02/04/2016 3:30PM

Donworth could shine in San Antonio with division leaders absent

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Imperative will start on Saturday in the Grade 2, $500,000 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – With California Chrome in Dubai and Dortmund still not quite ready to return to action, the final local prep for next month’s Santa Anita Handicap finds itself without the best older runners on this circuit.

That makes for a terrific opportunity on Saturday at Santa Anita for eight other horses in the Grade 2, $500,000 San Antonio Stakes, including Donworth, who makes his first start since June and since being acquired by owner Paul Reddam and moved to trainer Doug O’Neill.

“He’s doing super,” O’Neill said Thursday at Santa Anita. “He’s had some good stamina drills. We’re excited to see him run.”

Donworth showed some promise last year at age 3 when trained by Graham Motion. After overcoming a nightmarish trip to win his debut at Gulfstream Park, he made three subsequent starts, all in stakes, including a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland.

 

In the San Antonio, though, Donworth will be trying 1 1/8 miles for the first time while returning from a layoff of more than seven months.

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“I think he’s going to run well, but hopefully he’ll do better and better as the year goes on,” O’Neill said. “He’s put in some impressive drills. A couple of times, he inadvertently picked up company, and you could see his quality.”

Dortmund would have been the favorite for this race, but he lost time with a foot issue, and though trainer Bob Baffert on Thursday said the foot was “good,” he said Dortmund was not quite ready to race this week. His defection caused Jerry Hollendorfer to jump in with Cyrus Alexander, who is making only the second stakes start of his 12-race career.

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“The fact Dortmund’s not running made us consider this,” Hollendorfer said. “If Dortmund was running, we weren’t going to run.”

The San Antonio, race 7 on the nine-race card, is the richest of the four graded stakes run here Saturday. The field also includes Imperative, Hoppertunity, and Hard Aces, who were second through fourth behind California Chrome in last month’s San Pasqual.

But with the Chrome away, these will play.

KEY CONTENDERS

Donworth, by Tiznow

Last 3 Beyers: 95-93-93

◗ He ran well fresh last year, winning his debut, and being a son of Tiznow, he only figures to be better with more racing.

“He’s got the look, and he’s got the pedigree,” O’Neill said.


DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 2 Donworth. Trainer Doug O’Neill is 24-0-2-2 over the past five years in graded stakes in the first start following a trainer switch (10-0-0-0 past three years). Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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Imperative, by Bernardini

Last 3 Beyers: 102-97-98

◗ Second to Dortmund and California Chrome in his last two starts, he gets his best chance in nearly two years to earn a stakes victory.

◗ Mario Gutierrez rode him in his last two starts, but since he rides first call for O’Neill and Reddam (e.g., Nyquist), he is on Donworth, so Mike Smith will take over.

Hoppertunity, by Any Given Saturday

Last 3 Beyers: 100-103-104

◗ Although he’s lost his last nine races, he fires every time and comes off a third-place finish behind California Chrome and Imperative in the San Pasqual. He was a good second prior to that against Effinex when trying to defend his title in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Cyrus Alexander, by Medaglia d’Oro

Last 3 Beyers: 98-90-77

◗ A half-brother to Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, this $1.7 million yearling purchase has taken a while to come around but did perform well against upper-level optional-claiming runners in his last two starts.


DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 4 Hard Aces. Trainer John Sadler is 16-7-0-2 with a $3.78 ROI over the past five years in dirt route graded stakes at Santa Anita in the second start following a layoff. Click for more details. Mike Hogan