Roy H hopes that history repeats itself in Saturday’s $300,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1). Not only does the Peter Miller charge enter as the defending champion of Santa Anita’s “Win & You’re In” for the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), but he once more comes off an upset loss in Del Mar’s Bing Crosby (G1) at the hands of Ransom the Moon.
Last year, Roy H’s troubled second in the Bing Crosby marked the only loss of a campaign crowned by the Eclipse Award-clinching Breeders’ Cup Sprint. This time around in the Bing Crosby, the More Than Ready gelding did not have so much a traffic excuse as one of possible ring-rustiness.
Unraced since his third in the March 31 Golden Shaheen (G1) on Dubai World Cup night, Roy H lacked his trademark punch when runner-up to Ransom the Moon off the bench. If he just needed that one, we could see him back to his pre-Dubai best, as evidenced in his February 3 Palos Verdes (G2) romp at this track and six-furlong trip. Note that Roy H also gets a rider switch back to Paco Lopez, who hadn’t ridden him since his Bing Crosby reverse last summer.
Although Ransom the Moon has twice managed to overturn favored Roy H in the Bing Crosby, he hasn’t replicated the feat in their other two meetings. The Phil D’Amato trainee was only fourth in last year’s Santa Anita Sprint Championship and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Returning to defend his title in the April 21 Kona Gold (G2), he could not catch Roy H’s ill-fated stablemate, Bobby Abu Dhabi.
Ransom the Moon next tried the Met Mile (G1), finishing fifth, before his Bing Crosby repeat. Plans call for the son of Malibu Moon to retire to stud at Calumet in 2019, so it would boost his stallion profile to beat Roy H in a different venue, here or especially in the Breeders’ Cup.
Roy H and Ransom the Moon rank as 125-pound highweights, spotting four pounds to their rivals in the small field of five. Miller’s reformed claimer Distinctive B, who is cross-entered to Friday’s “Win & You’re In” Phoenix (G2) at Keeneland, just posted a new career high Brisnet Speed rating (105) in his latest romp at Del Mar. John Sadler is double-handed with Hronis Racing’s Edwards Going Left and Horse Greedy. Edwards Going Left, twice Grade 1-placed at seven furlongs, was fourth in the Bing Crosby and most recently a near-miss third in a Cal-restricted stakes at Los Alamitos. As a deep closer, his style is complemented by the pacier Horse Greedy. A slow-starting third in the San Carlos (G2) first off the claim, Horse Greedy stalked and pounced to an allowance/optional claiming score at Del Mar.
The other Breeders’ Cup Challenge race at Santa Anita Saturday is the $100,000 Speakeasy, a five-furlong dash offering a free berth to the new Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. Wesley Ward’s Mae Never No is the lone filly, and stakes winner, in the line-up thanks to her seven-length rout in the off-the-turf Colleen. She figures to transfer her game to the grass as a daughter of past Ward celebrity No Nay Never. On the other hand, she must concede weight to the boys while carrying 121 pounds.
Miller sends out the only runner proven in the conditions, Hartel. Sporting the Rockingham Ranch colors like Roy H, Hartel showed little on the dirt but thrived in a five-furlong turf maiden at Del Mar. The $210,000 City Zip gelding was a game runner-up in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf over a mile, but should enjoy the cutback.
Hall of Famer Bob Baffert’s representative, Midnight Mystery, is likewise eligible to jump up markedly on turf. By War Front and out of Baffert’s brilliant Midnight Lucky, the gray retreated to third as the 4-5 favorite in his Los Alamitos unveiling. Now he switches surfaces and picks up Drayden Van Dyke.
Reddam Racing has two contenders with different trainers. Doug O’Neill’s Whooping Jay crushed a Cal-restricted maiden at Los Alamitos and should adapt to turf as a homebred by Square Eddie. Simon Callaghan’s Owning, a $260,000 son of Tapit freshman Flashback, needs to find more after being well beaten in the Best Pal (G2) and Del Mar Juvenile Turf.
Maiden claiming winners Its Gonna Hurt, who has upside as a son of Violence, and Cal-bred Principe Carlo round out the seven-horse field.
The $200,000 City of Hope Mile (G2) isn’t a “Win & You’re In,” but could yield a Breeders’ Cup hopeful. Multiple Grade 2 hero Sharp Samurai aims to regain the winning thread after a tough beat by Catapult in the Eddie Read (G2) and a troubled placing to the same foe in the Del Mar Mile (G2). Elevated to second there upon the disqualification of Fly to Mars from second to third, he meets his wayward rival again.
Trainer Christophe Clement ships well-bred White Flag west, and stretches him out, after a head second in the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3). Conversely, veteran Flamboyant reverts in trip for the first time since his San Francisco Mile (G3) coup on March 31. Double Touch seeks to back up his 29-1 upset of the Wickerr, underachieving Le Ken makes his first start for Ron McAnally, fellow South American Ohio rockets up in class second off the claim for Michael McCarthy, and Golden Gate shippers Mithqaal and Pyscho Sister venture south.