ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 8, 2009) – A late scratch from last Saturday’s Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park due to wet weather, Presious Passion expects to find firm footing Sunday in an unrelated Hirsch, Oak Tree’s $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship over 1 ¼ miles at Santa Anita Park.
The 41st running of the Clement L. Hirsch, named in honor of Oak Tree’s original president, who served from Oak Tree’s founding in 1969 until his death in 2,000, is one of two Grade I stakes on Sunday’s nine-race program that includes the $300,000 Ancient Title at six furlongs. The 27th running of the Ancient Title is the last of the meet’s “Win-and-You’re-In” events assuring the winner a spot in Oak Tree’s two-day presentation of the $25.5-million Breeders Cup World Championships on Nov. 6 and 7.
According to Hartmann, last weekend’s change of plans was prompted by the footing. “He loves firm going,” she said, and Presious Passion’s record attests to her conviction. The Florida-bred son of Royal Anthem has won his last three starts over “firm” courses, capped by the Grade I United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 4. He faltered in his last start, the Grade I Arlington Million on Aug. 8, when fading to eighth at 9-2 odds over an Arlington Park course labeled “good.”
The complete field for the Clement L. Hirsch with jockeys and weights in post position order: Medici Code, Garrett Gomez, 124; Presious Passion, Elvis Trujillo, 124; Times Gone By, Victor Espinoza, 124; Sir Dave, Joel Rosario, 124; Rendezvous, Rafael Bejarano, 123; Artiste Royal, Joseph Talamo, 124; Quarter Moon, Agapito Delgadillo, 124; Spring House, Alex Solis, 124, and Black Astor, Mike Smith, 124.
Defending champion Cost of Freedom is among ten sprinters signed up for the Ancient Title, extremely competitive now that division leader Zensational is headed directly into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint following his fifth straight victory in Del Mar’s Grade I Pat O’Brien on Sept. 6.
Claimed by trainer John Sadler on behalf of owners Gary and Cecil Barber for $50,000 in July of last year, Cost of Freedom won an allowance event by 5 ¾ lengths before taking the Ancient Title by one-half length over Street Boss at odds of 5-1. The 6-year-old gelding subsequently went to the sidelines for over eleven months before returning to finish fourth in Del Mar’s Pirate’s Bounty at 1-2 odds on Sept. 9.
Godolphin Racing’s Gayego, a 4-year-old Gilded Time colt who seems to have found his niche sprinting, appears to be the horse to beat. He has raced six times at six or 6 ½ furlongs, losing but once when breaking slowly to finish second.
The complete field for the Ancient Title with jockeys and weights in post position order: Atta Boy Roy, Ricky Frazier, 124; Nikki’sgoldensteed, Talamo, 124; Delta Storm, Rosario, 124; a-Red Arrow, Smith, 124; Gayego, Gomez, 124; Crown of Thorns, Espinoza, 124; a-Cost of Freedom, Tyler Baze, 124; Riley Tucker, Martin Garcia, 124; Supreme Summit, Richard Migliore, 123, and Square Eddie, Bejarano, 123. a-coupled entry.
Presious Passion -- second by one-half length to Soldiers Dance in his only previous race over the Santa Anita grass, last January’s Sunshine Millions Turf – is ridden by Eastern-based Elvis Trujillo, who rode early in his career at Santa Anita. Trujillo appears to be a good fit with a 5-2-1 showing in ten mounts atop the chestnut gelding who likes to run on or near the lead. Presious Passion returns to Southern California with earnings of $1,852,818 from an overall record of 12-6-1 in 40 starts.
Spring House rallied from a distant eighth to take the Grade II Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles under Alex Solis on Aug. 30. The victory at 5-2 odds elevated the Chester House gelding, bred in Kentucky by Hubbard and partners, to a career record of 10-7-11 in 43 races with earnings of $1,121,284.
Irish-bred Artiste Royal was the 9-5 favorite in this year’s Del Mar Handicap. He rallied strongly but belatedly when finishing fourth, just three-quarters of a length behind Spring House. The reverse scenario played out in January when Artiste Royal’s rally gained victory in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Marcos Stakes with Spring House finishing 1 ¾ lengths back in fourth.
Joe Talamo, who was in the saddle when Artiste Royal upset two-time winner The Tin Man in the 2007 Clement L. Hirsch, has the riding assignment for the son of Danehill trained by Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale for David and Jill Heerensperger. The multiple Grade I winner seems destined to eclipse $1 million in earnings with a bankroll of $997,790 from a career record of 7-9-7 in 34 trips to the post.
The lightly raced Cost of Freedom will have Tyler Baze back aboard when seeking his repeat in the Ancient Title while racing coupled with stablemate Red Arrow, a 6-year-old Australian-bred who was a wire-to-wire winner of Hollywood Park’s Grade III Los Angeles Handicap in his last start on May 16.
Cost of Freedom has raced but eleven times in his six years while dealing with soundness issues, but he has won six times for earnings of $351,105. His clocking of 1:07.53 last year over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface stands as the stakes record for the Ancient Title. Talamo rides Red Arrow for the Barbers and Sadler. The Red Ransom offspring has career earnings of $175,482 from a 4-2-3 mark in 15 starts.
Gayego seems to have blossomed as a 4-year-old in the care of Godolphin trainer Saaed bin Suroor. He began the year by winning the Group III Mahab Al Shimaal at six furlongs at Nad Al Sheba in the United Arab Emirates and came back to place second in the Group II Godolphin Mile. A winner of Santa Anita’s San Pedro Stakes and the Arkansas Derby as a 3-year-old for locally-based trainer Paulo Lobo, Gayego has earned $1,119,620 from six wins in 12 starts with three seconds. Garrett Gomez will be on his back for the first time.
Contenders in the competitive field include Crown of Thorns, trainer Richard Mandella’s 4-year-old who won Santa Anita’s Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes by 2 ½ lengths last year before going to the sidelines; conditioner Mike Mitchell’s multiple-stakes winner Delta Storm; Square Eddie, second to Midshipman in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for trainer Doug O’Neill, and the latter’s stablemate, Supreme Summit, a 3-year-old who has sizzled in three career sprints.
The Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship Stakes will be contested as the seventh race on a nine-race program with the Ancient Title following as the eighth. First post is at 12:30 p.m. General Admission at Oak Tree is $5, while Club House admission is $8.50.