Ultimate Eagle in the Hollywood Derby.

Ultimate Eagle in the Hollywood Derby.

Benoit Photography

Ultimate Eagle Shortens Up for Sir Beaufort

Hollywood Derby winner takes on Comma to the Top, Mr. Commons in one-mile grass test.

Ultimate Eagle, winner of the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) at 14-1 odds in his most recent start, attempts to run his winning streak to five races when he takes on a strong field in the $150,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. IIT) Dec. 26 at Santa Anita.

The Sir Beaufort, part of a big opening day stakes card, is set as the eighth race at 4 p.m. PST. The one-mile grass event for 3-year-olds will be immediately followed by the $300,000 Malibu Stakes (gr. I).

Grade I winner Comma to the Top, who was also nominated to the Malibu, and Mr. Commons, making his first start since finishing fifth in the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) Nov. 5, are part of the Sir Beaufort lineup.

B. J. Wright’s overachiever Ultimate Eagle will be cutting back in distance from 10 furlongs, but trainer Michael Pender thinks his front-running Mizzen Mast  colt will be up to the challenge. He opted for the Sir Beaufort after Ultimate Eagle worked five furlongs in a sharp in :59 4/5 on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track Dec. 20.

“We have certain goals to meet every year and within those goals, we can call some audibles, and this is one of them,” said Pender. He said was originally pointing Ultimate Eagle for a start on dirt in either the San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) or the Strub (gr. II).

Ultimate Eagle has not been beaten since being switched to the turf after three losing efforts on Cushion Track. He started his winning streak with two victories at Del Mar, then moved to Santa Anita with a 34-1 upset in the Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT). That was followed by his victory in the Hollywood Derby, also a big surprise.

“This horse gets no respect,” Pender said.

Ultimate Eagle, a winner of $329,800 in seven starts, will have regular rider Martin Pedroza. They will break from post 8 with top weight of 123 pounds.

Trainer Peter Miller made a late decision to enter the Sir Beaufort with Comma to the Top, who will be making his first start on grass since winning the one-mile Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) as a 2-year-old 13 months ago.

A gelded son of Bwana Charlie who was purchased for $22,000 by the partnership of Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, and Kevin Tsujihara, Comma to the Top went on to capture the CashCall Futurity (gr. IT) in his next start.

Comma to the Top, however, has struggled as a 3-year-old despite running second by a head to Midnight Interlude in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). He subsequently ran last in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and went to the sidelines for nearly seven months. Comma to the Top registered his first victory in six starts this year in an allowance at Hollywood Park Dec. 11, covering seven furlongs in 1:21 3/5. The victory lifted his lifetime earnings to $812,200 from a 7-2-0 mark in 16 starts. Joe Talamo has the return riding call.

St. George Farm Racing's Mr. Commons figures prominently in the Sir Beaufort. “Strong, strong, strong,” is the way trainer John Shirreffs describes the colt's preparation.

Third in the Santa Anita Derby, Mr. Commons, a homebred son of Artie Schiller, began a series of four successive turf starts in July when taking Del Mar's Oceanside Stakes. He followed with solid seconds in the Del Mar Mile (gr. IIT) when beaten by a nose by Caracortado, and in the Oak Tree Mile, in which he was three-quarters of a length behind Jeranimo .

In the BC Mile, Mr. Commons finished 4 ½ lengths behind victorious Court Vision . Mike Smith rides.

British-bred Venomous, who previously competed in France, produced a big rally from far back in his American debut in the Oak Tree Derby, missing by a half-length while second to Ultimate Eagle. Well bet in his return in the Hollywood Derby, he flattened out after making a strong rail move and wound up fifth,

Others in the Sir Beaufort cast are Cozy Kitten, third in the Oak Tree Derby, and Riveting Reason, who has posted three consecutive bullet works on the main track at Santa Anita including a five-furlong move in :58 4/5 Dec. 19. Myung Kwon Cho's son of Fusaichi Pegasus , second by a nose in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) in February, will race with blinkers in his second start on turf.

$150,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 4 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Cozy Kitten (KY), A Quinonez, 118, W A Ward
2. Venomous (GB), J Rosario, 118, L Powell
3. Comma to the Top (FL), J Talamo, 118, P Miller
4. Mr. Commons (KY), M E Smith, 118, J A Shirreffs
5. Thirtyfirststreet (CA), H I Berrios, 118, D F O'Neill
6. Irish Art (KY), R Bejarano, 118, C Gaines
7. Moment of Weakness (IRE), K Krigger, 118, V Belvoir
8. Ultimate Eagle (KY), M A Pedroza, 123, M Pender
9. Riveting Reason (KY), V Espinoza, 118, M K Cho
Blinkers On: Thirtyfirststreet, Riveting Reason