Congaree Big Issue for Speedster Hot Market

On Trust Handicap winner Hot Market had his final major prep Tuesday morning for Saturday's $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap (Gr. II) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles, going four furlongs in :48 flat at Santa Anita for trainer Craig Lewis.

"We just let him stretch his legs," Lewis said. "He went a nice, easy half mile. He was well within himself and he looked real good. It looks like he's going to have his work cut out for him, because as you know, Congaree is a very, very nice horse."

Lewis was referring to the Stonerside Stables' Congaree, 5 ½-length winner of the Nov. 30 Cigar Mile (gr.I). Congaree looks like a definite pace factor, which concerns Lewis.

Asked about his strategy for the race, Lewis said, "If I did (know what it was), I wouldn't disclose. Seriously, I'll have to analyze the race when the Racing Form comes out, see where I think Congaree will be and see where I think we'll be. But more than likely, we'll give him a target."

Lewis admitted post position would be a factor.

"I'd like to be somewhere in the middle and outside of Congaree," he said. "But who knows? Congaree is a real good horse and we're going to try and help him, because we're probably going to give him something to run at."

Congaree worked five furlongs Monday morning in :59.80.

Lewis plans to go on to the $1 million Ocala Breeders' Sales Classic at Gulfstream Park in the Sunshine Millions on Jan. 25, if all goes well with Hot Market after the San Pasqual.

Lewis said he also intends to run California Cup Distaff Handicap winner Nicole's Pursuit in the $350,000 Franks Farms Filly & Mare Turf in the Sunshine Millions, if she fares well in Saturday's $100,000 Pro Or Con Handicap.

"They're doing very well," Lewis said. "We're just hoping they run well here, they come out of it good and then we'll go for the money run. Not that we're not running for money here, but the Sunshine Millions is our ultimate objective."

Hot Market has a 6-2-1 record from 16 starts, with earnings of $330,460 for owners Harris Farms and Per Antonsen.

Nicole's Pursuit has a 4-2-4 mark from 12 starts, with earnings of $223,880 for the Flying A Farms.

Probable for the San Pasqual: Congaree, Jerry Bailey; Cottage, Mike Smith; Hot Market, Kent Desormeaux; Kudos, Alex Solis; Mercenary, no rider; Nose The Trade, David Flores; Oh Take, no rider; and Piensa Sonando, Laffit Pincay Jr.