United returns, but ‘Hounds get the nod in San Luis Rey Stakes

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

March 20th, 2021

A handful of the top turf stayers based on the West Coast will vie in Saturday’s $100,000 San Luis Rey S. (G3) at Santa Anita. The 1 1/2-mile test on the green marks the return of four-time Grade 2 star #3 United (6-5), who was a head second in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) on this course for trainer Richard Mandella. While I have a lot of respect for the chestnut, an up-and-coming contender gets top billing on Saturday.

The Richard Baltas-trained #2 Masteroffoxhounds (5-2) didn’t show much in his U.S. debut when finishing a flat seventh in a one-mile turf endeavor on Nov. 7 at Del Mar, but the well-bred colt has shown dramatic improvement in two races since that offering. Stretching out to 1 3/8 miles for his second stateside appearance, the four-year-old dominated late en route to posting a 4 1/4-length allowance score. The Kentucky-bred then won with something left in reserve in Santa Anita's 1 1/4-mile San Marcos (G2) while making his 2021 bow.

Masteroffoxhounds is lightly raced enough to have room for continued development, and while he did endure a dream trip last time out, he figures to get a similar voyage on Saturday. The bay shows four strong morning moves in anticipation of his second run over the surface, hinting he's sitting on another powerful display. Umberto Rispoli picks up the mount and will have Masteroffoxhounds settled just off of a potentially contested pace to the head of the stretch.

United needs no introduction and can run with any horse on his best day. The Giant’s Causeway six-year-old tired in the stretch of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland in his five-year-old finale, but he faces a more reasonable task in this spot.

The versatile sort can win from on or off the early tempo, and top turf pilot Flavien Prat will guide the ultra-talented gelding.

For purposes of the trifecta, Northern Dancer (G1) victor #4 Say the Word (5-2) should receive ample pace to aid his strong late kick for trainer Phil D’Amato. The More Than Ready gelding was no match in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) last time out, but the Ontario-bred gelding really came to hand last campaign, and he has done some of his best work at this 1 1/2-mile trip, too. Mike Smith will be in the silks atop the one-run closer.

San Luis Rey Wagers:

  • $20 Exacta: 2 with 3 ($20)
  • $10 Trifecta Key: 2 with 3,4 ($20)