04/26/2012 3:25PM

Hollywood Park: Stoney Fleece starts from tough post in Snow Chief Stakes

Benoit & Associates
Stoney Fleece will start from the outside as the likely favorite in the Snow Chief Stakes.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – By default, Stoney Fleece has inherited the role of favorite for Saturday’s $300,000 Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-old California-breds at Betfair Hollywood Park.

Two other candidates for that role were not entered. Rousing Sermon, who won the California Cup Juvenile last fall, is being pointed to the Kentucky Derby on May 5. Derby Gold, who won the Echo Eddie Stakes at Santa Anita in his stakes debut last month, fought sore shins earlier this month, trainer Bob Baffert said, and is not starting Saturday.

Stoney Fleece can end a four-race losing streak since the Grade 3 Generous Stakes on turf here last November. He is the only stakes winner in a field of 10.

Since that win, Stoney Fleece, who is by Decarchy, has run in four stakes with mixed results. Earlier this year, he was second by a neck in the Baffle Stakes on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in February and seventh, beaten 2 1/2 lengths, in the Pasadena Stakes over a mile on turf March 23.

“His last race wasn’t a bad race,” trainer John Sadler said. “You couldn’t close that day.”

Owned by Gary and Cecil Barber, Stoney Fleece has won 4 of 10 starts and $189,860. The Snow Chief Stakes is run over 1 1/8 miles and will be the longest race of his career. The Snow Chief will be Stoney Fleece’s first start on a synthetic track since a fifth in the I’m Smokin Stakes at Del Mar last summer. Also at Del Mar last year, Stoney Fleece won a maiden claimer and a starter allowance for sprinters.

“He’s been pretty durable,” Sadler said.

Sadler admits that Stoney Fleece’s draw on the outside of the field is “not a good post.”

Joel Rosario will ride Stoney Fleece and is likely to have the colt toward the back of the field for the first half of the race.

The only stakes-placed runner in the field is Real Conundrum, trained by Dan Hendricks. Unusual Heatwave was fourth in the Pasadena Stakes in his stakes debut.

Real Conundrum, a colt by Tale of the Cat, was third behind Derby Gold in the Echo Eddie Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs on March 31. Real Conundrum is likely to race as a stalker, Hendricks said.

“He doesn’t have that [front-running] style,” Hendricks said. “He ran really well in his last race.”

Hendricks said the purse of the Snow Chief makes the race too appealing to miss, even though it will be Real Conundrum’s first start around two turns.

“I think everyone is in the same boat,” Hendricks said. “There are a few that aren’t there, and that’s why a few of us are in there. There are 300,000 reasons to be in there.”