01/12/2012 4:38PM

Aqueduct: San Pablo flourishing since adding blinkers

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The way San Pablo has been running, it wouldn’t have surprised anybody had Todd Pletcher elected to bring him down to south Florida with his `A’ team for the winter.

But the multiple Eclipse Award winning-trainer felt there were better opportunities in New York for San Pablo and after looking at the way Saturday’s $75,000 Shots Are Ringing Stakes at Aqueduct came up, it’s hard to argue that point.

San Pablo will seek his third consecutive victory when he meets five rivals in the Shots Are Ringing, a mile-and-70-yard race restricted to 4-year-olds.

San Pablo, a son of Jump Start, won two of his first three starts before finishing third in the Chief Tamanaco Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 15. It was after that race, Pletcher elected to equip San Pablo with blinkers and the colt responded with a second-level allowance win in a one-turn mile over Aqueduct’s main track and a three-length victory over three horses in the Flying Chevron Stakes at a mile and 70 yards over the inner.

Pletcher said he felt in the Chief Tamanaco that San Pablo “was a little intimidated so we decided to put some blinkers on and take away that little distraction. It seemed to focus him a little bit like we were hoping it would.’’

In the Flying Chevron, Pletcher felt that San Pablo had “a little bit of a tricky trip around the first turn’’ but he was an authoritative winner over Norman Asbjornson.

Cornelio Velasquez rides San Pablo from post 3.

Trainer Gary Contessa has the uncoupled entry of Socialsaul and Sam Sparkle entered in the Shots Are Ringing. While Socialsaul is the more proven of the two around two turns, Contessa said he is looking forward to giving Sam Sparkle a chance to go a distance of ground.

Sam Sparkle is 2 for 2 over the inner track, but lost 13 races between those two victories. He is coming off an off-the-pace score in the Hunch Stakes going six furlongs here on Dec. 11.

“The way this horse ran last time is what I always thought he could be,’’ Contessa said. “He’s been knocking on the door of being a good horse. I’m hoping the distance really works for him. He’s training off the charts. I don’t have a horse in my barn training better than him.’’

Mike Luzzi rides Sam Sparkle from post 5.