07/22/2011 1:58PM

Del Mar: Lucky Primo could have target in California Dreamin' Handicap

Benoit & Associates
Lucky Primo, a front-running winner of the Golden State Cup, could employ different tactics in Sunday’s $100,000 California Dreamin’ Handicap at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Regardless of opportunities on the stakes calendar, Lucky Primo keeps his own schedule, which is why owner-trainer Joshua Litt was reluctant to point the 5-year-old gelding to Sunday’s $100,000 California Dreamin’ Handicap at Del Mar until the last minute.

“I didn’t plan for this race,” Litt said. “I don’t test him out that often. I hoped he’d be doing good enough to run him.”

Lucky Primo has battled injuries through his career, which has limited him to four wins in 11 starts and earnings of $236,632. He has won two stakes for statebreds – notably the 2008 California Cup Juvenile and the Golden State Cup at Hollywood Park last month. Those wins made Sunday’s race for statebreds a viable option when Litt deemed him fit to race.

“He’s hanging in there,” Litt said. “I wouldn’t run if he wasn’t. He looks pretty good for this race, and I hope he shows it.”

From a strategic point of view, Lucky Primo could be well-suited to the California Dreamin’ Handicap, which is run over 1 1/16 miles on turf. All Saint, winner of four minor stakes at Turf Paradise from December to April but well-beaten in his last two starts, is likely to lead, giving jockey Tyler Baze a target for Lucky Primo.

“The way that horse looks, I hope we’re sitting behind him,” Litt said. “As much speed as he showed last time, who knows?”

Lucky Primo led for most of the Golden State Cup, had a five-length advantage at the eighth pole, and won by 2 1/2 lengths over Norvsky, who is part of the California Dreamin’ field.

Norvsky has drawn the rail in the California Dreamin’, which has drawn a field of eight but may have only seven starters. Trainer Barry Abrams said Friday morning that Burns, second in Wednesday’s Oceanside Stakes, would be scratched Sunday morning for an upcoming stakes – the Real Good Deal Stakes on Aug. 10 or the La Jolla Handicap on Aug. 13.

Norvsky has been second in his last three starts, including two optional claimers, leaving trainer Don Warren with the expectation that he can become a stakes winner. A speed duel between All Saint, Lucky Primo, and possibly Earnednevergiven, who is coming out of sprints and was claimed for $62,500 in his last start, would please Warren.

“It looks like there is a lot of speed,” Warren said. “I like the way he comes running from off the pace. He’s improved and he might move up and win a stakes sooner or later. He looks better every week than the week before.

“He has slowly been putting on more weight, which has been a major concern. He was a little thin for a long time.”

Square Eddie back in training

Square Eddie, a Grade 1 stakes winner and the current track-record holder at 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita, has resumed training with Doug O’Neill at Del Mar after standing his second season at stud earlier this year.

A winner of 3 of 14 starts and $835,785, Square Eddie was bred to approximately 45 mares at nearby Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall, Calif., earlier this year, O’Neill said. According to Jockey Club statistics, Square Eddie, 5, was bred to 34 mares in 2010.

Last winter, Square Eddie made three starts, winning an allowance race at Santa Anita before finishing ninth in the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park and the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf at Santa Anita in March. Owned by Paul Reddam, Square Eddie was sent back to Vessels after the loss in the Kilroe.

By Smart Strike, Square Eddie has had one three-furlong workout since resuming training. There are no immediate plans for a race, O’Neill said.

“I think the plan is to move forward and see where he takes us,” O’Neill said.