Joey Franco Tops Probable San Diego Field

Edited from track reports
A field that could number as many as nine or 10 is beginning to take shape for the 62nd running of the grade II, $250,000 San Diego Handicap Sunday at 1 1/16 miles on Del Mar's main track.

Heading the list of prospects is Joey Franco, owned by Jerry Frankel and trained by Darrell Vienna. The 4-year-old son of Avenue of Flags is riding the crest of a three-race victory wave at Hollywood Park. Tops among the three stakes wins was the grade I Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Invitational Handicap July 5.

The dark bay colt has a second-place finish to go along with the three wins since coming to the Vienna barn from that of David Hofmans. Patrick Valenzuela has the call to ride, as he has in the colt's previous two starts.

A pair of other graded stakes winners -- Western Pride and Reba's Gold -- are expected to bring plenty of heat to the situation. Western Pride, owned by Carolyn Chapman and Theresa McArthur and trained by James K. Chapman, comes into the race from a fifth-place finish in the grade I Hollywood Gold Cup July 13. Reba's Gold, owned by Alex Trebek's Creston Farms and trained by Dan Hendricks, finished third in a very competitive grade II Californian Handicap at Hollywood Park June 14 after winning the grade III Seabiscuit Handicap at Bay Meadows.

Jose Valdivia Jr. will ride Western Pride and David Flores has the call on Reba's Gold.

Another major player could be the Vladimir Cerin-trained Publication, owned by Ernest Moody's Mercedes Stable. Publication, who will have Kent Desormeaux in the irons, has chased Joey Franco home in his past two races, finishing third in the Ack Ack Stakes and second in the Triple Bend.

Others committed to the race are Danthebluegrassman, owned by Mike Pegram and trained by Bob Baffert, and Gondolieri, trained by Ron McAnally for owner Nelson Bunker Hunt. On the "probable" list are Taste of Paradise, trained by John Sadler; Kela, owned by Aaron and Marie Jones and trained by Larry Barrera, and either Bayou the Moon or Investor's Dream, both from the Richard Mandella barn.