Congaree, worked Sunday in preparation for the Santa Anita Handicap.

Congaree, worked Sunday in preparation for the Santa Anita Handicap.

Benoit Photos

Medaglia d'Oro to Face Congaree in Big 'Cap

(from track notes)
Bobby Frankel confirmed Sunday morning that Strub Stakes winner Medaglia d'Oro will run in Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I).

Jerry Bailey will be in the saddle, Frankel said, leaving Bob Baffert temporarily without a jockey for Congaree in Santa Anita's marquee race at 1 ¼ miles.

Frankel was considering the $6 million Dubai World Cup for his star 4-year-old colt, but said last week that the horse might compete in both races. The World Cup is Mar. 29.

Bailey had ridden Medaglia d'Oro in the colt's last four races dating back to last year. The Hall of Fame jockey also had ridden Congaree in his last three races – all easy victories – including the Feb. 2 San Antonio Handicap (gr. II).

Baffert also considered sending Congaree to the Dubai World Cup, but opted to say home with the five-year-old son of Arazi after watching his final pre-Big 'Cap breeze Sunday.

Baffert took the defection of Bailey in stride.

"When Vindication got hurt," Baffert joked, "I lost my bargaining power with Bailey. Now I'm like a bulldog with no teeth."

Baffert said he would give the mount on Congaree to either Victor Espinoza or David Flores.

Congaree worked six furlongs in 1:11.81 shortly before noon Sunday under exercise rider Dana Barnes.

"If he can walk tomorrow," Baffert said, "he's going in the Big 'Cap." Congaree's fractions were :24.92, :48.95 and 1:00.47. He galloped out seven furlongs in 1:23.91.

Medaglia d'Oro and Congaree were assigned co-high weight of 124 pounds.

Frankel and Baffert finished first and second, respectively, in national purse earnings in 2002. Frankel won the Big 'Cap last year with Stronach Stable's Milwaukee Brew, who is back to defend his title. Baffert won the Big 'Cap in 2000 with General Challenge.

Medaglia d'Oro, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of El Prado, has a 5-4-0 record from 11 starts, with earnings of $2,504,720 for owner Edmund Gann.

Congaree, a 5-year-old son of Arazi, has a 9-0-4 record from 16 starts, with earnings of $1,873,400 for the Stonerside Stables of Robert and Janice McNair.

In other Big 'Cap developments, Gary Stevens, a three-time Big 'Cap winner (Ruhlmann, 1990; Farma Way, 1991; and Urgent Request, 1995), has picked up the mount on outsider Piensa Sonando for trainer Ron McAnally.

Neil Drysdale said Sunday Break, while nominated to the race, will not run. "He's likely to go in the New Orleans Handicap (next Sunday at the Fair Grounds)," the Hall of Fame trainer said.

Track superintendent Steve Wood said he expects that rain will begin late tonight and continue all day Monday into Tuesday, with lingering showers on Wednesday. "After that," he said, 'it's day-to-day."

Probable for the Santa Anita Handicap: Congaree, Victor Espinoza or David Flores; Kudos, Julie Krone; Medaglia d'Oro, Jerry Bailey; Milwaukee Brew, Edgar Prado; Pienda Sonando, Gary Stevens; Pleasantly Perfect, Alex Solis; and Sligo Bay, Laffit Pincay Jr.