Sahara Sky , winner of the 2013 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I), will try for a repeat victory in the $250,000 San Carlos Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park March 8 when he faces nine opponents in the seven-furlong dash.
Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and owned by Hollendorfer and Sweetwater Stable, the 6-year-old son of Pleasant Tap looked to be on his way to a possible Eclipse Award as top sprinter last year when he was injured following the Met Mile. He was shelved for the year, having already captured the Met, San Carlos, and Palos Verdes Stakes (gr. II), and was a fast-closing second in the grade I Carter Handicap.
Hollendorfer brought him back this year in the Palos Verdes Feb. 2, but he ran last of five, beaten 3 1/2 lengths,at odds of 5-2.
Joel Rosario, who rode him to victory in the Met Mile, will be back aboard, replacing Corey Nakatani, who was on the horse in the Palos Verdes.
Normally a closer, Sahara Sky likely will drop out of it from the rail and attempt to run down his opposition in the final furlong, as he did last year.
His main competition should come from the Bob Baffert-trained 4-year-old Shakin it Up , winner of the Malibu (gr. I) and Strub Stakes (gr. II) in his last two starts. The son of Midnight Lute had been on the Kentucky Derby trail last spring, winning the San Vicente (gr. II), but was sidelined following a fourth-place finish in the Sunland Derby (gr. III).
He will have the services of Mike Smith and will break from the far outside in post 10 under top weight of 123 pounds. Shakin It Up has won four of five starts at Santa Anita with one second.
Another of Sahara Sky’s main competitors will be his own stablemate, Wild Dude, who defeated him in the Palos Verdes for his third consecutive victory. The 4-year-old son of Wildcat Heir carries 123 pounds under the allowance conditions and will concede three pounds to Sahara Sky.
Wild Dude will break from post 6 under regular rider Rafael Bejarano.
Hollendorfer isn’t done yet. He also will saddle Zeewat, winner of the Lost in the Fog Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in his last start. The son of Harlan's Holiday was a fast-closing third in the Malibu Stakes in December.
One familiar face in California rarely seen in sprints is Clubhouse Ride , who futilely chased Game On Dude last year before winning the Californian Stakes (gr. II). He prepped for the San Carlos with a fifth-place finish in the Joe Hernandez Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs on the grass.
Tyler Baze has the mount on the 6-year-old by Candy Ride trained by Craig Lewis. He drew post 2 and will carry 120 pounds.
One of the more consistent starters is the Cal-bred Big Macher, winner of three of his past five starts, with a second and a third. The son of Beau Genius, trained by Richard Baltas, captured the six-furlong California Cup Sprint in 1:08 3/5 in his last start.
$250,000 San Carlos Stakes (gr. II, Race 7, 3 p.m.), 4 & Up, 7 furlongs
1 Sahara Sky (FL) J Rosario 120 J Hollendorfer 2 Clubhouse Ride (KY) T Baze 120 C A Lewis 3 Zeewat (PA) C S Nakatani 118 J Hollendorfer 4 Big Macher (CA) L Saez 118 R Baltas 5 Cyclometer (CA) J Talamo 118 B Headley 6 Wild Dude (FL) R Bejarano 123 J Hollendorfer 7 Ready for More (KY) M Garcia 118 M R Mitchell 8 Let's Get Crackin (KY) A Delgadillo 118 W Spawr 9 Midnight Transfer (KY) V Espinoza 118 C Gaines 10 Shakin It Up (KY) M E Smith 123 B Baffert
Sahara Sky (FL)
Clubhouse Ride (KY)
C A Lewis
C S Nakatani
Big Macher (CA)
Wild Dude (FL)
Ready for More (KY)
M R Mitchell
Let's Get Crackin (KY)
Midnight Transfer (KY)
Shakin It Up (KY)
M E Smith