Trained by Mike Mitchell for Indizguys Stable, the 7-year-old On the Acorn returned from an absence of more than nine months to run a credible third in the San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT) in his comeback race at 1 1/2 miles Feb. 23. After showing no early speed, he finished up well in that race while three lengths behind the more tactical winner, Spring House.
The goal for the Great Britain-bred gelding is the about 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano to be run on April 20. Last year, the son of Inchinor used a runner-up finish in the San Luis Obispo as a springboard to the 'Capistrano, which he won in late-running style by 1 1/2 lengths over Sweet Return. On the Acorn followed that effort with a half-length triumph in the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park last May. He went to the sidelines with several minor ailments before returning in February.
The veteran came into his own last year, winning four of five starts with one second and earning $398,400. Overall, his career mark stands at 7-3-4 in 29 starts and he has banked $578,812. Regular rider Victor Espinoza will guide On the Acorn, who was assigned co-high weight of 116 pounds.
On the Acorn faces some of the same seasoned stayers that have been showing up in Southern California's turf marathons for the past couple of seasons, such as Obrigado, Porfido and Fitz Flag.
Trained by Neil Drysdale, the French-bred Obrigado, is often close. He hasn't won, however, since the 2007 San Luis Obispo, losing seven straight since. Obrigado gave probably his best effort during the skid in his only prior start of 2008, the 10-furlong San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT) on Jan. 19. In that race, 5-year-old Enrique gelding rallied wide into the stretch and just missing second by a head while finishing 1 1/4 lengths behind Champs Elysees. Obrigado has won five of 22 lifetime starts and earned $516,424.
Corey Nakatani replaces the injured Rafael Bejarano aboard Obrigado, who also was assigned 116 pounds and will break from the rail post position.
The Chilean-bred Porfido, trained by Bobby Frankel, ran fourth in the recent San Luis Obispo, beaten 3 3/4 lengths after leading the field into the stretch. Porfido, a 6-year-old bay horse by Mash One, was winless in 2007 but ended that rough patch with a three-length allowance victory at Santa Anita at nine furlongs Jan. 18. Porfido has not been in the money in four starts at the 1 1/2-mile distance. David Flores retains the mount.
Fitz Flag, third behind On the Acorn in last year's 'Capistrano, looks to end an eight-race loss string for trainer Juan J. Reviriego. The 8-year-old Argentina bred tuned up for the San Luis Rey with a late move in the 1 1/16-mile Turf Paradise Handicap Feb. 16 to finish fourth. Regular rider G.F. Almeida returns.
The 4-year-old Virginia-bred Warning Zone tries to get back into winning form on turf for trainer John Sadler after two outings on Santa Anita's synthetic track, including a fifth-place finish in the Strub (gr. II) Feb. 2. Warning Zone, by Chester House, won the War Chant Stakes on the Hollywood Park lawn last fall.
Boule d'Or, sixth in last year's 'Capistrano, comes off a 3 1/2-length turf win over allowance rivals at 10 furlongs Feb. 29 in his first start for trainer Jeff Mullins. The 7-year-old Irsh-bred horse by Croco Rouge was claimed from Paddy Gallagher for $50,000 Jan. 20. Boule d'Or has earned $424,981 in a 47-race career that began in Europe.
The French-bred Baby First, group II placed at Longchamp in October 2006, was out of action for 15 months leading up to 2008 and comes into the San Luis Rey off a ninth-place finish in the Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT) Feb. 9.
$200,000 San Luis Rey Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 9, 4:30 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Obrigado (FR), 116, Corey S. Nakatani
2. Baby First (FR), 112, Joseph Talamo
3. Fitz Flag (ARG), 113, G. F. Almeida
4. On the Acorn (GB), 116, Victor Espinoza
5. Porfido (CHI), 114, David R. Flores
6. Warning Zone (VA), 114, Garrett K. Gomez
7. Boule d'Or (IRE), 112, Tyler Baze