The Shoemaker Mile is the more lucrative of two Grade I events being offered Saturday. Defending champion Smiling Tiger and The Factor head the field in the $250,000 Triple Bend Handicap, which is run at seven furlongs over Cushion Track. The Triple Bend is the sixth of 10 while the Shoemaker is the ninth.
Won a year ago by New York shipper Courageous Cat, the Shoemaker Mile is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In’’ race. The Breeders’ Cup nominated winner will receive automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Mile, which will be run Nov. 3 at Santa Anita. Additionally, both pre-entry and entry fees will be waived and the owner will receive a $10,000 travel stipend.
Owned by Priscilla Vaccarezza, the wife of breeder Carlo Vaccarezza, and trained by Dale Romans, Little Mike has won five of his last six, including a gate-to-wire upset in the Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard May 5 at Churchill Downs.
The appearance was only the second in a Grade I – he finished sixth in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap Feb. 5, 2011 – for the Spanish Steps gelding and he responded with the 12-1 surprise, winning by 2 ½ lengths.
Out of the Wavering Monarch mare Hay Jude, Little Mike has won 10 off 17 and earned $830,412. He’s won six of eight at the Shoemaker distance and is 5-for-7 since joining the Romans barn some 17 months ago.
The Florida bred could provide Romans with his second Shoemaker Mile win in four years. The trainer scored with 9-1 outsider Thorn Song for owner Ahmed Zayat in 2009.
Defeated as the odds-on favorite in consecutive starts, Mr. Commons will be aiming for his first Grade I victory for owner-breeder St. George Farm Racing LLC and trainer John Shirreffs.
The Artie Schiller colt out of the Apalachee mare Joustabout was runner-up behind longshot Wilkinson, who was forced to miss the Shoemaker after coming down with colic more than a week ago, in the Grade II American Handicap May 26 in his first race over the Betfair Hollywood Park turf.
This loss came nearly three months after he was second behind Willyconker in the Grade I Kilroe Mile March 3 at Santa Anita. Worse than second only once in eight starts at the Shoemaker distance, Mr. Commons is 5-for-13 with a bankroll of $653,660.
Jeranimo was an easy winner of the Grade II Citation Handicap the last time he tried the local grass, winning by 2 ¾ lengths as the 17-10 favorite last Nov. 26.
Owned by B.J. Wright and trained by Mike Pender, Jeranimo has won seven of 27 and would become a millionaire if he prevails Saturday. The 6-year-old Congaree horse out of the Jeblar mare Jera has earned $888,400.
Corporate Jungle will arrive from the opposite coast with a three race win streak for owners Gary and Mary West and trainer Chad Brown.
A 4-year-old Giant’s Causeway colt out of the Carson City mare Lady Carson, Corporate Jungle began his current roll with an allowance victory Feb. 18 at Gulfstream Park, followed by a 2 ¼ length win in the Grade III Appleton – also at Gulfstream – and a half-length decision over Successful Mission when the 7-10 favorite in the Elkwood May 19 at Monmouth Park.
California will be the fifth different state – following Florida, Kentucky, New York and New Jersey – in which Corporate Jungle, who has won four of seven and earned $172,260, has run.
The lightly-raced gelding Dubai You X Y Z will be making his initial stakes appearance for owner-breeder M T Racing Stable LLC and trainer Mark Tsagalakis. The 5-year-old E Dubai gelding out of the Theatrical mare My Vincero has won five of six and banked $137,400. He returned from a layoff of more than a year to win a $62,350 allowance April 27 over the Betfair Hollywood Park grass.
Claimed for $50,000 Feb. 25 at Golden Gate by trainer Blaine Wright for Chappell Alpine Farms LLC, Hudson Landing has subsequently won three of four, including the Grade III San Francisco April 28.
The 5-year-old gelded son of Maria’s Mon and the Shotiche mare Morning Star has won 10 of 30 and earned $385,688.
Liberian Freighter is hoping to improve upon his sixth place finish in the 2011 Shoemaker for Shawn Dugan, California Horse Racing Board member Charles Winner and the Estate of breeder Ed Nahem and Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale.
The 7-year-old California bred son of Bertrando and the Slewpy mare Anachristina has won 10 of 30 and earned $754,740. He’s won five of 12 over the local grass.
A win by Liberian Freighter would be the fourth in the Shoemaker for Drysdale, tying him for the top spot with James Nazworthy. Drysdale has won previously with Labeeb (1998), Irish Prize (2001) and Aragorn (2006).
Another Hall of Fame trainer, Ron McAnally, will be represented by Suggestive Boy, an Argentine bred making his first start in this country.
Owned by Pozo de Luna, Inc., the 4-year-old Easing Along colt out of the Horse Chestnut mare Suffrage won four of six in his native land and banked $269,150. He won three consecutive Group I events in South America, most recently the $145,300 Jockey Club last Oct. 15 at San Isidro.
From inside out, the field for the Shoemaker Mile: Dubai You X Y Z, Brice Blanc rides, 124 pounds; Hudson Landing, Juan Hernandez, 124; Little Mike, Joe Bravo, 124; Suggestive Boy, Joe Talamo, 124; Jeranimo, Garrett Gomez, 124; Corporate Jungle, Rafael Bejarano, 124; Liberian Freighter, Martin Garcia, 124 and Mr. Commons, Mike Smith, 124.
