San Simeon: Desert Code Back On Hillside

Course specialist returns in two weeks as the 122-pound high weight in field of nine.

Hillside turf course specialist Desert Code makes a quick turnaround for trainer David Hofmans as the 122-pound high weight in the $100,000 San Simeon Handicap (gr. IIIT) on Santa Anita's penultimate day for the 2008-09 racing season April 18.

The San Simeon is one of two graded grass races on the Santa Anita card, joining the Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT) for older fillies and mares at 10 furlongs. The San Simeon is race 7; the Santa Barbara is race 9. The 85-day meet closes April 19.

Desert Code has won five of seven starts on Santa Anita's downhill course at about 6 1/2 furlongs, including the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint last fall at odds of 35-1. He'll face eight rivals in the San Simeon, and will spot his opponents between five and 10 pounds apiece. Owned by Tarabilla Farms, the 5-year-old son of E Dubai tired in his last start, the one-mile Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT) April 4, and finished last of eight after pressing the pace from off the rail.

Usually on the front end, he'll break from the far outside with Aaron Gryder aboard in the San Simeon. Gryder and Desert Code teamed to win the Daytona Handicap (gr. IIIT) in gate-to-wire fashion by 2 1/2 lengths Feb. 15. The chestnut is the class of the lineup with earnings of $1,088,939 from an overall record of 7-4-2 in 21 starts.

The San Simeon marks the return of Diamond A Racing’s Tiz West, the second high weight at 117 pounds. Trainer Richard Mandella’s 4-year-old charge has been off since Aug. 31 at Del Mar, and he’s never won sprinting. This will also be Tiz West's first start over Santa Anita’s testy downhill turf layout.

“He’s been away a long time, and I wouldn’t normally think to run him 6 1/2, but he’s fresh, and he might like it,” Mandella said. “It’s not that he wasn’t always quick enough (to sprint), and I don’t intend to put him in there to try and make the pace. I want him to settle back and finish good, and if this race is too short, it’s too short. But it should be a good starting point for his return.”

Victor Espinoza rides the Gone West colt, who won the Cinema Handicap (gr. IIIT) over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Hollywood Park last summer. Tiz West has a stakes win on the Santa Anita lawn, taking last year's one-mile La Puente, and enters with earnings of $219,348 from a 3-1-2 showing in nine starts.

Another comebacker, Jungle Prince, is weighted at 116. He is an 8-year-old who was not victorious in four starts last year after more than 1 1/2 years on the sidelines following a win in Hollywood Park’s Hollywood Turf Express (gr. IIIT) in 2006 for trainer Victor Garcia. His best effort last year came in a third-place finish in the Bing Crosby Handicap (g. I) on Del Mar's Polytrack last summer, two lengths behind Street Boss .

With earnings of $536,275 from a record of 8-7-7 in 33 career starts, he is one of the most accomplished runners in the field. Jungle Prince, to be ridden by Agapito Delgadillo, figures to be a big price in the race as he is winless in five starts down Santa Anita’s hillside course.

Mr Gruff, a lightly-raced 5-year-old gelding trained by Ron Ellis for Gary Broad, and Prussian, a 4-year-old colt trained by Mike Mitchell for Monticule, are coming off impressive wins over the course in allowance events.

Euroglide ran second to Desert Code in the Daytona. Chilean invader El Merito makes his United States debut after nearly a year off. Headache and Doppio round out the field.

$100,000 San Simeon Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 7, 3:36 p.m.), 4 & Up, About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Euroglide (FL), 114, Michael C. Baze
2. Prussian (KY), 115, Rafael Bejarano
3. Doppio (KY), 115, Alex O. Solis
4. Tiz West (KY), 117, Victor Espinoza
5. Jungle Prince (KY), 116, Agapito Delgadillo
6. Headache (FR), 112, Julien Couton
7. El Merito (CHI), 115, Corey S. Nakatani
8. Mr Gruff (KY), 113, Joel Rosario
9. Desert Code (KY), 122, Aaron T. Gryder