12/12/2016 7:50AM

Avanti Bello goes after chunk of change in Winter Challenge

Benoit & Associates
Avanti Bello wins the Tiznow Stakes at Santa Anita in May.

CYPRESS, Calif. – Avanti Bello, the winner of the Tiznow Stakes at Santa Anita in May, is set to start in Saturday’s Los Alamitos Winter Challenge, his seventh appearance in a stakes this year.

Trainer Doug O’Neill has no illusions about a second stakes win for 2016 for Avanti Bello, who is part of a supporting cast expected to face California Chrome in the Winter Challenge at 1 1/16 miles.

Avanti Bello won his last start, an allowance race at Santa Anita on Oct. 30, and has worked well in recent weeks, O’Neill said. The 4-year-old has run well at Los Alamitos, finishing third in three stakes here, including the E.B. Johnston Stakes in September.

Those races were for California-breds. In the Winter Challenge, he faces California Chrome, who has earned $14,462,650, making him the richest North American-based horse in history.

“It’s a good payday for second, if we’re lucky,” O’Neill said. “He’s doing well. He’s got good energy.”

The race was created to give California Chrome a final start in his home state before the last race of his career, the $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28.

California Chrome is scheduled to enter stud in Kentucky in 2017.

The purse structure of the Winter Challenge has been designed to lure horses to face California Chrome, the 2014 Horse of the Year.

The winner will receive $50,000 followed by $30,000 for second, $20,000 for third, and $15,000 for both fourth and fifth. Any other runners that completes the race will receive $10,000. The race has a purse of $100,000-estimated, but could be worth more, depending on the number of starters.

As of Sunday, there were 10 candidates from a list of 33 nominees considered probable starters – Ain’t Misbehavin, Air Pocket, Avanti Bello, California Chrome, Conquest Cobra, Dream Team, Howdy, Mishegas, Papacoolpapacool, and Point Piper.