In the Triple Bend, Smiling Tiger will be trying to become only the second repeat winner of the Triple Bend – joining Porterhouse, who won what was then called the Lakes and Flowers Handicap in 1955 and 1956 for Llangollen Farm and trainer Charlie Whittingham.
Trained by Jeff Bonde for owners Alan Klein and Philip Lebherz, the 5-year-old Hold that Tiger horse is 0-for-5 since wiring the field in the 2011 Triple Bend last July 2.
Two of those defeats have come in a pair of Grade II races this year. Smiling Tiger was fifth in the Churchill Downs May 5 in Louisville and third in the True North Handicap June 9 at Belmont Park.
Perfect in three races over Cushion Track, Smiling Tiger is 8-for-20 in his career with a bankroll of $1,267,204.
Undefeated in four races at seven furlongs, The Factor has been idle since finishing sixth in the Group I, $2 million Dubai Gold Shaheen March 31 at Meydan Race Course in the United Arab Emirates.
Owned by George Bolton and Fog City Stable and trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, the 4-year-old War Front colt out of the Miswaki mare Greyciousness has won six of 11 and earned $812,180.
The Triple Bend, which Baffert won in 1996 with Letthebighossroll, will be The Factor’s first start at Betfair Hollywood Park since he finished fourth as the 7-10 choice in his debut Nov. 28, 2010.
A winner in his 2012 debut on the Golden Gate Fields turf June 9, Comma to the Top returns to the scene of his biggest victory for owners Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum and Kevin Tsujihara and trainer Peter Miller.
The 4-year-old Bwana Charlie gelding out of the Stormy Atlantic mare Maggies Storm won three times over Cushion Track during the 2010 Autumn season, earning him Horse of the Meet honors. He began with a win in the Real Quiet Stakes, followed with a score in the Grade III Generous in his first race on turf, then completed a lucrative six weeks with a 1 ¾ length decision in the Grade I CashCall Futurity.
Bred in Florida by Richard and Linda Thompson, Comma to the Top has won eight of 18 and earned $835,300.
Runner-up in the 2011 Triple Bend, Camp Victory will be seeking his first victory as a 5-year-old for a partnership and trainer Mike Mitchell.
A gelded son of Forest Camp and the Clever Trick mare Victory Trick, Camp Victory is seven for 22 with earnings of $367,986. He’s been third in both of his 2012 outings, including the Grade III Los Angeles Handicap May 28 where he finished 2 ¾ lengths behind winner Roman Threat.
Claimed for $40,000 by his current connections almost 17 months ago, Camp Victory has since won two of nine. One of the wins came via disqualification in the 2011 Los Angeles Handicap.
Mobilized returns to Cushion Track after finishing fifth in the American Handicap. A California bred son of Soul of the Matter and the Red Ransom mare Valleyofthebells, the 6-year-old has six wins in 23 races and a bankroll of $363,080.
Trained by Gary Mandella for Double JH Stables Inc. and the Estate of breeder Robert Reseigne, Mobilized won the Tiznow Stakes for California breds by 7 ¼ lengths in his last start over the Betfair Hollywood Park main April 28.
Away since finishing seventh of 10 in the Grade II Charles Town Classic April 14, Tres Borrachos will be aiming for his fourth win over Cushion Track.
Trained by Marty Jones for owners George Hicker and Button Stable, the 7-year-old Ecton Park gelding has won four of 38 and earned $929,257. His most significant win locally was an 11-1 surprise in the 2008 Swaps Stakes when in the barn of trainer Beau Greely.
Winning the Triple Bend with a 7-year-old wouldn’t be a first for Jones. The trainer upset Surf Cat in 2007 with 9-1 outsider Bilo.
Trainer John Sadler, whose lone Triple Bend victory came with Ceeband in 2001, is scheduled to send out the duo of Italian Rules and Don Tito.
Owned by Gary and Cecil Barber, Italian Rules has won eight of 25 and earned $397,940. Four of those victories have come in six races since the 7-year-old was claimed for $40,000 March 6, 2011. The California bred is a son of Tribal Rule and the Half a Year mare Golden Harmony.
Don Tito, who is owned by the Barbers and Larry Nestadt, has four wins in 16 starts and earnings of $171,943. The 5-year-old Trippi horse out of the Southern Halo mare Another Moochie has been unplaced in his two previous attempts in Grade I races. He was eighth in the 2010 Malibu at Santa Anita and fifth in the 2011 Pat O’Brien at Del Mar.
Second behind Roman Threat in the Los Angeles, Centralinteligence has won three of eight and earned $134,550 for Amerman Racing Stables LLC, Bongo Racing and Gary Finder and trainer Ron Ellis. The 4-year-old Smarty Jones gelding out of the Seattle Slew mare Shootforthestars has a win and two seconds in three races over Cushion Track.
From inside out, the field for the Triple Bend Handicap: Tres Borrachos, Victor Espinoza rides, 116 pounds; Centralinteligence, Jose Valdivia, Jr., 116; Mobilized, Garrett Gomez, 116; Don Tito, Martin Pedroza, 113; Camp Victory, Joe Talamo, 116; The Factor, Rafael Bejarano, 123; Smiling Tiger, Mike Smith, 119; Comma to the Top, Juan Hernandez, 118 and Italian Rules, Kevin Krigger, 114.