“So far, so good,” trainer Luis Ramirez said of the early stages of Where’s Sterling’s cross-country trek. “He went to Fort Lauderdale airport and from there we put him on a plane to California. He should get there around five-thirty Del Mar time, and I’ll join him in 10 days.”
“For a race like this, I think you have to go early,” Ramirez said. “That way, he has time to get used to the weather, and it lets him get used to the track too.”
And the track Where’s Sterling will encounter in the Pacific Classic is Del Mar’s Polytrack. The son of Northern Afleet has run over a synthetic surface just once in his 14-race career, and that came nearly two years ago in just his second career start.
“He ran on it once before at Arlington,” Ramirez said, referring to the August 2010 maiden race in suburban Chicago. “He was second to Pacific Ocean, and that horse is a stakes winner now. And he worked good over that track that whole summer. I’ve heard Del Mar is a little different, but they’re both Polytrack, so I think he’ll be okay.”
The Pacific Classic will mark Where’s Sterling’s second attempt at conquering a Grade 1 as earlier this year the 5-year-old finished a troubled fourth in the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream. Since that race, Where’s Sterling has returned to win both the Memorial Day Handicap and the Mecke Stakes by a combined 10 ¾ lengths, thus making now the opportune time to aim ambitiously at the Pacific Classic.
“We looked at a few other races, but he’s doing so well right now we decided to take a shot,” Ramirez said. “I don’t think he’s ever been better.”
SOPHOMORES SHARE SPOTLIGHT IN SUNDAY ALLOWANCE
While the spotlight race at Calder Casino & Race Course on Sunday is the $55,000 Barb’s Dancer for filly and mare sprinters, the nine-race card will also feature an intriguing second-level allowance that goes as race four and has drawn a field of seven where the likely favorites are a pair of 3-year-old colts in Ravelo’s Boy and Azafran.
Trained by Manny Azpurua, Ravelo’s Boy last met allowance rivals back in early December 2011 at Gulfstream Park, a race where the colt was victorious. The son of Lawyer Ron has since gone to battle in six straight stakes events, three of them graded, and boasts second-place finishes in both the $55,000 El Kaiser Stakes and the $55,000 American Dreamer in addition to a close fourth in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa.
While Ravelo’s Boy was running with some of the better horses of his generation, his chief combatant in Sunday’s race, Azafran, was just starting his career as a race horse. The Agustin Bezara trainee crossed the wire second in his May 28 unveiling, and has since returned to post a pair of open-length victories, breaking his maiden by 5 ½ lengths on June 17 before coming back less than three weeks later to topple entry-level allowance foes by that same margin.
Leading local rider Luis Saez will once again be aboard Azafran, while Ravelo’s Boy is to be ridden by Jesus Rios, who was aboard the colt last time out in the American Dreamer.
Leading the list of older horses looking to upend the flashy sophomores is the recently claimed Dream Maestro, a 7-year-old career-earner of over $596,000, and Riversrunrylee, an 8-year-old that has banked over $352,000 during his career and exits a third-place finish in a tough allowance race on July 21.
CAJUN BREEZE IN SUNDAY AT SARATOGA
Shadybrook Farm and Robert Eversole’s speedy Cajun Breeze, last seen finishing sixth in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap, will invade Saratoga on Sunday with hopes of taking down an entry-level allowance.
The son of Congrats is listed as the 3-1 second-choice in the morning line for the six-furlong race, which has attracted a field of eight. Jockey Juan Leyva will forego a day of riding at Calder to travel north and ride the Michael Yates trainee.
Earlier this year, Cajun Breeze finished second in the $150,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Sprint and was a respectable fourth in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.