03/18/2010 11:00PM

Bourbon Bay coming into his own


ARCADIA, Calif. - One big victory in a turf marathon stakes can push a horse to the top of California's weak turf marathon division and the responsibility that goes with it.

Bourbon Bay won the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf by 4 1/4 lengths on Feb. 21. The victory was his first in a stakes. For Saturday's $150,000 San Luis Rey Handicap, his weight assignment has increased from 114 pounds to high weight of 120 pounds.

Handicap races at Santa Anita during this meeting must have a 120-pound highweight, and Bourbon Bay's flashy win earned him that distinction, to the surprise of trainer Neil Drysdale.

"It seems quite a stretch," Drysdale said.

Drysdale says that Bourbon Bay always was expected to be effective in races over longer distances.

"That's what we anticipated, that he'd be a mile-and-a-half horse," he said.

Owned by David and Jill Heerensperger, Bourbon Bay is unbeaten over 1 1/2 miles on turf, having won an allowance race at Santa Anita on Jan. 6 in his first start over the distance.

"We've been pleased with those races," Drysdale said.

Bourbon Bay leads a field of 10 that includes High Court Drama, the runner-up in the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes on Jan. 24; Unusual Suspect and Sudden War, who were second and third in the San Luis Obispo; and Dynamic Range, winner of two optional claimers on turf last fall.

High Court Drama was second by a half-length to Loup Breton in the 1 1/4-mile San Marcos Stakes. Trainer Doug O'Neill intended to run High Court Drama in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 6 but the horse was weighted too low and omitted from the field.

High Court Drama has never started at 1 1/2 miles on turf, but that is not a concern for O'Neill.

"If he gets beat, it won't be because of the distance," O'Neill said. "I don't see why he can't repeat his San Marcos form."

Sudden War needed a race in the San Luis Obispo, said Jordan Blair, assistant to trainer Kenneth McPeek.

"For the last race, we missed two works because of weather," he said. "In the last eighth, he was dead tired. I like the way he's coming into this race. If he makes the lead, he'll have something left."