Bobby Frankel sends out Zambezi Sun and Champs Elysees in the San Luis Obispo Handicap.

Bobby Frankel sends out Zambezi Sun and Champs Elysees in the San Luis Obispo Handicap.

Anne M. Eberhardt

U.S. Debut for Zambezi Sun in 'Obispo

French group I winner targeting Santa Anita Handicap for trainer Bobby Frankel.

French group I winner Zambezi Sun, in his first start since the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) last fall, makes his United States debut in the $150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Santa Anita turf Feb. 22 for trainer Bobby Frankel.

Juddmonte Farms' British-bred homebred had been expected to debut in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (gr. IIT) March 7 on the Pro-Ride racing surface. Instead, the 5-year-old son of Dansili will tackle the turf course at 1 1/2 miles. Frankel also entered Juddmonte's two-time grade I winner Champs Elysees in the San Luis Obispo.

“I might have missed a little training, so this way it will be like a workout for him,” Frankel said of Zambezi Sun. Asked if Zambezi Sun would still be a candidate for the Big ’Cap, Frankel said, “Of course. It shouldn’t take too much out of him, on the grass.”

Zambezi Sun has not raced since Oct. 5 when he was 15th of 16 at odds of 36-1 in Longchamp's prestigious Arc. In his second Arc start (he finished eighth in 2007), he was beaten 27 lengths by the filly Zarkava, Europe’s 2008 Horse of the Year. Zambezi Sun won the 12-furlong Grand Prix de Paris (Fr-I) under 127 pounds by five lengths on July 14, 2007. He also won last season's Qatar Prix Foy (Fr-II) at the distance at Longchamp prior to the Arc. Zambezi Sun won 4 of 11 starts in France for earnings of $822,862.

The bay horse has had two bullet works on Pro-Ride this month in preparation for his debut. He drew post 7 and will be ridden by Garrett Gomez while carrying 118 pounds.

That's one pound less than Champs Elysees, who is the co-high weight along with recent San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT) winner Artiste Royal. An overflow field includes the two past winners of the San Luis Obispo, Spring House (2008) and Obrigado (2007), and Canadian International (Can-I) victor Marsh Side.

Champs Elysees gets back on the grass after a dull seventh-place finish in the San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) over Pro-Ride on Feb. 8. The 6-year-old son of Danehill captured the Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) at 12 furlongs prior to that effort. Third in the 2008 Santa Anita Handicap, he also won Woodbine's Northern Dancer (Can-I) on grass in September. In addition, Champs Elysees won Santa Anita’s 2008 San Marcos and lost by a nose to On the Acorn in Hollywood Park’s Jim Murray Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) during an outstanding campaign.

Michael Baze was named on Champs Elysees, replacing Gomez. Champs Elysees, a winner of $1,354,761 in his career while in the money in 15 of 19 grass races, breaks from the rail.

Trainer Neil Drysdale enters a salty trio in Artiste Royal, Marsh Side and Obrigado.

The Irish-bred Artiste Royal won the 1 1/4-mile San Marcos by a nose over San Luis Obispo rival Medici Code in his last start on Jan. 15. He also captured Hollywood Park’s Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) last June.

Gomez rode Artiste Royale in the San Marcos, so David Flores will take over this time. He was atop the 8-year-old bay ridgling for last year’s neck victory in the Whittingham. Owned by David and Jill Heerensperger, the Irish-bred son of Danehill has compiled a lifetime record of 7-8-5 in 28 starts while earning $871,790.

Obrigado, eighth last time out in the San Marcos, has not won in 11 starts since taking the 2007 San Luis Obispo though he has been close on many occasions. Martin Garcia will ride for the first time.

The third Drysdale entrant is Marsh Side, whose 19 career starts have taken him to 12 different racetracks. He leads the field in earnings with $1,439,706, but $1.1 million of it was gained through a 29-1 upset last October in the $1,851,250 Pattison Canadian International over 1 1/2 miles at Woodbine. In his only start since, the 6-year-old Gone West horse ran seventh in the San Marcos.      

R. D. Hubbard’s Spring House captured the 2008 San Luis Obispo by 2 1/4 lengths over 'Obispo entrant Church Service while giving the latter five pounds. They each were weighted at 117 pounds for this year’s running.

Spring House, a 7-year-old gelding trained by Julio Canani, has a lone win from seven subsequent starts following that score. The victory came in last summer’s Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT).  Alex Solis now rides the son of Chester House who has earned $748,284 from a 7-5-11 record in 37 career starts.

Church Service, a 6-year-old gelded son of Pulpit, was claimed by trainer Mike Mitchell on behalf of Dan Capen and Robert Tjosvold for $50,000 more than a year ago. He lost by a head to Muhannak in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon at 1 1/2 miles over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride track last Oct. 25. He took the Dallas Turf Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) earlier in the year at Lone Star Park. Rafael Bejarano will be in the saddle.

Medici Code, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Darrell Vienna for Herrick Racing, will be making his first start at a distance longer than 1 1/4 miles. Medici Code has not won since taking the 2007 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) but has been progressing nicely since since returning from an eight-month absence in November. In the San Marcos, Medici Code put in a sustained rally to lead briefly close to the wire before losing a nose decision.

“I think it will actually be a benefit to him,” says Vienna of the extra distance. Joel Rosario replaces Bejarano atop the British-bred son of Medicean.

$150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Champs Elysees (GB), 119, Michael C. Baze
2. Church Service (KY), 117, Rafael Bejarano
3. Spring House (KY), 117, Alex O. Solis
4. Artiste Royal (IRE), 119, David R. Flores
5. Bonjour (NZ), 114, Joseph Talamo
6. Kris Silver (FL), 112, Tyler Baze
7. Zambezi Sun (GB), 118, Garrett K. Gomez
8. Medici Code (GB), 115, Joel Rosario
9. Obrigado (FR), 116, Martin Garcia
10. Marsh Side (KY), 117, Victor Espinoza
11. On Fire (KY), 112, Brice Blanc
12. Attempted Humor (KY), 114, Mike E. Smith
-- Also Eligible --
13. Lightning Hit (IRE), 112, Chantal Sutherland
14. Mr.Universo (BRZ), 112, Michael C. Baze