03/10/2016 1:20PM

Kobe's Back requires patient ride in San Carlos

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Kobe's Back (left) always breaks slowly, but comes on strongly in the stretch, as he did in winning the Palos Verdes.

ARCADIA, Calif. – There’s always a bit of suspense involving Kobe’s Back at the starting gate.

Throughout his career, Kobe’s Back has frequently been a slow starter, but he has such a turn of foot that he is capable of an electrifying rally. The tactic worked in the $200,000 Palos Verdes Stakes at six furlongs at Santa Anita on Feb. 7 and will make Kobe’s Back the horse to watch in the stretch of Saturday’s $300,000 San Carlos Stakes at seven furlongs.

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens knows the 5-year-old Kobe’s Back well. When Kobe’s Back entered the starting gate before the Grade 2 Palos Verdes, an assistant starter, knowing the horse’s tendencies, asked Stevens if he wanted to try something different to ensure a better break.

“No,” Stevens replied. “Just point and hope.”

Trained by Peter Eurton for Lee and Susan Searing, Kobe’s Back drew the outside post of eight in a strong running of the Grade 2 San Carlos. The field is led by Calculator, who returned from a 13-month layoff to win an optional claimer at seven furlongs Feb. 13, and Wild Dude, the winner of the 2015 San Carlos Stakes.

San Carlos, Race 9

KEY CONTENDERS

Calculator, by In Summation

Last 3 Beyers: 89-98-95

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◗ Calculator sustained a leg injury that required surgery in January 2015, resulting in the lengthy layoff. In the recent optional claimer, Calculator overcame a slow start to rally five wide and win by a neck. Trainer Peter Miller said the San Carlos is an ideal fit for Calculator, who is likely to have a campaign geared toward races at seven furlongs to 1 1/16 miles this year.

◗ Miller expects an improved race from Calculator on Saturday.

“I like his chances,” Miller said. “If he gets a clean trip, and with the race under his belt, he should move forward.”

Kobe’s Back, by Flatter

Last 3 Beyers: 101-98-97

◗ Kobe’s Back won the fourth stakes of his 17-race career in the Palos Verdes, closing from 10 lengths off the pace to win by a half-length. Kobe’s Back raced with blinkers for the first time in the Palos Verdes and is sharper with the addition of the equipment, Stevens said.

◗ The key to riding Kobe’s Back is to be patient, he said. In the San Carlos, Kobe’s Back will be at the rear of the field behind expected pacesetter San Onofre.

“You can’t panic,” Stevens said. “You have to trust your horse and trust your instincts. I know what he’s capable of doing.”

Wild Dude, by Wildcat Heir

Last 3 Beyers: 98-98-98

◗ Wild Dude held off Kobe’s Back to win the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship by a neck last October. Later that month, Wild Dude was sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland.

“In the Breeders’ Cup, he got back too far,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “That was a tough race.”

◗ Wild Dude is not a quick work horse, but Hollendorfer said the 6-year-old has been brighter in recent workouts. This will be Wild Dude’s third consecutive start in the San Carlos. He was a close fourth in 2014.