September 26, 2023

Express Train seeks Big ‘Cap on stakes-laden Santa Anita program

Express Train wins the 2021 San Pasqual Stakes (photo by Benoit)

One of six stakes offered, including the San Felipe (G2) for Kentucky Derby contenders, the 85th running of the $650,000 Santa Anita H. (G1) highlights an 11-race program Saturday.

Santa Anita H. (G1) – Race 11 (8 p.m. ET)

After edging Hot Rod Charlie by a nose in the San Antonio (G2) in late December, Express Train opened his five-year-old season with a 3 1/4-length tally in the Feb. 5 San Pasqual (G2). The John Shirreffs-trained horse will seek to make it three straight, and earn his first Grade 1 victory, when he lines up for the 1 1/4-mile Big ‘Cap.

Express Train has recorded three of his six career wins at Santa Anita.  A half-length second in last year’s Big ‘Cap, the son of Union Rags will be a prohibitive favorite over seven rivals, and Victor Espinoza has the call.

Stakes victor Stilleto Boy returns to California following a respectable third in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park. Fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) three back, the four-year-old gelding adds a new rider in John Velazquez.

Grade 3 winner Warrant ships in for Brad Cox after a third behind Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon in the Louisiana S. (G3) at Fair Grounds. Grade 2 winners Kiss Today Goodbye and Spielberg are also part of the mix.

Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) – Race 10 (7:30 p.m. ET)

Count Again and Subconscious, 1-2 finishers in the Feb. 5 Thunder Road (G3), and Hollywood Derby (G1) hero Beyond Brilliant are principals in the $500,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) on turf.

The contentious 12-horse field includes Grade 2 scorer Law Professor, who will switch back to turf following a runner-up to Express Train in the San Pasqual; Grade 2 winner Tell Your Daddy, who invades from New York for Tom Morley; and multiple Grade 1-placed Space Traveller, third most recently in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1).

Beholder Mile (G1) – Race 9 (7 p.m. ET)

A 13-length romper in the La Canada (G2) on Jan. 1, As Time Goes By will seek her third consecutive graded win when she contests the $500,000 Beholder Mile (G1). The Bob Baffert-trained mare, second to champion three-year-old filly Swiss Skydiver in last year’s Beholder, tops seven runners, and Flavien Prat will be at the controls.

Envoutante ships in for Kenny McPeek, who trained Swiss Skydiver, and Envoutante will make her first appearance since rolling to a six-length win in the Falls City (G2) at Churchill Downs last November. Velazquez will be up. Baffert has also entered Varda, unraced since winning the 2020 Hollywood Starlet (G1), and Juan Hernandez will ride the four-year-old filly.

San Carlos (G2) – Race 4 (4:30 p.m. ET)

Grade 3 winner Cezanne, third as an odds-on favorite when returning from a lengthy layoff in the Jan. 29 Palos Verdes (G3), will take some beating for Baffert and Prat in the $200,000 San Carlos (G2) at seven furlongs. His stablemate, speedy Eight Rings, is the likely second choice among six runners.

Buena Vista (G2) – Race 5 (5 p.m. ET)

Heroine of the Rodeo Drive (G1) and John C. Mabee (G2), Going to Vegas had her three-race win streak snapped when unplaced in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). The five-year-old mare will look to rebound in the $200,000 Buena Vista (G2). Prat guides the five-year-old daughter of Goldencents for Richard Baltas.

Eleven fillies and mares will contest the mile turf affair, and other runners of interest include Canoodling, Keeper of Time, Leggs Galore, and Mucho Unusual.