Following a layoff of more than eight months, Ravel returned to win a 1 1/16-mile allowance test on Keeneland's Polytrack by five lengths Oct. 12. The Fusaichi Pegasus colt, a $950,000 yearling owned by Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor, was a star on the rise when he came from off the pace to win the Sham Stakes (gr. III) by one length in February. But the injury was discovered soon after.
“He had a small hairline fracture of the left front cannon bone, non-surgical,” explained Pletcher of the colt’s absence. “We were very pleased with his first start back at Keeneland and have been pointing to this race since.”
Garrett Gomez retains the mount on the Kentucky-bred Ravel, who has won three of four starts in his career and earned $129,871. Ravel starts from the inside post.
Nine rivals have been entered in the 1 1/8-mile event, led by 120-pound high weights Buzzards Bay and Arson Squad. Both contenders have some improvement to make after seventh-place finishes in their last starts.
The grade I winner Buzzards Bay flopped as the favorite in the All American (gr. III) on Golden Gate Fields' Tepeta Footings course Nov. 17. The 5-year-old Marco Bay horse got the green light from trainer Ron Ellis for the Native Diver after working five furlongs in a bullet :58 1/5 Dec. 2 under regular rider Jose Valdivia Jr..
Owned by Gary Broad, Buzzards Bay won the Californian (gr. II) at Hollywood in June, his fourth graded stakes victory at nine furlongs. He has amassed earnings of more than $1.3 million with seven wins in 21 starts.
Arson Squad, a multiple grade II winner, has thrown in three successive clunkers for trainer Bruce Headley since taking the Strub (gr. II) at Santa Anita in February. The 4-year-old Brahms gelding, owned by Jay Em Ess Stable, defeated just one horse in his last try, Oak Tree's Goodwood (gr. I) Sept. 29 at Santa Anita, while coming home five lengths behind the victorious Tiago. The Pennsylavania-bred Arson Squad is a lifetime winner of $634,450 while capturing five of 14 starts.
Bold Chieftain, coming off a half-length victory in the California Cup Classic Nov. 3 at Santa Anita, ships south again for Northern California-based Bill Morey Jr. The 4-year-old state-bred colt has won three of his past four starts and will be seeking his first graded victory. He has won seven of 13 starts and earned $465,775. Regular rider Russell Baze will be aboard.
Gary Tanaka's Hello Sunday, a group III winner in France, returns for trainer Bobby Frankel after a strong-closing third-place effort in the All American. The French bred finished 1 1/4 lengths behind the victorious McCann's Mojave.
Frankel also saddles the comebacker Racketeer for Stronach Stables in the Native Diver.
Isipingo, with a record of 3-2-3 in 10 starts this year -- all on grass for trainer Craig Dollase -- enters here after also being nominated to the Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT). Isipingo most recently ran second in the Carleton F. Burke Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Santa Anita turf following a third-place showing in the Clement Hirsch (gr. IT) over the same course in October.
$100,000 Native Diver Handicap (gr. III, Race 9, 4:35 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Ravel (KY), 116, Garrett K. Gomez
2. Hello Sunday (FR), 116, Julien R. Leparoux
3. Arson Squad (PA), 120, Alex O. Solis
4. Buzzards Bay (FL), 120, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
5. Isipingo (KY), 116, Aaron T. Gryder
6. Wanna Runner (ON), 116, Tyler Baze
7. Masterpiece (ARG), 115, Alonso Quinonez
8. Racketeer (KY), 114, Rafael Bejarano
9. Heatseeker (IRE), 115, Michael C. Baze
10. Bold Chieftain (CA), 118, Russell A. Baze