Regional stakes star Silent Pleasure, who beat Bob and John by a neck in last month's Texas Mile (gr. III) for his fourth consecutive stakes win, will return to Texas for Monday's $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III) -- the marquee event during the Grand Prairie, Texas track's ninth annual Lone Star Million.
The Lone Star Million -- six stakes races, including a trio of grade III events, cumulatively worth more than $1 million in prize money -- is Texas' richest annual day of horse racing.
While horses from Kentucky, California, New York and Florida fly to Texas on H.E. "Tex" Sutton Forwarding Co. charter flights Friday, Saturday and Sunday, trainer Howard Scarberry will van Silent Pleasure from his Louisiana base at Evangeline Downs to Lone Star Park on Friday.
Silent Pleasure will once again face California-based Bob and John, winner of last year's Wood Memorial (gr. I) for trainer Bob Baffert, as well as Sweetnorthernsaint, the Maryland-based runner who was favored in the 2006 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and was second in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) after a romping victory in the Illinois Derby (gr. II).
Jonesboro, the 5 3/4-length winner of the Essex Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park this winter, is also a likely starter and will be ridden by Calvin Borel, the regular jockey for Kentucky Derby champ Street Sense. Real Dandy, the $951,704 earner from the Steve Asmussen barn, and the Bart Evans-trained Almost Certain are also candidates.
Perfect Drift, the 8-year-old winner of more than $4.6 million, is also under consideration for the Lone Star Park Handicap, according to Lone Star Park stakes coordinator Mike Shamburg, but appears more likely for Hollywood Park's $250,000 Californian (gr. II) at 1 1/8 miles on June 2. Another said to be on the fence is the Neil Howard-trained Student Council, who won the MAXXAM Gold Cup Handicap (gr. III) this winter at Sam Houston Race Park.
Frenchman Patrick Biancone, who raided last year's Lone Star Million with six entrants, has just one this year, but she's the likely favorite for the $200,000 Ouija Board Handicap (gr. IIIT), formerly known as the WinStar Distaff. The much-heralded Lady of Venice prepped for Monday's one-mile turf race with a one-length victory at Keeneland against allowance competition on April 22. She'll be challenged by multiple stakes winners Brownie Points and Rich Fantasy, as well as the Irving Distaff top two finishers Carolina Sky and My Three Sisters.
Garrett Gomez, who led all jockeys in money-won last year with more than $20.1 million, will be in town to ride Bob and John and Lady of Venice, according to agent Ron Anderson.
Trial by Jury, upset winner of last year's $200,000 Dallas Turf Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) for trainer Bruce Jackson, will be back to defend his title in the 1 1/8-mile grass race, which will be held on Lone Star Million Day for the first time. Crested, an English-bred 4-year-old from the Wally Dollase barn, is expected to be a top contender after winning a Churchill Downs allowance on April 29. Waupaca, who won his fourth race over the Lone Star Park turf course two weeks ago, is expected to start in the race for the fourth consecutive year.
Entries for the Lone Star Million will be taken Saturday morning. The placement and order of the six stakes races will be determined at Saturday's draw.