Separated by just a nose at the wire of the Breeders' Cup Classic last November, Will Take Charge and Mucho Macho Man lead a field of eight in Saturday's $750,000 Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, with each looking to stake an early claim to 2014 Horse of the Year honors. (Post time: 7:00 pm Eastern; TV: Fox Sports 1). The Big Cap is part of the Jockey Club Tour on FOX with coverage beginning at 7:00 pm Eastern. (FS1 channel locator)
Following their battle at Santa Anita in the Breeders' Cup, Will Take Charge went on to win the G1-Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs by a head over Game On Dude. The D. Wayne Lukas trainee then finished a length and a half behind Lea in the G1-Donn at Gulfstream in his 2014 debut race on Feb. 8th.
Mucho Macho Man comes into the Big Cap with just a single race since his Breeders' Cup victory: a fourteen length score over a field of wildly outmatched rivals in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream on Jan. 18th. The Kathy Ritvo trainee shipped out to Southern California in late February and is seeking his third win in four lifetime starts over the Santa Anita main track.
Defending champions Game On Dude is back at the age of seven seeking the third Big Cap victory of his career. The Dude sports a sterling 10-7-0-0 record at Santa Anita Park but has finished off the board in his two Classic attempts. Overall, he's 11-5--3-0 at the distance of a mile and a quarter.
Among the challengers to the top three betting interests are:
- Blingo: Winner of the G2-San Antonio at Santa Anita last time out after making a big move from the back of the pack to score by a half lenght over Imperative.
- Imperative: Second in the San Antonio, Imperative was claimed for $50,000 just four races back from Darley Stables and Eoin harty. He's 13-2-4-1 lifetime and has yet to post a graded stakes victory.
- Rousing Sermon: Fifth in the G2-San Pasqual in early January; he won a state-bred stakes race at Hollywood in late November and finished second in an ungraded event at Santa Anita last October.
- American Blend: Third in the San Antonio in his only start at the graded stakes level in his career.
- Hear the Ghost: Just seven lifetime starts to his name but he won last year's G2-San Felipe and he was a good second to Blueskiesandrainbows in the G2-Native Diver, and finished 3rd in the G2-Strub in January. He struggled to finish third of four in an OC/N2X event back on Feb. 1st, which doesn't provide a lot of confidence in his chances heading in to the Big Cap.
Saturday's card at Santa Anita will also feature the G3-San Felipe Stakes, part of the official 2014 Road to the Kentucky Derby. Bob Baffert's Bayern was expected to be the heavy favorite in the San Felipe but will have to scratch out of the race after suffering a bruised foot. With Bayern out of the San Felipe, Midnight Hawk (third in last month's G2-Lewis Stakes) looks to pick up some valuable Derby points.
Kristo, second to Midnight Hawk in the G3-Sham, and California Chrome, winner of the state-restricted Cal Cup Derby and the King Glorious, are the top challengers to Midnight Hawk. Schoolofhardrocks, a maiden breaker at Del Mar last August but on the sidelines for over six months, makes his dirt and stakes debut. Rprettyboyfloyd, third in the San Vicente, stretches out to two turns for the first time.
Below are the entries, post positions and morning line odds for Saturday's Big Cap:
|1||Will Take Charge||L. Saez||D.W. Lukas||2/1|
|2||Mucho Macho Man||G. Stevens||K. Ritvo||9/5|
|3||Blingo||A. Gryder||J. Shirreffs||8/1|
|4||Imperative||K. Desormeaux||G. Papaprodromou||12/1|
|5||Rousing Sermon||R. Bejarano||J. Hollendorfer||12/1|
|6||American Blend||J. Talamo||C. Gaines||20/1|
|7||Game On Dude||M. Smith||B. Baffert||5/2|
|8||Hear the Ghost||J. Rosario||J. Hollendorfer||20/1|