Hard Aces and jockey Santiago Gonzalez win last year's edition of the Cougar II

Hard Aces and jockey Santiago Gonzalez win last year's edition of the Cougar II

Benoit Photo

Hard Aces Looks for Repeat in Cougar II

Son of Hard Spun went gate-to-wire in last year's Cougar II.

Hard Aces will return to defend his title in the 1 1/2-mile Cougar II Handicap (G3) July 26 at Del Mar for trainer John Sadler.

Campaigned by Hronis Racing, the 7-year-old son of Hard Spun  went gate-to-wire in last year's Cougar II, winning by a half-length over Chiliean-bred Quick Casablanca.

In this year's edition Hard Aces will be ridden by Santiago Gonzalez and shoulder 124 pounds as the highweight in the seven-horse field. He has been made the 2-1 morning-line favorite.

A winner of more than $1.2 million, Hard Aces most recently won the April 2 Tokyo City Cup Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park. In his last start he finished third, six lengths behind the winner, Cupid , in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes (G1)—a race he won by a nose over Hoppertunity in 2015.

Up for the challenge in the Cougar II, Phillip D'Amato trainee Big John B lost by a neck to Hard Aces in the Tokyo City Cup. Michael House's 8-year-old Hard Spun gelding finished sixth in the May 27 Gold Cup, but won the Cougar II in 2015. 

Trainer Bob Hess Jr. brings last out allowance optional-claiming winner French Getaway, but the Cougar II will be a jump in class for the Giant's Causeway  ridgling, as well as the Doug O'Neil-trained Curlin Road

A similar last out winner, Curlin Road placed fifth in the 2016 Los Alamitos Derby Stakes (G2) in his only graded effort.

Entries: Cougar II H. (G3)

Del Mar, Wednesday, July 26, 2017, Race 7

  • Grade III
  • 1 1/2m
  • Dirt
  • $100,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 5:03 PM (local)
11Infobedad (ARG)Tyler Baze117John W. Sadler8/1
22Curlin Road (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateFlavien Prat119Doug F. O'Neill6/1
33Big John B (FL)Rafael Bejarano122Philip D'Amato5/2
44French Getaway (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateKent J. Desormeaux117Robert B. Hess, Jr.3/1
55Noble Nick (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateWilliam Antongeorgi III114Ari Herbertson15/1
66Hard Aces (KY)Santiago Gonzalez124John W. Sadler2/1
77Giant Influence (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJamie Theriot117Peter Eurton15/1