09/21/2016 1:06PM

Los Alamitos Derby a tall order for Sugar Buzz

Shane Miceli/Vassar Photography
Sugar Buzz wins the Robert Dupret Derby at Santa Rosa.

CYPRESS, Calif. – On Aug. 6, Frosted won the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga and Champagne Room won the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar. A little farther afield from racing’s most prominent summertime venues, Sugar Buzz won the $54,725 Robert Dupret Derby on turf at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa, Calif.

The Dupret was the first stakes win for trainer Efrain Miranda. The 46-year-old trainer, based at Golden Gate Fields, will be after his first graded stakes win when Sugar Buzz starts in Saturday’s Grade 2 Los Alamitos Derby.

The $200,000 Los Alamitos Derby is run at 1 1/8 miles and is the richest race of the Los Alamitos September meeting. The season runs through Sunday, and Santa Anita begins its autumn meeting on Friday, Sept. 30. The Santa Anita autumn meeting includes the Breeders’ Cup races on Nov. 4-5.

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The Los Alamitos Derby will be the richest race of Sugar Buzz’s career and offers a stern test for the gelding. The race is expected to be led by Accelerate and Semper Fortis, the first two finishers of the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 26. Track officials were expecting a field of seven.

Sugar Buzz, who races for Charles Lo, has won 4 of 11 starts and was claimed for $50,000 at Santa Anita in January. He has not run for a claiming price since and has won two races, including an allowance race at the Oak Tree at Pleasanton meeting at the Alameda County Fair in July.

Miranda credits the improvement to better management of Sugar Buzz’s feet. Sugar Buzz also had back issues earlier this year, Miranda said.

“Me and the shoer looked at him, and we let the feet grow,” Miranda said. “We made the shoes more level.”

Miranda has had stakes runners in Southern California. In the Glory was third in the Grade 2 Dahlia Handicap for Miranda at Hollywood Park in 2009.

Miranda knows Sugar Buzz has a difficult assignment in the Los Alamitos Derby against the Del Mar stakes runners but said the race is worth a try.

“A longshot is better than no shot,” he said with a laugh.

Even so, Miranda will not be at Los Alamitos on Saturday. He is attending the Keeneland yearling sale.