03/23/2010 12:00AM

Bourbon Bay closing in on rare sweep

Bob Coglianese
Bourbon Bay winning the San Luis Rey, his third straight victory. He will try the San Juan Capistrano on April 18.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Once every two decades or so, a horse comes along who so dominates the long-distance turf division at Santa Anita that he sweeps the San Luis Obispo and San Luis Rey handicaps, both at 1 1/2 miles, and then the San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap at about 1 3/4 miles.

Astray did it in 1974, Kotashaan - who would go on to be Horse of the Year - did it in 1993, and now Bourbon Bay is one step away. He added . Only the battle for San Juan hill on closing day, April 18, stands between Bourbon Bay and a sweep.

The San Luis Rey marked the third straight win on Santa Anita's turf course for Bourbon Bay, 4, who is vastly improved this year. His trainer, Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale, said Bourbon Bay was ill last year and has come back stronger.

"Last year, he had allergies," Drysdale said. "We had to turn him out. He seems to have gotten over it."

And how. Bourbon Bay romped by 2 1/2 lengths in the San Luis Rey to go along with his 4 1/4-length victory in the San Luis Obispo. As a result of the San Luis Obispo win, Bourbon Bay carried six more pounds (120) in the San Luis Rey. Drysdale said that if Bourbon Bay is "weighted out" of the San Juan Capistrano, he would consider going to Keeneland for the Elkhorn Stakes on April 23.

Bourbon Bay gave Drysdale his fourth win in the San Luis Rey, following Prized (1990), Single Empire (1999), and Fourty Niners Son (2007).

Bourbon Bay also made a winner of Orlando Arango of Los Angeles, who won Santa Anita's online ShowVivor contest and a $2,500 prize. Arango and two other contestants were in a pitched battle for a week, but those final two rivals both faltered Saturday by selecting horses who finished worse than third.

Mr. Gruff to defend title

Mr. Gruff, who returned from an 11-month layoff to win a third-level allowance race on the downhill turf course Friday, will come back April 17 in the Grade 3, $100,000 San Simeon Handicap, a downhill turf sprint that Mr. Gruff won last year before going to the sideline.

"He's going to defend his championship title and try to be crowned King of the Hill," said his trainer, Ron Ellis. "He was ready to come back a month ago, but with all the rain, the races kept getting taken off the grass."

Mr. Gruff, 6, has raced seven times with four wins, all on the downhill turf course. He is a nose loss from being 5 of 5 on the course.

Golden Itz eyes Hollywood stakes

Ellis has high hopes for Golden Itiz, a 3-year-old son of Tiznow who was an impressive debut winner against maidens Saturday. Ellis said his long-range goal is the Swaps Stakes this summer at Hollywood Park.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't run again until Hollywood, because we're within a month of that meet starting," said Ellis, who is stabled at Hollywood. "We're going to put him on a track towards the Swaps, because I think he's that kind of horse. It's just a matter of how we get there."

Philatelist heads Tokyo City field

Philatelist, a close third in his United States debut in last month's , heads the prospective field for the Grade 3, $100,000 Tokyo City Cup for older horses at 1 1/2 miles on Pro-Ride on Saturday.

Others likely to run in the Tokyo City include Eagle Poise, Rendezvous, Snowmaster, and Tap It Light.

Sunday's feature, the Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Paula Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs for 3-year-old fillies, will have at least two runners from Bob Baffert's barn, Crisis of Spirit and Seriously, and possibly Miss Heather Lee.

La Nez, who faced boys and was third to Caracortado in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes on Dec. 26, is scheduled to come back in the Santa Paula. Others expected for the race are Five Silver Stars, Sister Dawn, and Tanda.

* Jockeys Victor Espinoza, Garrett Gomez, and Joe Talamo are all absent from Santa Anita this week in order to ride in Dubai on Saturday.

* Tickets for Santa Anita Uncorked, a popular wine and food event to be held at the track during the races Sunday, are available through www.santaanita.com or by calling the track at (626) 574-7223.

* Following the races Sunday, a fund-raiser will be held for Dal Jones, a former assistant trainer and Hollywood Park employee who died unexpectedly last month, leaving behind a wife and two children. A poker tournament and silent auction will take place in an enclosed area near the top of the stretch where early bird bettors wager in the mornings. Information: www.daljonesmemorial.com.

* Jockey agent Brad Pegram and his wife, Erica, last week welcomed the birth of son Nolan, their third child. The Pegrams also have twin girls, age 3. Pegram represents Mike Smith.

* Apprentice jockey Inoel Beato, who failed to win a race here, is leaving town to ride at Emerald Downs in Washington.