Likely favorites Brother Derek and Arson Squad will switch riders while stretching out for Saturday’s $200,000 San Fernando Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. II) for 4-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, changes their connections expect to bring about a marked difference in their fortunes at Santa Anita this season.
Although they are the most well-fancied runners – Brother Derek at 2-1 and Arson Squad, 3-1, on the morning line – neither was a factor in the seven-furlong Malibu Stakes (gr. I) on the meet’s opening day, the race that initiates Santa Anita’s three-race Strub Series culminated by the $300,000 Strub Stakes (gr. II) on Feb. 3.
The two rivals head a field of 12 set for the 55th running of the San Fernando on a nine-race program that includes the $150,000 San Rafael Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-olds, an early major prep for the April 7 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).
Brother Derek, a handy winner of last year’s Santa Anita Derby as well as the San Rafael, will be reunited with Alex Solis and carry top weight of 122 pounds in the San Fernando. Garrett Gomez took over after Solis, who had been the regular rider of both horses, opted for Arson Squad in the Malibu. Gomez will ride Arson Squad for the first time on Saturday.
Bruce Headley, who trains Arson Squad, is not unhappy with the swap. Gomez, the meet’s leading rider, led the nation in earnings last year. “Garrett is riding like he’s possessed,” commented Headley.
Solis, aboard Brother Derek while earning over $1.5 million, believes the San Fernando’s added distance will be of considerable benefit to his mount.
With earnings of $1,533,458 from six wins in 14 starts, Brother Derek is the most accomplished entrant. He had a troubled trip in the Malibu when finishing seventh. He previously ran fifth in November’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) for owner Cecil N. Peacock and trainer Dan Hendricks.
Arson Squad also was troubled in the Malibu when running eighth. He was bumped from both sides at the start and trailed by nine lengths. A winner of four of nine starts with earnings of $372,450 for Jay Em Ess Stable, the Florida-bred’s best showing was when victorious in Hollywood Park’s Swaps Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. II) last July at nine furlongs.
Midnight Lute, who finished third behind victorious Latent Heat in the Malibu, tries a distance for the first time after winning three of five sprint races for trainer Bob Baffert. The son of Baffert’s 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (both gr. I) winner Real Quiet is clearly bred to handle the distance. Spring At Last, the Malibu runner-up at 17-1 odds, also figures to be a contender in his second start for trainer Doug O’Neill.
$200,000 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), 4-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. A. P. Xcellent (KY), 116, Jon K. Court
2. Objective (KY), 116, Jorge F. Chavez
3. Awesome Gem (KY), 116, Tyler Baze
4. Halo Steven (FL), 120, Martin Garcia
5. Soul City Slew (KY), 116, Clinton L. Potts
6. Arson Squad (PA), 120, Garrett K. Gomez
7. Spring At Last (KY), 116, Corey S. Nakatani
8. Brother Derek (CA), 122, Alex O. Solis
9. Midnight Lute (KY), 118, Victor Espinoza
10. Big Mistake (KY), 116, Alex Bisono
11. Sensational Score (FL), 118, David R. Flores
12. Hello Sunday (FR), 118, Richard Migliore