(from track report)
Trainer Bob Baffert expressed delight in having Jerry Bailey back aboard Congaree for Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) following the defection Tuesday of Medaglia d'OroBaffert and Gary Mandella said they are also considering running other horses in Santa Anita's marquee race at 1 ¼ mile. Entries are drawn Thursday morning."It was going to be a huge race, but at the same time, it's nice that I got my rider back," Baffert said between intermittent light showers at Santa Anita Wednesday morning. "I can't say that I was totally disappointed when I heard the news. It would have been a helluva race. I don't mind running against him (Medaglia d'Oro), but I'd like to have Bailey on Congaree. Getting Bailey back is probably the most important thing for me."Bailey has ridden Congaree in his last three starts, all easy victories, including the Feb. 2 San Antonio Handicap (gr. II).Addressing trainer Bobby Frankel's decision to pass the Big 'Cap with Medaglia d'Oro because of his dissatisfaction with the weight assignment, Baffert said he felt weight-for-age races might be the way to go in the future."These handicaps nowadays, they need to just weight-for-age them and forget about it," he said. "That way, they don't have any problems and horses last longer. The old days, maybe they did it that way, but traditions change."Meanwhile, trainer Gary Mandella and Baffert were pondering whether to start a horse they weren't planning on."I'd have to give it some thought now," Mandella said of Trompolino, a front-running, nine-length winner of his last start, an $80,000 optional claiming race at 1 1/8 miles on a wet-fast track on Feb. 12. He has been assigned 112 pounds.Trompolino, a 5-year-old gelded Chilean-bred son of 1994 Big 'Cap winner Stuka, has a 6-1-3 record from 20 starts, with earnings of $130,383 for the Wayside Corp. of Alberto Morgan Lavin of Del Mar. Tyler Baze would ride, Mandella said.Stuka won the Big 'Cap via disqualification of The Wicked North.Baffert now is considering Congaree's stablemate Tough Game for the race as well. "I'm thinking of maybe throwing him in there now," Baffert said.Tough Game, assigned low weight of 111 pounds, was scheduled to work between Wednesday's first and second races. Baffert said Victor Espinoza would ride in the Big 'Cap. A $270,000 son of Mr. Greeley owned by The Thoroughbred Corp., Tough Game, like Trompolino, would add pace to the 66th edition of the Santa Anita Handicap. The 4-year-old New York-bred colt won his last race, a 1 1/8-mile allowance test on Feb. 9, by six lengths. In other Big 'Cap developments, Richard Mandella gave Kudos and Pleasantly Perfect "nice mile and a half gallops. "They look great and they've looked great all month," the Hall of Fame trainer said. "Kudos wants a mile and a quarter. He won the Oaklawn Handicap (at that distance) last year, so this is what we've been pointing to."Probable for the Santa Anita Handicap: Congaree, Jerry Bailey, 124; Kudos, Julie Krone, 117; defending champion Milwaukee Brew, Edgar Prado, 119; Piensa Sonando, Gary Stevens, 115; Pleasantly Perfect, Alex Solis, 116; and Sligo Bay, Laffit Pincay Jr., 116. Possible: Trompolino, Tyler Baze, 112, and Tough Game, Victor Espinoza, 111.