03/04/2015 12:40PM

Moreno to set pace in Santa Anita Handicap

Barbara D. Livingston
Grade 1 winner Moreno will start in Saturday's Santa Anita Handicap.

ARCADIA, Calif. – A murky pace scenario in the Santa Anita Handicap became clear Wednesday when trainer Eric Guillot confirmed that front-runner Moreno will make his 2015 debut Saturday in the Big Cap.

Guillot considered shipping Moreno to Oaklawn Park for the Grade 3 Razorback on March 14.

“It was either go to the Razorback at a mile and a sixteenth in weather or go out there in the Big Cap, lope on the lead, and hold on for second or third,” Guillot said. “And besides Shared Belief, there are no stars in the race.”

Moreno is not without credentials. He won the Grade 1 Whitney in 2014 at Saratoga, ran second in the Grade 1 Woodward, and has earned $1,834,940 while winning three of 23 starts. The Big Cap will be his first start since finishing last in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 1.

:: SANTA ANITA HANDICAP: Get PPs, watch Saturday’s Santa Anita card live

A 5-year-old gelding, Moreno underwent arthroscopic surgery three days after the Breeders’ Cup to remove ankle chips. Guillot said he had two chips in his right ankle and one in his left. Moreno was turned out for a month and resumed training at Los Alamitos in late December.

Although he is likely to set the pace, Moreno might have company in the Big Cap. “The only thing that worries me is [Crimson Giant],” Guillot said. “Would I be lone speed without him?”

Crimson Giant is expected to hound Moreno in the Big Cap, a race Guillot hopes will set up his horse for the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic on April 18. With the Big Cap under his belt as a prep race, Guillot said Moreno “would be ready to rock and roll at Charles Town.”

Santiago Gonzalez will be named to ride Moreno in the Big Cap. The prospective field is led by 125-pound highweight Shared Belief; Moreno is the second highweight at 121. Others include Bronzo, Dynamic Sky, and Imperative at 117; Patrioticandproud at 116; Hard Aces, Sr. Quisqueyano, and You Know I Know at 115; and Catch a Flight, Cool Samurai, and Crimson Giant at 114. Diamond Bachelor also would carry 114 if he runs..