-running lifetime earner of $623,064.
"We gave him a little break, saving him for this turf course, which seems to be his forte," the trainer said. "He's training well and this looks like an OK spot for him." Slim Shadey worked five furlongs on the main track Dec. 29 in :59 4/5.
An interesting contender is trainer Mark Tsagalakis' lightly raced Dubai You X Y Z, stepping up off a sharp allowance/optional claiming score at one mile on turf at Betfair Hollywood Park Dec. 6. M T Racing Stable's 7-year-old son of E Dubai has raced in just one stakes, finishing sixth in the 2012 Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) behind Jeranimo at Hollywood Park.
But he has won six of his nine starts outside of stakes company and took his only other try at nine furlongs in March 2011. He appears to be in top form for Tsagalakis and will be ridden by Brice Blanc from gate 4.
David Heerensperger's Fire With Fire is winless from eight tries in graded company, but appears to be a solid fit as well for Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale. A 6-year-old gelding by Distorted Humor , he comes off a third-place finish in the Berkeley Handicap (gr. III) at 1 1/16 miles on the Tapeta racing surface at Golden Gate Fields Nov. 29.
Fire With Fire finished fourth behind Slim Shadey in the San Marcos and followed that effort with a third in the San Luis Rey Stakes (gr. IIT) March 16 at Santa Anita. Martin Garcia picks up the mount.
Utopian, a 7-year-old horse by Rock Hard Ten, won the Inglewood Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Hollywood Park grass in April 2012 but made just one start in 2013 for trainer John Shirreffs and owners Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss. He finished seventh in Santa Anita's restricted Lure Stakes Oct. 27.
$200,000 San Gabriel Stakes (gr. IIT, Race 8, 4 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Slim Shadey (GB), C S Nakatani, 120, S Callaghan
2. Te Rapa (KY), K Stra, 118, H L Zucker
3. Artic North (KY), J Talamo, 118, P Miller
4. Dubai You X Y Z (KY), B Blanc, 118, M D Tsagalakis
5. Fire With Fire (KY), M Garcia, 118, N D Drysdale
6. Utopian (KY), J Valdivia Jr., 118, J A Shirreffs
7. Empty Headed (CA), A Quinonez, 118, B Abrams
8. Black Spirit (KY), T Baze, 118, D Greenman
9. Jeranimo (FL), R Bejarano, 123, M Pender
10. Huntsville (CA), M E Smith, 118, B Abrams
11. Willyconker (IRE), V Espinoza, 118, E J Guillot