09/25/2014 9:58AM

Hazel Park: Familiar names loaded for Michigan Sire Stakes

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Joe Nevills
Al’s Prayer will be the favorite going into the 3-year-old male division of Saturday's Michigan Sire Stakes.

The venue has changed, but there are many familiar names among the entries for the six-race Michigan Sire Stakes on Saturday at Hazel Park.

This year marks the first time that the Detroit-area track will host Michigan’s marquee Thoroughbred card, and it will be the fifth Sire Stakes venue since 1998.

Each race boasts an estimated purse of $50,000 with male and female divisions for Michigan-sired 2-year-olds (at 5 1/2 furlongs), 3-year-olds (at one mile and 40 yards), and older horses (at 1 1/8 miles).

The lowest-priced favorite will likely be Scarlet Hour in the 2-year-old fillies division. The Elusive Hour filly has won her two career starts by a combined 8 1/4 lengths, both in four-furlong sprints at Hazel Park. Regular rider Jeffrey Skerrett will have the assignment.

“She’s a nice filly that acts like she wants to run,” trainer James Jackson said. “The question is now can she go any farther. I believe she’ll go 5 1/2 furlongs, and I believe she’ll go farther than that. I’m hoping she’s the real deal.”

Bounce Back comes into the juvenile male division with the strongest resume, finishing second at long odds in his debut to Court’s Ruling, who graduated to open stakes at Presque Isle. The War Image colt is trained by Shane Spiess, and he will be ridden by Alvaro Hernandez-Lopez.

Al’s Prayer will be the favorite going into the 3-year-old male division, after beating the same class as 2-year-olds in 2013.

Trained by Bob Gorham, the Meadow Prayer gelding enters off a pair of wins against Michigan’s top sophomores – a 3 1/4-length win in the Lansing Stakes on Aug. 9, then an allowance romp by 10 3/4 lengths. Ricardo Barrios retains the mount.

The most contentious division could be for sophomore fillies, renewing the rivalry between Spiess’s Perfect Question and the Gorham-trained Afternoon Prayer. The pair filled out the exacta in their three previous meetings, all by less than a length.

Perfect Question holds the 2-1 advantage, though one of those wins came by disqualification after finishing behind Afternoon Prayer. The Perfect Circle filly enters off wins in the Regret Stakes and most recently in a Hazel Park allowance. Angel Stanley will ride.

“I’ve run her three times this year,” Spiess said. “She got left a bit at the gate the first time, but she came running and got second. The second time [the Regret], I ran her back at three-quarters of a mile and she led all the way, and the third trip [the allowance], we rated her a little going a mile and 40 yards. She’s gone every angle I’ve wanted her to. I feel pretty confident in her.”

Comeflywithanangel, a 6-year-old mare by Equality, enters the older female division off a 5 1/4-length victory in a 1 1/8-mile Hazel Park allowance. Gorham will give the leg-up to Skerrett on Saturday.

Gorham will saddle three in the older males tilt: Meadow Wise, winner of this division in 2010, ridden by Stanley; That’s Mybuddy Boy, who makes his Michigan debut with Houghton aboard; and Im Just Good, ridden by Federico Mata, who finished second in last year’s sophomore division.