09/08/2016 12:50PM

Magic Mark at the top of his game for E.B. Johnston

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Benoit & Associates
Magic Mark goes wire to wire in the Harry Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar.

CYPRESS, Calif. – Magic Mark was a brave horse on the lead in a division of the Harry Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 24. He pulled away from seven rivals to win the one-mile race by 2 1/4 lengths for his second stakes win.

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“I would say he exceeded my expectation,” trainer Ron Ellis said.

The Brubaker was the first of two late-summer stakes goals Ellis planned for Magic Mark. The other comes Saturday, when Magic Mark is part of a field of five older horses in the $75,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes for California-breds going a mile at Los Alamitos. While the race is restricted, the competition is not necessarily easier than the Brubaker, which was an open stakes.

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Magic Mark’s rivals in the Johnston are Soi Phet, who won the other division of the Brubaker; Songforjohnmichael and Avanti Bello, who were second and third behind Magic Mark on Aug. 24; and El Huerfano, fourth in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf Aug. 20.

KEY CONTENDERS

Magic Mark, by Benchmark

Last 3 Beyers: 90-83-93

◗ The Johnston will be Magic Mark’s third start of the year following a rest to have a bone chip removed from an ankle last year. A 6-year-old gelding, Magic Mark was fourth in the Thor’s Echo Handicap for California-breds at six furlongs on July 4 at Santa Anita.

◗ Drayden Van Dyke has the mount on Magic Mark, who races for owners and breeders Dorine and John Lanza.

◗ Magic Mark has shown an affinity for Los Alamitos. He won the Bertrando Stakes for California-breds going a mile at Los Alamitos in July 2015.

◗ The strategy in the Johnston will be basic: Magic Mark will be part of the pace, Ellis said.

“He does his best running on the lead,” Ellis said. “We’ll send him out there.”

Soi Phet, by Tizbud

Last 3 Beyers: 95-88-103

◗ An 8-year-old gelding, Soi Phet has been in outstanding form. Prior to winning the first division of the Brubaker, Soi Phet was second in stakes for California-breds at Los Alamitos and Santa Anita in April and May and won the McCann’s Mojave Handicap for California-breds at Santa Anita on June 26.

◗ Soi Phet finished sixth in the California Dreamin’ Handicap on turf at Del Mar on July 24. With one win in 12 starts on grass, he is much better on the main track.

El Huerfano, by Tannersmyman

Last 3 Beyers: 99-90-79

◗ El Huerfano won an optional claimer on dirt at Santa Anita in March but is winless in his last three starts, all stakes. He was third behind Soi Phet and Avanti Bello in the McCann’s Mojave Handicap and was beaten 1 1/4 lengths as a 56-1 shot in the Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf by Ashleyluvssugar, who is bound for the Breeders’ Cup Turf in November.

◗ EL Huerfano won a minor stakes at the Cal-Expo Fair in Sacramento in 2015.

“He’s a good horse, and I think this race makes sense,” trainer Peter Miller said.