04/24/2012 1:13PM

Lone Star: Dirt lures Canonize for Texas Mile

Benoit & Associates
Canonize, with jockey Victor Espinoza up, wins the Santana Mile in his last start on March 18 at Santa Anita.

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – Canonize has come to Lone Star Park for its real, live dirt. He arrived Monday morning from Southern California for an intended start in the Grade 3, $200,000 Texas Mile, which will serve as the first major stakes race of the meet when it is run Saturday.

Canonize is to be ridden by Victor Espinoza, trainer Ron Ellis said. Espinoza was aboard Canonize last month won the horse won the first stakes of his career in the $71,000 Santana Mile at Santa Anita. With the Southern California circuit now shifting to synthetic-surface racing at Betfair Hollywood Park and then Del Mar, the connections of Canonize started to search out their dirt options with Canonize.

“Basically, he doesn’t handle the synthetic tracks as well as he does the natural dirt,” said Ellis, who trains Canonize for Jay Em Ess Stable. “We’re trying to find dirt spots for him.”

Canonize made his first start on dirt in February and won an allowance at seven furlongs at Santa Anita. He then ran fourth to The Factor in the track’s Grade 2 San Carlos before taking the Santana Mile.

“He really improved running on the dirt surface,” Ellis said. “And going seven-eighths or a mile is a really good spot for him. But dirt moved him up significantly. He really ran some good races at Santa Anita, first time on dirt.”

Canonize, a 6-year-old son of Aldebaran, has won 5 of 13 starts and $228,784. He will be the first Lone Star starter for Ellis, who is based in Southern California.

The field for the Texas Mile was still coming together Tuesday, with officials mentioning as many as eight potential starters. This list of possibles includes Coyote Legend, runner-up in the $150,000 Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park in March.

The Texas Mile is the first leg of a new triple featuring two other stakes to be run between Lone Star and its sister track, Remington Park in Oklahoma City. The series offers an owner-trainer bonus of $20,000. Both tracks are now owned by Global Gaming, which took over operations at Lone Star last May.

The Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on May 28 and the $200,000 Governor’s Cup at 1 1/8 miles at Remington on Aug. 18 complete the Global Gaming Triple. The horse that accumulates the most points based on finishes in the three races will reward his owner and trainer with a $20,000 bonus to be split equally between the parties. A horse must compete in all three races to eligible for the bonus.

Ellis said Canonize could develop into a candidate for the Lone Star Park Handicap, depending on how things go Saturday. The Texas Mile has long been the local stepping-stone for the Lone Star Park Handicap, which is the richest race of the meet.

Canigotoo returns to Lone Star

Canigotoo, who last year at 2 put up one of his division’s best Beyer Speed Figures when he earned a 93 for a 12-length maiden win at Lone Star, returns to racing here for the first time since that June score in Thursday night’s second race. The second-level allowance sprint is one of two high-end races on the card. The other is a first-level allowance at a mile on turf. It goes as the fifth and is led by the Danny Pish-trained Charlie’s Phantasy.

Canigotoo should start as a short-priced favorite in his race, a six-furlong sprint for 3- and 4-year-olds who have never won three races. He enters off a runner-up finish in a $50,000 optional claimer at Oaklawn. Cliff Berry has the mount for trainer Bret Calhoun, who won the 2,000th race of his career last week at Lone Star. The winner’s circle photo for that race included Jason Garrett, head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and Miles Austin, a wide receiver for the NFL team, both of whom were on hand for a gala at Lone Star.