07/23/2012 3:01PM

Del Mar: Import Suggestive Boy looks tough in Wickerr

Shigeki Kikkawa
Suggestive Boy defeated Key Decision the last two times they met in Argentina.

DEL MAR, Calif. – An outstanding U.S. debut by Argentinian import Suggestive Boy, runner-up in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile, makes him a solid favorite Wednesday at Del Mar in the $85,000 Wickerr Stakes at a mile on turf.

Though he won four Group 1’s in South America, drops in class Wednesday, and has established California form, Suggestive Boy will have his hands full against a good field in the Wickerr.

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The lineup includes Key Decision, a front-running South American nemesis to the favorite; Midnight Interlude, the 2011 Santa Anita Derby winner; Venomous, a closer rounding into form; and Calimonco, a Del Mar horse-for-course who won the 2011 Wickerr.

“It’s a tough race for $85,000,” said Key Decision’s trainer, A.C. Avila. “I didn’t expect it to be that tough.” Avila particularly hoped to avoid Suggestive Boy, who defeated Key Decision the last two times they met in Argentina.

“Suggestive Boy is a better horse,” Avila stated. He was better in Argentina, at least. But when he tries to catch his main rival on Wednesday, he might discover the front-runner Key Decision is a lot tougher to get past than he was in South America.

Key Decision was no slouch in Argentina. He won 3 of 9, and finished second in a pair of Group 1’s. But when he made his U.S. debut May 19 at Betfair Hollywood Park, Avila figured Key Decision’s idiosyncrasies might be a problem.

“He was goofing around, and looking everywhere,” Avila said. Key Decision pulled hard, tired and finished eighth. Next out, Avila added equipment and changed riders. “I put blinkers on,” said Avila, also noting a jockey switch to and Victor Espinoza, who he called “a more aggressive rider.”

Key Decision improved. He raced to the front, set fast fractions (46.41 seconds and 109.96) and wired the field. Wednesday at Del Mar, he should be loose on the lead again because the expected scratch of front-runner Liberian Freighter, who ran Sunday. In the case of Key Decision, strategy is not a secret.

“He wants to go, he needs to go,” Avila said. Although bettors are likely to support the “best-horse” theory and wager that Suggestive Boy will catch Key Decision again, a discrepancy in odds could make Key Decision an attractive gamble. He has won 3 of 11 and earned $99,760.

Suggestive Boy, trained by Ron McAnally, has won 4 races and $329,150 from 7 starts and was among the top horses in South America before he was imported to the United States. in February. Suggestive Boy, who will be ridden again by Joe Talamo, has had two works on the Del Mar turf course including five furlongs in 1:02.40 on Sunday.

Calimonco returns from a two-month break while dropping from graded stakes. John Sadler trains this Storm Cat colt, who won the Wickerr last year and runs well fresh.

Longshot bettors looking for a closer at a price could do worse than side with Venomous, in his third start into his comeback. Trainer Leonard Powell believes he is “greatly improved” and noted that he was compromised by circumstances both comeback starts.

What is the key Wednesday? “Put the handcuffs on him, and have him switch off,” Powell said. “Garrett [Gomez] is good at that.” Venomous, whose best U.S. start was a runner-up finish last autumn in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby, will roll late at a price. Gomez won 10 races opening week to lead the jockey standings.