Big John B wins the 2016 Tokyo City Cup

Big John B wins the 2016 Tokyo City Cup

Benoit Photo

Big John B Seeks Tokyo City Cup Repeat

Hard Spun gelding is undefeated in two starts at 1 1/2 miles on dirt.

With a relatively short turf prep race under his belt, Michael House's Big John B will attempt to repeat his 2016 victory in the $100,000 Tokyo City Cup (G3) April 2 at Santa Anita Park.

The 8-year-old Hard Spun gelding went through the motions in his 2017 debut, a 1 1/8-mile turf allowance March 9 at Santa Anita, where he finished a non-threatening fifth behind graded winner Prospect Park.

"He's always been a horse, ever since I've had him, where he kinda needs one," said trainer Phil D'Amato. "I think it was a nice prep and he's breezed great since that grass race, so we'll try to defend the title."

Also a two-time grade 2 winner on grass, Big John B has run on dirt just twice in 16 starts for D'Amato—he has 15 wins from 41 starts overall—but he's won them both. Before last year's victory in the 1 1/2-mile Tokyo City Cup, Big John B won the 2015 Cougar II Handicap (G3) at the same distance on dirt at Del Mar. His two grade 2 turf wins came in back-to-back editions of the 1 3/8-mile Del Mar Handicap in 2014-15.

BALAN: Big John B Closes for Tokyo City Victory

"Anywhere from at least a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half (is where he's best)," D'Amato said. "It's more the distance than the surface."

In the Tokyo City, however, Big John B will have to take on another multiple graded winner who has done his best work recently going 1 1/2 miles.

Hronis Racing's grade 1 winner Hard Aces hasn't done so well against better competition recently, but in his only start at 1 1/2 miles on dirt, he took the 2016 Cougar II. Also by Hard Spun, Hard Aces has two wins in 20 starts for trainer John Sadler—the Cougar II and the 2015 Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1).

LEWYN: Hard Aces Too Tough in Cougar II

Another Cougar II winner—Irish Surf —is also entered in the Tokyo City Cup, but that Del Mar score came back in 2014, when the main track was synthetic. The Giant's Causeway  horse trained by Dan Hendricks made four more starts in 2014, including a second-place run in the Las Vegas Marathon (G2), but didn't race from November of 2014 to March of 2017, when he finished sixth in the same turf allowance Big John B is exiting.

Rounding out the field is Beach View, an allowance winner for Levy Racing, the Sadler-trained, Hronis-owned allowance winner Infobedad, and four-time Argentine group 1 winner Hi Happy.

Entries: Tokyo City Cup S. (G3)

Santa Anita Park, Sunday, April 02, 2017, Race 8

  • Grade III
  • 1 1/2m
  • Dirt
  • $100,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 4:07 PM (local)
11Beach View (MD)Keeneland Sales GraduateStewart Elliott120Leonard Powell5/1
22Infobedad (ARG)Tyler Baze120John W. Sadler5/1
33Hi Happy (ARG)Tiago Josue Pereira120Felipe N Souza5/2
44Irish Surf (KY)Flavien Prat120Dan L. Hendricks12/1
55Big John B (FL)Rafael Bejarano122Philip D'Amato8/5
66Hard Aces (KY)Santiago Gonzalez124John W. Sadler7/2