Saturday's $200,000 San Rafael Stakes (gr. II) drew an overflow field of 12, including the undefeated Lion Heart, who will be making his 3-year-old debut. With only 10 horses allowed to start, the two outside horses, Spellbinder and Lipan, were placed on the also-eligible list.
Lion Heart, owned by Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith and trained by Patrick Biancone, has not run since his victory in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) on Dec. 20. Among his opponents, some of whom have their eye on the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and beyond, are San Vicente (gr. II) winner Imperialism; Santa Catalina (gr. II) runner-up Lucky Pulpit; San Miguel (gr. III) winner Hosco; the stakes-placed Consecrate, from the Bob Baffert stable; and the brilliant maiden winner Quintons Gold Rush. Spellbinder, winner of his last two for Dick Mandella, would be one of the main threats to Lion Heart if he draws in.
Lion Heart drew post 7 and will have regular rider Mike Smith in the saddle. The son of Tale of the Cat will carry top weight of 121 pounds and will concede from three to six pounds to the others. Lion Heart has won all three of his starts, breaking his maiden in 1:09 1/5 and winning the Hollywood Prevue (gr. III) in a blistering 1:20 3/5 before defeating St Averil by 3 1/2 lengths in the 1 1/16-mile Hollywood Futurity, his first start around two turns. He had three sharp distance works before breezing a half in :47 Wednesday.
Although he has only a maiden victory to his credit, don't be surprised to see Quintons Gold Rush take a lot of money at the windows. The son of Wild Rush easily handled Wimbledon, winning by 3 1/2 lengths in a quick 1:42 for the 1 1/16 miles. Wimbledon then came back to break his maiden by eight lengths. Quintons Gold Rush is trained Mike Mitchell and will be ridden for the first time by Corey Nakatani, who replaces Pat Valenzuela. He will be at disadvantage, however, breaking from post 10 with a short run to the first turn.
Also sure to get action is Imperialism, who exploded by Hosco and Consecrate to win the seven-furlong San Vicente going away with his ears pricked in his first start for new trainer Kristin Mulhall. Previously, he had run 12 times, all at Calder, and worked his way up through the claiming ranks. His best efforts were a second in the Mecke Stakes on grass and a third in the Foolish Pleasure Stakes on dirt. He'll break from post 3 with Victor Espinoza aboard.
Lucky Pulpit also is sure to receive support following his game second to St Averil in the Santa Catalina. Prior to that, he was second in the Pinjara Stakes and third in the Generous (gr. IIIT), both on grass. With the suspended Valenzuela his regular rider as well, he'll have the services of Kent Desormeaux and break from post 4.
Consecrate, who was gelded prior to the San Vicente, was closer to the fast pace than Bob Baffert would have liked, but held on gamely to finish third. Baffert expects to see big improvement this time with different tactics.
An intriguing horse is Castledale, winner of the Generous by a nose in his U.S. debut. Among his seven starts in Ireland last year was a victory in the listed Blenheim Stakes at the Curragh. A son of Arc de Triomphe (Fra-I) winner Peintre Celebre, he'll be making his first start on dirt, and be ridden by David Flores, who replaces the injured Julie Krone.
Another colt making his U.S. debut is Toasted, who hasn't started since finishing third in the listed Criterium du EBF at Deauville last August. The son of Hennessy has two victories at the provincial track La Teste. He will be saddled by Laura de Seroux and ridden by Gary Stevens.
D. Wayne Lukas, who is still searching for a Kentucky Derby (gr. I) horse, will send out Hasslefree for his 3-year-old debut. The son of Forestry
, who is not really bred for stamina, placed in three stakes last year, including the Flash (gr. III) and Tremont Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park.
Entrants for the grade II San Rafael Stakes, $200,000 guaranteed, 3-year-olds, one mile:
PP, Horse, Trainer, Jockey, Weight,
1 – Wimplestiltskin, Marcelo Polanco, Jose Valdivia Jr., 115
2 – Hasslefree, D. Wayne Lukas, Alex Solis, 115
3 – Imperialism, Kristin Mulhall, Victor Espinoza, 118
4 --Lucky Pulpit, Clifford Sise, Kent Desormeaux, 115
5 – Castledale, Jeff Mullins, David Flores, 118
6 – Hosco, Doug O'Neill, Tyler Baze, 118
7 --Lion Heart, Patrick Biancone, Mike Smith, 121
8 --Consecrate, Bob Baffert, Javier Santiago, 115
9 – Toasted, Laura de Seroux, Gary Stvens, 115
10 -Quintons Gold Rush, Mike Mitchell, Corey Nakatani, 115
AE -Spellbinder, Dick Mandella, Alex Solis, 115
AE –Lipan, Nick Canani, Martin Pedroza, 115