03/05/2015 1:45PM

Conquest Two Step faces strong field in San Carlos

Shigeki Kikkawa
Conquest Two Step, winner of the Palos Verdes in his last start, will try to make it two in a row Saturday in the San Carlos at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Conquest Two Step has snuck into the California sprint division this winter.

The 4-year-old Conquest Two Step was a game second to Shared Belief in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs Dec. 26 at 72-1 and won the first stakes of his career in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes at six furlongs Jan. 31.

Those races have led to a start in the $250,000 San Carlos Stakes at seven furlongs Saturday at Santa Anita. A trip to Dubai for the $2 million Golden Shaheen on March 28 was contemplated, but owners Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell, who race as Conquest Stable, and trainer Mark Casse chose to stay in California.

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“I think he’s on top of his game,” Casse said.

Conquest Two Step is part of a strong field of 10 in the Grade 2 San Carlos, a field that includes eight stakes winners.

Trainer Bob Baffert has two runners – Chitu, who was third in the Malibu Stakes, and Midnight Hawk, who was ninth in the Malibu and rebounded to win an optional claimer at a mile Feb. 6. Jerry Hollendorfer starts Wild Dude, who was third in the Palos Verdes in his first start since April.

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Key contenders

Conquest Two Step (Last 3 Beyers: 105-98-81)

* Conquest Two Step was sidelined with an injury in the summer of 2013. The second in the Malibu was his best result in a seven-race campaign last year. In the Palos Verdes, Conquest Two Step closed from fourth in a field of six.

“He was always meant to be a good horse,” Casse said. “I didn’t rush him. His race against Shared Belief was great, but I think a lot of people looked at it like a fluke. His last race showed it’s not a fluke. The Palos Verdes set up nice for him.”

Kobe’s Back (Last 3 Beyers: 93-91-81)

A winner of two stakes, Kobe’s Back was switched from trainer John Sadler to Peter Eurton late last year by owners Lee and Susan Searing. The San Carlos will be Kobe’s Back’s first start for Eurton and his first race since a fifth in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar last July.

Similar to Conquest Two Step, Kobe’s Back is a threat from off the pace.

“I haven’t asked him for speed,” Eurton said. “I’ve put him in company quite a few times to get more out of the works. The seven-eighths is a good spot to start. Physically and mentally, he couldn’t be better.”