Improving Slim Shadey aims for his second straight graded stakes win over Santa Anita's turf course when he faces five opponents in the $150,000 San Luis Rey Stakes (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita Park March 25.
The 1 1/2-event, a major prep for the closing-day San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT) April 22, was originally set a week earlier but postponed due to the threat of heavy rains. The race, with a 2:03 p.m. PDT post as the fourth race, shares top billing with the Santa Ana Stakes (gr. IIT) for fillies and mares on the grass at nine furlongs.
Slim Shadey, who slipped away on the lead in the 10-furlong San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT) as an 11-1 outsider and held on to win by a head over Utopian, may have to stretch that speed an extra quarter-mile in the San Luis Rey.
Then again, Phil Cunningham's homebred has shown he can come from well out of it for trainer Simon Callaghan. The 4-year-old son of Val Royal rallied from seventh to take an optional claiming race at 10 furlongs in his race prior to the San Marcos. This will be his first start beyond that distance.
But Callaghan thinks the marathon distance of the San Luis Rey is within his grasp.
“He’s a very relaxed horse,” said the 29-year-old trainer, who is from England. “You can pretty much ride him any way, so I think he should get this extra distance. If he does, I think he’s going to be a really interesting horse.”
Slim Shadey, who won just once in 13 tries in the United Kingdom, has definitely benefitted from the switch to American racing following a ninth-place finish in his U.S. debut. The gelding drew the far outside post for the San Luis Rey and will carry 123 pounds, five more than his rivals.
Jerry and Ann Moss' Utopian showed some resiliency in the San Marcos, falling back after stalking the early pace and coming on with a rush in the final furlong to just miss. John Shirreffs trains the 5-year-old son of Rock Hard Ten. Utopian is seeking his first stakes victory in 10 career starts and will be ridden again by Mike Smith.
Bourbon Bay was a closing fourth in the San Marcos for trainer Neil Drysdale and David and Jill Heerensperger's 6-year-old Sligo Bay gelding should be a much fitter horse following his first race in nearly three months. Bourbon Bay won the San Luis Rey in 2010 and has five victories in seven lifetime starts on the Santa Anita grass.
Hog's Hollow, trained by Paddy Gallagher, tries stakes company for the first time after a front-running 3 3/4-length score in an allowance event Jan. 27 at 10 furlongs. Highway Bandit, who was second in that race after pulling early, was also entered by trainer Art Sherman.
The 10-year-old Chilean-bred Porfido, on a two-race win streak for trainer Eoin Harty, steps back into stakes company.
$150,000 San Luis Rey Stakes (gr. II, Race 4, 2:03 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Hog's Hollow (KY), G K Gomez, 118, P Gallagher
2. Utopian (KY), M E Smith, 118, J A Shirreffs
3. Porfido (CHI), C S Nakatani, 118, E G Harty
4. Highway Bandit (KY), J Talamo, 118, A Sherman
5. Bourbon Bay (KY), J Rosario, 118, N D Drysdale
6. Slim Shadey (GB), D R Flores, 123, S Callaghan