Updated on 09/16/2011 9:54AM

Bonde runner gets top billing


ARCADIA, Calif. - D's Bertrando won his maiden by 13 lengths on Nov. 9 at Golden Gate Fields, finishing six furlongs in a rapid 1:08.49. He may not need that brilliant of a performance to win Thursday's $125,000 California Breeders' Champion Stakes at Santa Anita.

Trained by Jeff Bonde for JMJ Racing, D's Bertrando makes his first start against winners in the seven-furlong Champion Stakes. Nine are entered.

There is only one stakes winner among the entrants - Sailinwithcaptain, who won the Don B. Stakes for California- breds on Nov. 2. Sailinwithcaptain, trained by Bob Baffert, subsequently finished last of seven in the Hollywood Prevue Stakes at Hollywood Park on Nov. 23.

Other contenders include Unfurl the Flag, the sharp winner of an optional claiming race at Hollywood Park on Nov. 27; Excessivepleasure, a maiden winner in his debut on Nov. 16; and Excaper, a winner of two of three starts against claiming opposition.

Crackup, the winner of the Great State Challenge Juvenile, and Only the Best, a two-time stakes winner this fall, are passing in favor of races later at the Santa Anita meet.

D's Bertrando figures to be favored on the strength of his maiden win. In his debut at Bay Meadows, D's Bertrando finished a troubled second.

"He had the trip from hell in his first start," Bonde said. "He broke slowly and the horse next to him pushed him onto the rail. He looked hopelessly beaten at the quarter pole and he came with a nice run."

D's Bertrando was entered for the one-mile Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate on Dec. 14, but was scratched after the track came up sloppy, and went to Santa Anita instead. Since arriving at Santa Anita he has had one workout, going six furlongs in 1:13 on Dec. 18, the fifth fastest of 20 works at the distance.

D's Bertrando led throughout his maiden win, but on Thursday he could face early pressure from Excaper and Excessivepleasure.

Bonde is hoping to use Thursday's race as a springboard to the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Dash at seven furlongs for California-breds and Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25. He is hopeful the colt will develop into a top 3-year-old.

"He's a big, tall, rangy horse with a smooth stride," Bonde said. "We feel he'll stretch out to two turns."