Streaking Aggie Engineer, a sharp stakes winner in his two most recent starts, looks for his fourth straight victory as the choice in the $150,000 San Antonio Stakes (gr. II), the featured race on Super Bowl Sunday at Santa Anita Feb. 6.
Santa Anita will have a special 11 a.m. first post. The San Antonio is the sixth race on the program with a 1:31 p.m. PST start time. Seven are entered in the 1 1/8-mile main track test.
Ward and Roberta Williford's homebred Aggie Engineer, trained by Paddy Gallagher, has progressed up the ladder of the West Coast handicapping division with wins in Hollywood Park's Native Diver Handicap (gr. III) and the San Pasqual Stakes (gr. II) in his most recent start Jan. 8. He is considered a prime contender for the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) March 5.
With his good speed as an asset, the 6-year-old E Dubai gelding was able to win the 1 1/16-mile San Pasqual as the favorite after tracking a quick pace in third. He made an early bid for the lead and came home 3 1/4 lengths in front of Spurrier.
“He’s been acting good since he ran,” Gallagher said. “He’s not the kind of horse who has to be on the lead (to win). There was quite a bit of speed in the San Pasqual, and he sat off it and ran good.”
Aggie Engineer completed his preparation for the San Antonio with a six-furlongs drill on Santa Anita’s main track Jan. 29 in 1:15 3/5.
Aggie Engineer, who once again will be ridden by Joe Talamo, has won seven of 17 starts and earned $358,280. He'll break from the far outside with co-top weight of 123 pounds.
Arnold Zetcher's Spurrier, who finished second in both the Native Diver and the San Pasqual, tries again for Bob Baffert, who is in front of the Santa Anita trainer standings with 22 wins from 57 starts, a 39% strike rate. Spurrier, a 6-year-old son of Dixieland Band, is a five-time winner from 26 races with earnings of $306,947. Joel Rosario rides the gray/roan horse, who gets five pounds from the favorite, from post 6.
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) winner Dakota Phone was entered in both the Thunder Road Handicap (gr. IIIT) at one mile on turf Feb. 5 and the San Antonio.
“The turf race is coming up with a lot of speed and it looks like a better spot,” said Jerry Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward of the late-running gelding.
Dakota Phone has disappointed in two starts since his 37-1 upset at Churchill Downs Nov. 6. The 6-year-old returned to run fourth in Hollywood's Native Diver over Hollywood's Cushion track Dec. 4 and then was fifth in the San Pasqual, both times finishing well behind Aggie Engineer.
Also coming out of the San Pasqual is the Six-S Racing Stable's late-running Quindici Man, who was third in his return to Southern California racing for trainer Craig Lewis last month.
John Sadler has an interesting newcomer to the stakes scene with C R K Stable's Gladding, who won an optional claimer in his Southern California debut over a wet fast Santa Anita strip Dec. 29. The 4-year-old Sarava gelding had been racing at Calder, where he broke his maiden by 17 1/4 lengths in a one-mile heat on the dirt last October.
“It was a private purchase out of Florida,” Sadler said. “I bought him with the idea that he was a horse that would like traditional dirt, because that’s what they have down there. He won nicely the first time (locally).
“He had a few races at Calder on turf, but they really weren’t his thing. On the dirt, his last few races were very impressive.”
Gladding has had two bullet works since winning Dec. 29 and drilled six furlongs in 1:12 1/5 as a final tightener Jan. 31.
Two others, Big Shot Syd and Brazilian-bred Pode Ir, step up off optional claiming wins Jan. 17.
$150,000 San Antonio Stakes (gr. II, Race 6, 1:31 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Gladding (FL), R Bejarano, 118, J W Sadler
2. Big Shot Syd (KY), A Quinonez, 118, J Armstrong
3. Dakota Phone (KY), C S Nakatani, 123, J Hollendorfer
4. Quindici Man (KY), P A Valenzuela, 118, C A Lewis
5. Pode Ir (BRZ), D R Flores, 118, A C Avila
6. Spurrier (KY), J Rosario, 118, B Baffert
7. Aggie Engineer (KY), J Talamo, 123, P Gallagher