March 4, 2024

Palos Verdes title defense marks Roy H’s season debut

Roy H sails home at Churchill Downs under jockey Paco Lopez for his second straight Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) on November 3, 2018 (c) Cecilia Gustavsson/Horsephotos.com

A heavy favorite to be named champion male sprinter for a second time at next week’s Eclipse Awards ceremony, Roy H embarks on a 2019 campaign Saturday that could result in an unprecedented third sprint title for the More Than Ready gelding.

The two-time TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner kicks things off in the $200,000 Palos Verdes (G2) at Santa Anita, a six-furlong dash he won by 3 1/2 lengths last term as a 1-5 favorite against three rivals. He was made the 4-5 morning line choice to beat six foes in Saturday’s renewal.

Four-for-six at Santa Anita, site of this year’s Breeders’ Cup, Roy H also captured the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) last season and placed in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) and Bing Crosby (G1). Roy H hopes to avoid the fate of stablemate and two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) winner Stormy Liberal, who dropped his season debut in the Joe Hernandez (G3) on New Year’s Day.

Conquest Tsunami, third after setting the pace in the Hernandez, makes a rare dirt appearance after thriving on turf and synthetic in recent seasons. A sharp second-level allowance winner over the strip in October, Awesome Anywhere makes his first start since finishing a close third to Touched by Autism in the $63,000 Oakland at Golden Gate Fields in late November.

Graded stakes veteran St. Joe Bay looks to make it two in a row after eking out an allowance win at Los Alamitos last month in which Santa Anita Sprint Championship runner-up Distinctive B ran fourth. Kanthaka, who captured the San Vicente (G2) and Laz Barrera Memorial (G3) at three last season, looks to improve on his eighth-place effort in the December 26 Malibu (G1) following a 7 1/2-month spell.