09/15/2011 11:45AM

Hastings: Sassou looks dangerous despite long layoff

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Sassou was on a roll last winter, winning three straight races on grass in Southern California before he ran into a couple of tough ones in Burj Dubai and Noosa Beach in his next two starts on dirt. He will try to get back on the winning track when he runs in a $25,000 claiming race that serves as Saturday’s feature at Hastings. The 6 1/2-furlong sprint drew seven horses and Sassou is clearly the one to beat despite a lengthy layoff.

Sassou hasn’t raced since he finished last in the $50,000 George Royal at Hastings on April 22, but over the past five years his trainer, Craig MacPherson, has a 22 percent strike rate when he brings a horse back between 61 and 180 days.

Sassou is a better horse on turf, with six of his seven-career wins coming on grass. His win on dirt came at Fairplex, which is similar in circumference to Hastings. He also earned an 86 Beyer Speed Figure in a $50,000 claiming race when he finished third to Burj Dubai in a race washed off the grass at Santa Anita on March 27. Following the race, he was shipped to Hastings, where he couldn’t keep up in the George Royal won by Grade 3 Longacres Mile winner Noosa Beach.

Richard Hamel, who wins at a 34 percent clip when riding for MacPherson in 2010-11, has the mount on Sassou.

Sassou wants the lead and is going to have to deal with Sense of Humor, who is coming off a front-running win over Slew’s Boy in a similar race Aug. 26. Trained by Mel Snow, Sense of Humor set the pace before tiring to finish fourth in a $50,000 B.C. Cup Sprint in his previous race.

It is possible Sassou and Sense of Humor will set it up for Slew’s Boy, who could get a perfect trip from a stalking position.

Trained by Robbie Anderson, Slew’s Boy didn’t have any help when he chased Sense of Humor last time and he could get first crack at the front-runners if they get carried away up front.

Bearrock N Roll could also make some noise late. He was squeezed back early when he finished fourth in the Sense of Humor race and prior to that he finished a close fourth to Bonboni, who came back to win the $50,000 Derby Bar and Grill Express last Sunday.