Om, Prospect Park, and Bolo—all highly regarded turf prospects in their 3-year-old seasons—are scheduled to make their 4-year-old debuts in the $200,000 Arcadia Stakes (gr. IIT) Feb. 13 at Santa Anita Park, but they'll all be encountering older horses for the first time.
An illness knocked Martin and Pam Wygod's Prospect Park off the Triple Crown path in early April, but the son of Tapit showed his liking for grass later in the year with a score in La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Del Mar, where he defeated Om.
BALAN: Prospect Park Takes to Turf in La Jolla 'Cap
But Om got the best of his rival next time out in the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) Sept. 6, when he set the pace and pulled away to win by 2 1/4 lengths. The Dan Hendricks-trained son of Munnings wrapped up the year with wins in the Twilight Derby (gr. IIT) and Mathis Brothers Mile (gr. IIT), with a tight third-place finish in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) sandwiched in between.
HAMMONDS: Om an Easy Winner of Mathis Brothers Mile
Their rivalry likely won't be renewed this weekend, however, as trainer Cliff Sise indicated an allowance race Sunday would be a better landing spot for Prospect Park off a five-month layoff.
"Our plan is a non-winners-of-three (allowance) the next day, so that's where we're really pointing, if it fills," Sise said.
Bolo, trained by Carla Gaines, has been off even longer. The 4-year-old Temple City colt ran last in the July 4 Belmont Derby (gr. IT), where he set the pace, finished ninth, and was vanned off. Earlier in the year, he broke his maiden on turf and took the Eddie Logan Stakes on grass, then had back-to-back thirds in the San Felipe (gr. II) and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) to earn a spot in the gate for the Run for the Roses, where he finished 12th. An impressive turf allowance score in May gave his connections enough confidence to try a grade I.
These colts, however, have yet to see anything like Obviously in their relatively short careers. The speedy 8-year-old stalwart was winning races before any of the 4-year-olds entered were even born, carries grade I-winning credentials, and has an insatiable desire for the lead. The gelded son of Choisir hasn't won since 2014, when he took the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) for the second year in a row, but he's been in tough company every time out since, including back-to-back Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) tries (fifth and ninth, respectively, in 2014 and 2015). He was only a neck back in his 2016 debut last time out for trainer Phil D'Amato, when he came up just short against Flamboyant in the San Gabriel (gr. IIT) Jan. 2.
“No pun intended, but obviously it is (a tough ask)," Gaines said of Bolo's options for a good comeback spot. "It’s just tough to find a spot for him in Southern California. A horse that’s won as much as he’s won—the distance may be a little short for him, but it’s a start." Santa Anita Park, Saturday, February 13, 2016, Race 3
Obviously's speedy style could present problems for Om, who also likes to race on the lead, but stalked the early pace last time out in his Mathis Brothers Mile score. The pacesetter in that race, 18-1 longshot Acceptance, isn't the mature specimen of speed that Obviously has been for years.
Also in the field is graded winner Big Cazanova, who last won 11 starts back in the 2014 running of the Native Diver (gr. III) on the then-synthetic main track at Del Mar; allowance winner Yes Yes Yes; and D'Amato-trained Cape Wolfe, a three-time winner in Ireland who finished third in his U.S. debut in the Clocker's Corner Stakes Jan. 24 at Santa Anita.
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Om (KY) Gary L. Stevens 124 Dan L. Hendricks 7/5 2 2Cape Wolfe (GB) Rafael Bejarano 120 Philip D'Amato 6/1 3 3Yes Yes Yes (KY) Brice Blanc 120 Peter Eurton 20/1 98 4Big Cazanova (ARG) SCRATCHED 0 UNKNOWN - 4 5Bolo (KY) Flavien Prat 120 Carla Gaines 4/1 5 6Obviously (IRE) Mike E. Smith 120 Philip D'Amato 6/5 98 7Prospect Park (KY) SCRATCHED 0 UNKNOWN -
Santa Anita Park, Saturday, February 13, 2016, Race 3