A starting berth in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) is on the line for eight older horses in Del Mar's San Diego Handicap (gr. II) July 30.
With Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) winner First Dude retired July 25 and Southern California division stalwarts Game On Dude and Twirling Candy looking elsewhere, the $200,000 Polytrack test at 1 1/16 miles could be a golden opportunity for one of these. A Breeders' Cup Challenge series event, the San Diego also is traditionally the main local prep for the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic (gr. I), which is Aug. 28.
Aggie Engineer, the 120-pound high weight, and Uh Oh Bango will be among the favorites in the San Diego, with Golden Itiz also likely to draw strong attention. The race is the eighth on the program and is slated for a 5:30 p.m. PDT start.
Trained by Paddy Gallagher, grade II winner Aggie Engineer returned from a freshening June 4 to run third in the Californian Stakes (gr. II), finishing 1 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Twirling Candy at Hollywood Park. Ward and Roberta Williford's 6-year-old homebred son of E Dubai won the San Pasqual Stakes (gr. II) impressively in January but was given a rest after finishing ninth in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) two months later.
Regular rider Joe Talamo is aboard Aggie Engineer, who figures to be forwardly placed from post 7.
Triple AAA Ranch's homebred Uh Oh Bango won the Berkeley Handicap (gr. III) this spring on Golden Gate Field's Tapeta racing surface. He gets back to his preferred distance after running fourth behind Smiling Tiger in Hollywood's Triple Bend Handicap (gr. I) at seven furlongs July 2.
Trained by Kory Owens, the 4-year-old Arizona-bred son of Top Hit has finished in the money in 10 of 13 lifetime races, winning four, while banking $426,612. This will mark the Del Mar debut for Uh Oh Bango, who will be ridden by Garrett Gomez from the far outside slot.
Golden Itiz won the Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) at Hollywood 13 months ago for Jay Em Ess Stable and trainer Ron Ellis. He makes his third start of the year since returning to action in June following a 10-month break. The 4-year-old Tiznow colt won a seven-furlong allowance tilt in his most recent start July 10 at Hollywood. Tyler Baze retains the mount.
Warren Williamson's Kevlar Kid brings a two-race win streak into his stakes debut for trainer Carla Gaines. The 4-year-old Rock Hard Ten gelding has been first or second in six of eight career tries.
Spurrier, trained by Bob Baffert for Arnold Zetcher, was fifth in the Californian and looks to snap an eight-race losing streak. The 6-year-old son of Dixieland Band has had three seconds and two thirds, all in graded stakes company, during his current win drought.
Tres Borrachos, a 6-year-old now trained by Marty Jones for new owner George Hicker, won the 2008 Swaps Stakes (gr. II) but nothing much since in a three-for-30 career. The Ecton Park gelding leads the field in earnings with $640,257. He has raced once in 2011, finishing third in a high-priced allowance at Hollywood June 10.
Don Tito, third in the Robert Kerlan Memorial Handicap on the Hollywood turf last time, and Oilisblackgold round out the field.
$200,000 San Diego Handicap (gr. II, Race 8, 5:30 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Kevlar Kid (KY), C Sutherland, 116, C Gaines
2. Don Tito (FL), A Quinonez, 115, J W Sadler
3. Oilisblackgold (KY), V Espinoza, 112, C Dollase
4. Spurrier (KY), J Rosario, 117, B Baffert
5. Tres Borrachos (KY), R Bejarano, 116, M F Jones
6. Golden Itiz (KY), T Baze, 118, R W Ellis
7. Aggie Engineer (KY), J Talamo, 120, P Gallagher
8. Uh Oh Bango (AZ), G K Gomez, 117, R K Owens