Surf Cat, winner of the Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) at Hollywood Park last summer, figures to be a prohibitive favorite when he returns to the Inglewood track for the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (gr. II) Saturday.
The 1 1/16-mile LeRoy, the first major steppingstone to the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) on July 8, drew a field of just six.
Trained by Bruce Headley, Surf Cat is unbeaten in three 2006 starts and will be ridden by Alex Solis while toting top weight of 121 pounds. He stretches out for the LeRoy after capturing a pair of sprints at Santa Anita in the San Carlos (gr. II) in February and Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup (gr. II) handicaps six weeks later.
The Kentucky-bred Surf Cat, a $25,000 Fasig-Tipton buy in February 2003, has six wins – including three grade II victories – and three seconds in 10 lifetime starts. He has earned $472,420.
Spellbinder, winner of the San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita in February and a game third in the Native Diver Handicap (gr. III) at Hollywood in December, will make his first start in ten weeks.
"He's had a nice rest since the Santa Anita Handicap," said trainer Richard Mandella in reference to a seventh-place finish on March 4. "We're ready to find out where he's at."
The 5-year-old Spellbinder has won five of 19 starts and earned $348,129. Martin Pedroza has the call back. $150,000 Merbyn LeRoy Handicap (gr. II, Race 3, 2:20 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Surf Cat (KY), 121, Alex O. Solis
2. Spellbinder (KY), 116, Martin A. Pedroza
3. Keep On Punching (KY), 113, Patrick A. Valenzuela
4. Timias (KY), 112, Jon K. Court
5. Dixie Meister (TX), 115, David R. Flores
6. Gallardo (FL), 112, Aaron T. Gryder