Hawksley Hill Returns to Races, to Face Super Quercus Thursday

Super Quercus, who was scratched from Monday's San Gabriel Handicap (gr. IIT) due to what trainer Bobby Frankel called "a mistake in medication," will run Thursday in a Santa Anita optional claiming race which also features the return of multiple stakes winner Hawksley Hill. The six-horse field in the one-mile turf race also includes Morvich Handicap (gr. IIIT) winner El Cielo. Groover is the only horse entered eligible to be claimed.

Hawksley Hill is unraced since finishing fourth in the Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) three weeks after running fifth -- beaten by only a length -- in the 1999 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT). The 8-year-old gelding, trained by Neil Drysdale, has won 13 of 42 career starts, including five graded stakes victories. The son of Rahy will be guided from post six by Gary Stevens.

Super Quercus' last race of 1999 came one day after Hawksley Hill raced in the Citation, and the 5-year-old also took an extended break following his race, a win in Early Times Hollywood Derby (gr. IT). The son of Hero's Honor returned in October finishing sixth in the Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile Stakes (gr. II). He then ran third in the River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) and fourth in the Citation. Victor Espinoza has the riding assignment on the 3 Plus U Stable's colt.

El Cielo has won three graded stakes races to date in his 15-race career, most recently defeating Texas Glitter in the 5 1/2-furlong Hollywood Turf Express (gr. IIIT) in November. The 7-year-old son of El Prado has yet to win a race at a distance longer than 6 1/2 furlongs. El Cielo enters the race with a four-race winning streak, the last three wins of which each came in a grade III stakes.

With the exception of 123-pound highweight Sardaukar, all horses entered will carry 117 pounds. Sardaukar has won four of 19 career starts but has never earned a stakes win. The 5-year-old son of Royal Academy finished second in both the American Handicap (gr. IIT) and a French stakes.

Brazilian-bred Redattore, with Alex Solis in the irons, completes the field for the $72,000 race.