A new, improved version of Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Pleasantly Perfect will make his first start since winning the $4-million race last October when he goes to the gate for Saturday's $250,000 San Antonio Handicap (gr. II), also at Santa Anita.
Trainer Richard Mandella said the son of Pleasant Colony couldn't be better going into the 1 1/8-mile race. "He has really matured and come into his own, for a horse that had a lot of trouble in his life, with a heart virus and other ailments. As he's gotten older, he's gotten stronger."
And strong he will have to be when he lines up next to 124-pound highweight Congaree. The 6-year-old son of Arazi who has a 12-2-4 record from 23 career starts with earnings of $3,241, 120 for Robert and Janice McNair, owners of Stonerside Stable.
The Bob Baffert-trained Congaree has not raced since winning last November's Cigar Mile (gr. I) for the second straight year. Jerry Bailey gets the mount aboard Congaree.
Pleasantly Perfect and Congaree are expected to dominate the wagering, but the race will not be a walk in the park for either runner. Expected to give a strong challenge is the Doug O'Neill-trained Fleetstreetdancer, who is fresh off a win in the rich Japan Cup (Jpn-I) in his last start. Fleetstreetdancer, who is owned by Ty and Lee Leatherman, has a career record of 5-7-2 from 23 starts. He has earned $1,674,806.
Another strong challenge could come in the form of Star Cross, an improving 7-year-old Argentine-bred son of Southern Halo. He gets in with a light 113 pounds despite winning the Forty Niner Handicap and the San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II) in his last two starts. Darrell Vienna trains the chestnut horse for Ernest Auerbach, who races under the E.A. Ranches banner.
Last but not least is the Bobby Frankel entry of Nose The Trade, a 6-year-old gelding bred in Great Britain. He finished second, beaten only a half-length, behind Star Cross in the San Pasquel after leading into deep stretch.
The field for the $250,000 San Antonio Handicap:
1 -- Fleetstreet Dancer (Jon Court, 116)
2 -- Star Cross (Victor Espinoza, 113)
3 -- Congaree (Bailey, 124)
4 -- Pleasantly Perfect (Alex Solis, 121)
5 -- Nose the Trade (David Flores, 113)