Monba and Yankee Bravo, both prominent on last year’s Triple Crown trail, will make their returns to the racetrack in the $100,000 Thunder Road Handicap (gr. IIIT) Feb. 7 at Santa Anita. However, Irish-bred Ferneley, a near-winner in consecutive graded stakes, could loom the largest in the one-mile turf event.
A field of 10 has been entered for the Thunder Road, which also includes last year’s runner-up Mr Napper Tandy
and Monterey Jazz
, who captured the Sir Beaufort (gr. IIIT) on the Santa Anita turf in 2007 and the grade II Strub Handicap on the synthetic surface a year ago. Five of the horses entered were bred internationally. Post time is scheduled for 3:36 p.m. PDT.
Monba won three of five starts to begin his career, including a neck victory in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) April 12 at Keeneland. That win propelled the son of Maria’s Mon—Hamba, by Easy Goer to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), but the gray colt was never a factor and finished last in a field of 20.
Since returning from injury, Monba has been working steadily at Palm Meadows Training Center for Todd Pletcher. Most recently, he breezed four furlongs in :49.60 on Feb. 3. Monba, who runs for a partnership led by Jack and Laurie Wolf’s Starlight Stable, drew post 10 in the Thunder Road. John Velazquez will ride.
Like Monba, Yankee Bravo is coming off a lengthy layoff. The son of Yankee Gentlemen has not started since finishing tenth in the May 17 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico.
Trained by Patrick Gallagher, Yankee Bravo won the California Derby last January and then finished third in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds. As a 2-year-old, he made his only two starts on turf and won each time. Alex Solis will get the call on Yankee Bravo, who has been working at Santa Anita.
Silver Springs Stud Farm’s Ferneley has missed winning grade II turf races by less than a length in his last two efforts – both at Santa Anita. Two starts back the son of Ishiguru battled down the stretch in the San Gabriel Handicap before falling three parts of a length short of Proudinsky. Three weeks later he took a narrow advantage at the top of the lane in the 1 1/4-mile San Marcos Handicap by also came up just short.
Trained by Ben Cecil, Ferneley is 4-2-5 from 21 career starts. His last win came in the optional claiming ranks Oct. 29 on the Hollywood grass. Regular rider Victor Espinoza will be aboard.
Monterey Jazz will be the 118-pound highweight in the Thunder Road based on his three graded stakes scores, the last of which came in the Texas Mile (gr. III) on the Lone Star main track in April. Most recently, Monterey Jazz was third in optional claiming company Dec. 27 on the Santa Anita grass. In that one, he lost to current entrant Matto Mondo and was a nose in back of Mr Napper Tandy.
$100,000 Thunder Road Handicap (gr. III, Race 7, 3:36 p.m.), 4-Year-Olds and Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Mr Napper Tandy (GB), 115, Rafael Bejarano
2. Ferneley (IRE),116, Victor Espinoza
3. Global Hunter (ARG), 117, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
4. Monterey Jazz (KY), 118, David Romero Flores
5. Yankee Bravo (KY), 116, Alex O. Solis
6. Shore Do (KY), 112, Joseph Talamo
7. Dilemma (KY), 116, Garrett K. Gomez
8. Becrux (ITY), 117, Joel Rosario
9. Matto Mondo (CHI), 116, Mike E. Smith
10. Monba (KY), 116, John R. Velazquez