12/16/2011 3:37PM

Hollywood: Strub the target for Ultimate Eagle

Benoit & Associates
Ultimate Eagle, with Martin Pedroza riding, Hollywood Derby

Ultimate Eagle, the winner of the Oak Tree and Hollywood derbys on turf this fall, is likely to stay on that surface for the $150,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.

For early 2012, though, trainer Mike Pender is planning a surface switch.

The long-term plan is the $200,000 Strub Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on the main track on Feb. 4 to test the colt over a surface on which he has never started. In his seven-race career, Ultimate Eagle is winless in three starts on the synthetic track at Hollywood Park and unbeaten in four starts on turf at Del Mar, Santa Anita and Hollywood Park.

“I’m itching to try him on the dirt,” Pender said on Friday. He said the Strub Stakes is “the direction we’re going.”

In the Sir Beaufort, which is run over a mile on turf, Ultimate Eagle will be after his third consecutive stakes win. Owned by B.J. Wright, Ultimate Eagle won the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby over 1 1/8 miles by a half-length as a 34-1 shot. In the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby over 1 1/4 miles, he led throughout to win by three-quarters of a length at 14-1.

“This horse gets no respect,” Pender said.

“He’d be deadly at a mile. A mile is right up his alley. If he needs to set a fast pace, he can do that. Anyone who wants to run with him early will be dulled into submission.”

Aside from Ultimate Eagle, the nominations for the Sir Beaufort are led by Mr. Commons, who was second in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs in the fall. The race is likely to be the American debut of Pathfork, who won the Group 1 National Stakes in Ireland in 2010, but was seventh in the English 2000 Guineas in May, his only start this year.

Comma to the Top, who won an allowance race at Hollywood Park on Dec. 11, is nominated for the Sir Beaufort, but could start in the $300,000 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds over seven furlongs on the same program.

The list of nominees for the Grade 1 Malibu is led by The Factor, who won the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar in August but was eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in his last start.

The Dec. 26 program is the opening day of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting.