04/08/2011 12:38PM

Amazombie has eye on bigger game

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ARCADIA, Calif. – Last year, an allowance race or optional claimer sufficed when owner-trainer Bill Spawr sought races for Amazombie, his California-bred sprinter. That’s no longer good enough.

Thursday morning, in his stable office on the Santa Anita backstretch, Spawr, jockey Mike Smith and Smith’s agent, Brad Pegram, discussed which races would best suit Amazombie in the next few months. They needed stakes races throughout the nation to reach the appropriate conclusions.

“This horse is a tough horse,” Spawr said. “He’ll run on anything.”

Last Sunday, the 5-year-old Amazombie won the second stakes of his career, and first at the graded level, in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita.

The victory will lead to a start in the $125,000 Tiznow Stakes for statebreds over 7 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park on April 23, California Gold Rush Day. Later this spring, the $250,000 True North Handicap over six furlongs at Belmont Park is a possibility, Spawr said.

Those goals are realistic after a strong race from Amazombie in the Potrero Grande. Ridden by Smith, Amazombie held off a late threat from Captain Cherokee to win by a head in 1:14.26.

The Potrero Grande was Amazombie’s third win in his last five starts, a span that includes a win in an optional claimer at Hollywood Park last December, when Amazombie was eligible to be claimed for $62,500, and an 11-1 upset in the Sunshine Millions Sprint for California-breds and Florida-breds at Santa Anita in January. He was later second in the Sensational Star Handicap as the 6-5 favorite, a race in which Spawr says that Amazombie was not at his best.

The Potrero Grande over 6 1/2 furlongs equals the longest win for Amazombie, a gelding by Northern Afleet out of the In Excess mare Wilshe Amaze. Amazombie is Wilshe Amaze’s most successful foal. The dam is a half-sister to Flom’s Prospector, who won two stakes and $227,597.

Spawr thinks that the Tiznow distance will not be an issue for Amazombie, since Amazombie is a more relaxed runner since being gelded in early 2010.

“Mike Smith was in my office, and he said the way he is now, no problem,” Spawr said of the distance. “Since we cut him, he’s better and better. We can save his speed. He’s a good horse.”

Bred by the late Gregg Anderson, a real estate developer in Palmdale, Calif., Amazombie was acquired by Spawr before his career debut in August 2009. Amazombie needed five races to beat maidens, doing so in December 2009, and had one more start before he was gelded. As a gelding, Amazombie won two of his first four starts, and finished first in another race, a turf sprint at Del Mar last summer when he was disqualified and placed second.

Amazombie was sixth in a one-mile turf race at Del Mar last August, but has otherwise been consistent. Amazombie has finished in the first three in his last seven starts, including two wins and a second on Santa Anita’s new dirt surface this winter and spring. Overall, Amazombie has won 7 of 17 starts and $418,708.

“He could be” better on dirt, Spawr said on Thursday. “I think he’ll run on anything.”