07/29/2011 12:07PM

Amazombie can boost title chances in Bing Crosby

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Amazombie needs a win in Sunday’s $250,000 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar to remain in the argument for the 2011 California-bred Horse of the Year title.

With nearly seven months of the season completed, the prize seems firmly in the grasp of Acclamation, who has had an outstanding summer with three consecutive graded stakes wins, the most recent of which was the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar on July 24. A 5-year-old horse by Unusual Heat, Acclamation will attempt to stretch that streak to four stakes wins in the $200,000 Del Mar Handicap on Aug. 28.

So far this year, Acclamation is the only California-bred to win a Grade 1, a milestone first achieved with a win in the Charles Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park in June.

Amazombie has an opportunity to join him on that list on Sunday. Owned by trainer Bill Spawr and Thomas Sanford, Amazombie won three stakes from late January to late April, most notably the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Stakes at Santa Anita.

He had a tough campaign at Hollywood Park. A 5-year-old gelding by Northern Afleet, Amazombie finished first in the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap, but was disqualified and placed third in a controversial decision after bumping a rival in the stretch. He was later third as the 3-2 favorite in the Triple Bend Handicap, finishing 5 1/2 lengths behind Smiling Tiger, who will go favored in the Bing Crosby.

“It will be tough,” Spawr said of the Bing Crosby. “Smiling Tiger is in there.”

The loss in the Triple Bend left Spawr baffled. “We did blood tests and he was good,” Spawr said.

In the Bing Crosby, Smiling Tiger drew the rail, not an ideal position for a horse who tends to run near the front. Amazombie is a closer who drew post 5. Regular jockey Mike Smith retains the mount on Amazombie, who will be making his first start on Del Mar’s Polytrack surface.

Amazombie started twice here last year, finishing first in an optional claimer on turf only to be disqualified and placed fifth in yet another controversial decision regarding a bumping incident. When reminded of that incident earlier this year, Spawr’s blood pressure seemed to visibly rise, and the memory was not helped by the fact that Amazombie returned to finish sixth against a similar field two weeks later at Del Mar.

Since then, Amazombie has improved remarkably, enough to start in his fourth graded stakes of 2011 this weekend. A win on Sunday would revive Amazombie’s season, and make the late summer and fall campaigns for Amazombie and Acclamation even more intriguing.

More stakes for Heleonor Rugby

Trainer A.C. Avila has a two races planned in late summer for Heleonor Rugby, the winner of the $100,000 CTBA Stakes for statebred 2-year-old fillies at Del Mar on July 22.

Avila would like to start Heleonor Rugby in the $100,000 Generous Portion Stakes over six furlongs for statebred 2-year-old fillies on Aug. 31 and then make a relatively quick turnaround for the $110,000 Barretts Debutante over 6 1/2 furlongs at Fairplex Park on Sept. 17.

Sunday’s first race at Del Mar could produce a filly or two capable of challenging Heleonor Rugby, particularly in the Generous Portion Stakes.

Sunday’s race marks the career debut of Lookin for Jonesy, a filly by Purge owned by breeder Tom Capehart. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Lookin for Jonesy is out of the Fabulous Champ mare Champ’s Rocket, who won 4 of 32 starts and $211,029 and was stakes placed.

Lookin for Jonesy is part of a field of seven statebred 2-year-old fillies in a race over 5 1-2 furlongs.