Looking for a repeat victory, grade I winner Obviously will battle the likes of Winning Prize, Silentio, and Chips All In in the $100,000 American Stakes (gr. IIIT), to be contested for the first time on the Santa Anita Park turf May 17.
Southern California's Preakness day feature came up exceptionally tough in the first year that the longtime Hollywood Park fixture was reduced to a grade III event. Seven are entered in the one-mile test, which goes as race 4 on the Saturday program with a 1 p.m. PDT scheduled post time.
The speedster Obviously will try to overcame a 7 1/2-month layoff while facing another front-running threat, Winning Prize, who enters the American off a gate-to-wire tally in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) March 8 over the course.
Obviously makes his first start for trainer Phil D'Amato, longtime assistant to the recently retired Mike Mitchell who conditioned the Irish-bred throughout his North American career. Regular rider Joe Talamo will be aboard Obviously, who has not started since fading to fifth after setting a hot pace in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) Nov. 2.
The 6-year-old son of Choisir won last year's American in pacemaking style by 2 1/2 lengths. That preceded a 3 1/2-length tally in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) June 29 and a third straight win in the Del Mar Mile (gr. II) two months later.
Owned by Anthony Fanticola and Joe Scardino, Obviously has won six of nine lifetime starts at one mile and is 9-for-18 overall with earnings of $1,037,361. The brilliant bay gelding has been working superbly on the Santa Anita turf and comes into the race off a blazing five-furlong move May 10 in :58 flat.
He drew post 2 for his return appearance and will carry 121 pounds, getting three pounds from both Winning Prize and Silentio, who was third in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
The Argentina-bred Winning Prize, from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale, carries a fitness edge as he seeks his third straight win in 2014. Owned by David Heerensperger and Jose Nelson, the 5-year-old son of Pure Prize took Santa Anita's Arcadia (gr. IIT) Feb. 1. He returned five weeks later to capture the Kilroe, dictating the pace while prevailing by half a length over grade I winner Lochte.
A multiple grade I winer in his native country, Winning Prize has won eight of 13 starts while banking $610,840 in his career. Corey Nakatani will guide the dark bay horse from the rail.
Alain and Gerard Wertheimer's Silentio looks to bounce back from a fifth-place finish in the Kilroe in which he was gaining on the winner but failed to threaten in his first race in more than three months. The 5-year-old son of Silent Name won the Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park in his prior start Nov. 29, edging pacesetter Winning Prize. It was the second graded stakes win of his career, following the Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. II) in December 2012.
Gary Mandella tabs Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens to replace the injured Rafael Bejarano aboard the strapping dark bay. They leave from post 4.
The Wertheimer brothers are also represented by Smart Ellis, making his first start for trainer Richard Mandella since running third in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT) 13 months ago.
Both of Chips All In's prior graded wins have come on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita, but the consistent 5-year-old by North Light has also proven effective at a mile with two wins and two seconds from six starts.
The Jeff Mullins trainee makes his seasonal debut after scratching out of the April 13 San Simeon Stakes (gr. IIIT), a race he won in 2013. Chips All In drew post 5 and will have Tyler Baze aboard while toting 119.
San Francisco Mile (gr. IIIT) winner Tigah also returns from a lengthy absence since finishing fifth in last summer's Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) for trainer John Sadler. Stakes winner Pure Tactics, fourth in the last month's San Simeon for Doug O'Neill, completes the field.
$100,000 American Stakes (gr. IIT, Race 4, 1 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Winning Prize (ARG), C S Nakatani, 124, N D Drysdale
2. Obviously (IRE), J Talamo, 121, P D'Amato
3. Pure Tactics (TX), K J Desormeaux, 119, D F O'Neill
4. Silentio (KY), G L Stevens, 124, G Mandella
5. Chips All In (KY), T Baze, 119, J Mullins
6. Smart Ellis (KY), M Garcia, 119, R E Mandella
7. Tigah (GB), M E Smith, 119, J W Sadler