03/05/2011 3:06PM

Dubai sprint Mr Gruff's comeback spot

Benoit & Associates
Mr Gruff will make his comeback in the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup Night.

ARCADIA, Calif. – From California to Dubai, Crown of Thorns and Mr Gruff will make comebacks in coming weeks.

Mr Gruff has not started since finishing third in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park last May, and is being pointed for the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint over a straight five furlongs in Dubai on March 26, trainer Ron Ellis said.

“We’ve been pointing for it all along,” Ellis said. “He runs well fresh, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”

Owned by Gary Broad, Mr Gruff, 7, has won 5 of 9 starts and $259,680, including consecutive runnings of the Grade 3 San Simeon Handicap on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in 2009 and 2010.

Ellis said that Mr Gruff did not undergo surgery during his layoff but was plagued by chronic hind end problems. Last fall, Ellis tried to have Mr Gruff ready for the BC Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs but ran out of time before the race.

The Al Quoz Sprint will be Mr Gruff’s first start away from California. Joel Rosario is booked to ride.

“He’s at an age now we’ve got to go for the big money if he doesn’t put a put a string of races together,” Ellis said. “His trouble has always been behind. It’s never been any surgeries. When he’s right, he runs huge.”

This will be the first year the Al Quoz Sprint has been run at five furlongs, having been run over six furlongs last year. The course has a slight uphill finish, which could work in Mr Gruff’s favor, Ellis said.

“I didn’t think the five would be to his benefit, but it plays a little longer,” Ellis said.

Crown of Thorns, who was scratched as the morning-line favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs in November, has recovered from a knee injury that forced him to the sidelines. He is tentatively scheduled to start in the $150,000 Potrero Grande Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita on April 3.

Crown of Thorns rejoined trainer Richard Mandella’s stable earlier this year and has had three recorded workouts, including a half-mile in 47.40 seconds on March 2.

“He’ll be ready in about a month,” Mandella said.

A 6-year-old horse owned by B. Wayne Hughes, Crown of Thorns has won 2 of 8 starts and $687,080. Second in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita, Crown of Thorns was second in two starts last year – the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien Stakes for sprinters at Del Mar and the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes at Hollywood Park.

He was scratched from the BC Dirt Mile on the eve of the race and later underwent surgery on his right knee to repair “some damaged tissue in the back of the knee,” Mandella said. “It didn’t require a lot of time off and he responded well.”