09/06/2013 1:25PM

Barretts at Fairplex: Najran Breeze 'a different horse' for Jim Kostoff

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Anillo, who has been racing in Florida, makes his first start for trainer Jeff Bonde on Sunday in the Jim Kostoff.

POMONA, Calif. – Najran Breeze can breathe easier since throat surgery in spring. But has he improved enough to upset favored Anillo and win the $50,000 Jim Kostoff Stakes on Sunday at the Los Angeles County Fair?

His trainer, Robertino Diodoro, believes he has.

“He’s a different horse now,” Diodoro said. “And he loves the bullring. A good bullring horse runs through the turns.”

Najran Breeze was 0 for 4 in California before minor surgery and easier foes produced two front-running wins on the five-eighth-mile track at Northlands Park in Canada. In Sunday’s 6 1/2-furlong race, Najran Breeze will test his speed on the five-eighths Barretts at Fairplex oval.

This time, the competition is tougher. Najran Breeze faces a formidable rival in Anillo, who will make his first start since joining the Jeff Bonde stable after being purchased for $75,000 at the Barretts summer Del Mar paddock sale.

Anillo had good form at Calder and Gulfstream in Florida. He won an optional-claiming sprint at Gulfstream in July, which was his last start, and his three wins this year have made him 4 for 14 overall. Beyond Anillo’s appealing race record, Bonde had inside information because his sons Duke, 16, and Tucker, 15, worked the sale.

“My boys liked him because he was kind to be around,” Bonde said. “They enjoyed that horse.”

After training Anillo for nearly two months, Bonde also likes him.

“He’s worked pretty well, and we’re optimistic he will run well,” Bonde said. “He had run pretty regularly down at Calder. We just put some works in him; this is our starting place.”

Anillo arrived at Fairplex early this week. “He’s had the opportunity to gallop the past three or four days and check out the scenery,” Bonde said.

Martin Pedroza rides Anillo.

Anillo will try to become the first favorite to win the Kostoff (formerly the Derby Trial) in the five years since it was shortened to a sprint.

Five entered the Kostoff; they arrive from all over. Stormdriver won a stakes last month at Albuquerque and placed in three winter stakes at Sunland; North Pacific ships from Northern California in acceptable form; Ebony Gold, the only entrant with a win at Fairplex, starts for the first time since June.

On paper, the Kostoff is a two-horse race. If he reproduces his Northlands form, Najran Breeze and jockey Edwin Maldonado could give Diodoro his second straight Kostoff victory, following 2012 winner Explain.

Diodoro, second in the 2012 Fairplex standings after winning 5 of 18, will be active again this year. Diodoro has entrants in six of the 11 races Sunday.

As for the top 3-year-old Diodoro trains, Broadway Empire this week was on his way home to Turf Paradise. Convincing winner of the Grade 3 Canadian Derby Aug. 17 at Northlands, Broadway Empire will make his next start Sept. 29 at Remington Park in the Grade 3, $400,000 Oklahoma Derby.