'Bay' shows fondness for Santa Anita turf in City of Hope Mile
Owner Peter Redekop made the call to send Alert Bay down to Santa Anita for Sunday's $200,000 City of Hope Mile (G2), and it was the right one as the Golden Gate shipper swept from off the hot pace to notch his eighth career stakes victory. In so doing, he just might have run himself into the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) picture.
The spotting was eminently sensible, considering Alert Bay's fondness for the Santa Anita turf. The Blaine Wright trainee brought a 4-3-0-1 local mark into the City of Hope, including his prior Grade 2 tally in last fall's Mathers Brothers Mile (G2) as well as his most lucrative success in the January 24 Cal Cup Turf Classic.
The early tempo promised to be quick, with speed merchants Hot Hot Heat and Big Cazanova in the line-up. That should have played to the strengths of Talco, but the 2-1 chance flubbed the start, spotted the field a couple of lengths, and expended too much energy working his way into position as the 124-pound co-highweight.
In contrast, 8-5 favorite Avanzare, the other co-highweight, might have had the starch taken out of him by following the breakneck leaders in third. Hot Hot Heat was bringing the heat under pressure from Big Cazanova through splits of :22.69 and :45.74, and gave way rounding the far turn. Big Cazanova took over, reached the six-furlong mark in 1:09.58, and continued with gusto into the stretch. Avanzare tried to go after him, but couldn't bridge the gap.
Meanwhile, Martin Garcia had been patient aboard Alert Bay. After biding his time in just about midpack, the 4-1 chance was advancing into contention. Overhauling Big Cazanova in deep stretch, he sped the mile in 1:33.58. Avanzare checked in another 1 1/2 lengths back in third, replicating his finish in this race last year. Talco, who briefly appeared in a good spot, flattened out in fourth.
Twentytwentyvision, who would have been a contender based on his runner-up effort in the Eddie Read (G1), had a mishap in the starting gate and had to be scratched upon the advice of the veterinarian. Daily Racing Form's Steve Andersen reported that he suffered a "severely cut lip" and required facial surgery.
Alert Bay is closing in on millionaire status with earnings of $954,495 from his 19-10-4-2 line. The four-year-old gelding is also a multiple stakes winner on dirt. Among his main track highlights are the 2014 Zia Park Derby in track-record time and the British Columbia Derby (G3) and BC Premier's H. (G3). Third in the Longacres Mile (G3) two back, he was coming off a score in the Rolling Green on the Golden Gate turf.
"I'd certainly have to (think about Keeneland)," Wright said of the Breeders' Cup. "We faced a good group of horses today and now we'll get him back home, evaluate him, talk it over with Mr. Redekop and see what goes on from there. We kind of looked at it a while ago but we had a tough time getting going this year, getting him back to form. This past month has done well for him.
"It's almost like the switch gets flipped. It's been a real pleasure to train this type of horse. I really hope the Breeders' Cup is a possibility. This race should certainly let us think about it. He came out well and he wasn't breathing too hard. He does quite well at Santa Anita though, he really likes this place.
"I've never had such a versatile, hard-hitting horse as him; he can run on any surface. Obviously, he's best on turf but he can run on dirt and even Tapeta. Today was a blessing, Mr. Redekop deserves all the credit here."
By City Zip and out of multiple Chilean stakes winner and classic-placed Hickory, Alert Bay counts as his third dam Mairzy Doates, best known as the winner of the inaugural Japan Cup in 1981.
Two races earlier in the $76,000 King Pellinore, Warren B. Williamson's homebred Texas Ryano became the fifth stakes winner produced by the prolific Blending Element. The four-year-old son of Curlin has flashed talent at the allowance level, but he may be starting to fulfill his early promise at last.
If the "King Pellinore" doesn't sound familiar, don't worry -- this 1 1/4-mile race is the impoverished replacement for the stakes known in recent years as the John Henry Turf Championship (G2). Of course, the history goes much further than that, to the heyday of Oak Tree at Santa Anita. The series of former names includes the Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship, Oak Tree Invitational, etc.
Even so, the King Pellinore still attracted multiple Grade 2 winner Ashleyluvssugar, only to lose its top draw when he ended up as a vet scratch.
Perhaps Texas Ryano can go on to better things. The Carla Gaines pupil was anchored near the back of the pack, well off slow fractions of :25.24, :49.73 and 1:14.27, but summoned the best turn of foot in the sprint to the wire. Tipping out and around his rivals down the stretch, he won going away by 1 3/4 lengths and handed jockey James Graham his first Santa Anita stakes coup. Texas Ryano, the slight 5-2 second choice, clocked 2:01.73. Class Leader, Abbey Vale, and 5-2 favorite Kulik Lodge were necks apart for the minors.
Texas Ryano's stakes-winning half siblings are Tiz Elemental (a Grade 3 heroine), Holladay Road, Tiz a Blend and Excessive Blend. Their dam, Grade 3 queen Blending Element, is also responsible for the Grade 2-placed duo of American Blend and War Element. This is the further family of the great racemare Dahlia.