Ex-Claimer Special Matter Tops Burke Line-Up

(from Oak Tree at Santa Anita report)
Special Matter, a rags-to-riches gelding that has earned $200,000 since being claimed for $12,500 two years ago by trainer Rafael Becerra, headlines the $100,000 Carleton F. Burke Handicap (gr. IIIT) on Saturday on the Santa Anita turf.

The 6-year-old son of River Special is attempting to become the second two-time winner of the Burke, a 1 1/2-mile turf test that is Oak Tree's longest graded stakes race. Fiddle Isle won the first two editions of the handicap in 1969 and 1970 for legendary trainer Charlie Whittingham, who would go on to win the race 11 times.

Special Matter won the 2002 edition of the Burke as a 9-1 shot in his first stakes attempt.

He will have Kent Desormeaux in the saddle for the first time, replacing Tyler Baze, who has been aboard in nine of his last 10 starts. A first or a second in the Burke would push Special Matter's lifetime bankroll past the half-million mark.

Baze rides Hatif in the Burke.

Trainer Bobby Frankel seeks his fifth Burke victory with Continuously, who will tote high weight of 116 pounds.

Continuously beat Special Matter in last year's Burke Handicap, when the pair ran eighth and ninth in a field of nine. Continuously has a grade I victory since then, which came by disqualification in the Hollywood Turf Cup. The 5-year-old has since run second in three different grade II stakes.

The eight-horse field also includes Puerto Banus, winner of the San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita at the 12-furlong distance in February for trainer Kristin Mulhall.

Also on the card Saturday is the $75,000 Sunny Slope Stakes, a six-furlong test for 2-year-olds. Slide Home, trained by Wesley Ward for and owned by Oscar-winning actor Joe Pesci and Ray Sainz, will make his debut in the Sunny Slope.

"He's one of the most talented 2-year-olds I've ever trained," said Ward, who expects Pesci to be at Santa Anita to watch the race.

$100,000 Carleton F. Burke Handicap (gr. IIIT), 3 & up, 1 1/2 miles (turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight
1. Leprechaun Kid, Mike Smith, 113
2. Habaneros, David Flores, 110
3. Gallant, Martin Pedroza, 112
4. Hatif, Tyler Baze, 112
5. Pellegrino, Gary Stevens, 114
6. Continuously, Corey Nakatani, 116
7. Special Matter, Desormeaux, 113
8. Puerto Banus, Victor Espinoza, 115

$75,000 Sunny Slope, 2-year-olds, 6 furlongs
1. Cash in the Bank, Tyler Baze, 116
2. Slide Home, Mike Smith, 114
3. Thresher, David Flores, 118
4. Senor Fango, Gary Stevens, 122
5. Fallfree, Kerwin John, 118
6. Seize the Day, Javier Santiago, 116
7. Chips Are Down, Rene Douglas, 116
8. Seattles Best Joe, Victor Espinoza, 118