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Obrigado in good spot to end drought
ARCADIA, Calif. - Time is in Obrigado's favor as the 5-year-old gelding nears his second start of 2008 in Saturday's $200,000 San Luis Rey Handicap at Santa Anita.
A year ago this month, Obrigado was fresh from a win in the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap at Santa Anita when he was sent to Dubai for the $5 million Sheema Classic on the Dubai World Cup undercard.
It turned out to be an unsuccessful journey, basically disastrous, and hampered the rest of his 2007 campaign. Obrigado never reached contention in the Sheema Classic and finished 13th in a field of 14. Worse, he was a disappointment in four stakes through 2007 after returning to the United States, never finishing better than third.
"I think he got knocked out by that trip to Dubai," trainer Neil Drysdale said earlier this week. "It took a long time to recover from that."
Owned by Peter Vegso and Gary Seidler, Obrigado may be winless in seven starts since the 2007 San Luis Obispo, but he was a much-improved third to the highly regarded Champs Elysees in the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on turf here on Jan. 19. He lost by 1 1/4 lengths and was beaten a head for second while closing late.
"He'll move forward off that," Drysdale said.
Saturday's Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap is set for 1 1/2 miles on turf, the same distance as the San Luis Obispo. Better still for Obrigado, the San Luis Rey has not drawn a tough field. The biggest threat to Obrigado is On the Acorn, who was third in the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo last month in his first start since May.
Similar to Obrigado, On the Acorn is a stayer, having won the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at about 1 3/4 miles on turf last April and the Jim Murray Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on turf last May.
The race has drawn a field of seven and is the ninth on a 10-race program.
Competitive field for Santa Ana
Drysdale has a top contender in Sunday's $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap for fillies and mares in the Brazilian import Colina Verde. Owned by a partnership, Colina Verde won her U.S. debut in a one-mile allowance race on turf on Feb. 11, a performance that Drysdale suggests will lead to a better run in the Grade 2 Santa Ana at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
"She came out of the race very well," Drysdale said. "She's a happy, good-feeling filly. We'll step up and see if she can handle the tougher competition. She should improve off that race. I thought she was a little bit rusty."
Colina Verde, 5, has won five consecutive races, a streak that includes three Group 1 races in Brazil in 2006, including the Brazilian 1000 Guineas and the Brazilian Oaks.
The Santa Ana will have arguably a better field than the San Luis Rey. Other candidates for the Santa Ana include Costume, Black Mamba, and Kris' Sis, the first three finishers of the Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap on Feb. 18; and Immortelle, the winner of the 2007 Brazilian Oaks who was second to Colina Verde in her U.S. debut on Feb. 11.
Colonel John works alone
Colonel John, the leader of the West Coast's 3-year-old division, worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds on Wednesday at Santa Anita. Working alone, Colonel John recorded the fourth-fastest of 36 timed works at the distance.
Colonel John started at a steady pace, quickened noticeably on the turn, and finished well, galloping out six furlongs in 1:12.60, according to trainer Eoin Harty. Owned by WinStar Farm, Colonel John won the Sham Stakes on March 1 in his lone start this year.
Colonel John will have two more workouts before the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 5, Harty said. He added that the colt has responded well since the Sham.
"He's been bucking and squealing in the stall," Harty said. "He's kept his weight, which was a concern. I thought he might lighten up a little bit."
Quarter Horse jockey given mount
The first maiden race of 2008 for 2-year-old males at Santa Anita is Friday's first race, which will be run over two furlongs. The event will feature a jockey well acquainted with affairs over 440 yards.
Ramon Sanchez, one of the nation's leading Quarter Horse riders and a top rider of that breed at Los Alamitos in Orange County, has the ride on Got Alot Going for trainer Caesar Dominguez, a former Quarter Horse trainer himself.
It will be the first time that Sanchez has been aboard Got Alot Going, Dominguez said.
"He's never seen him," he said. "He doesn't know what color he is."
A dark bay or brown gelding, Got Alot Going is by Rio Verde and has shown several quick two-furlong works in the last month, the sort of drills customary for horses appearing in two-furlong maiden races.
Friday's race has drawn nine entrants. Other contenders are Bring the Money and Dicey Riley, both trained by Wesley Ward, and Cat Dreamer, trained by Adam Kitchingman.
Dominguez is quick to admit that Got Alot Going is suited to Friday's race. The gelding does not have a fancy pedigree, which would lead to a start in a more traditional maiden race later this year at Hollywood Park or Del Mar.
"I've got a lot of 2-year-olds that won't be ready until Hollywood Park," he said. "I'd be a fool to wait for 4 1/2-furlong" races.
Got Alot Going was bred by Terry Lovingier and is owned by his father, Russel. Terry Lovingier owns another starter in the race, Turbo Call, trained by Walther Solis.
"It's an owner's delight to pick up a paycheck," Dominguez said. "This is a nice colt. He's shown some run. I expect him to run good."
Heatseeker drills for Oaklawn Cap
Heatseeker, winner of the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on Marcho1, worked five furlongs in a slow 1:04.40 on Tuesday to remain on course for the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 5, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said.
Hollendorfer said he was not concerned by Heatseeker's time, the slowest of 42 recorded works at the distance.
"We don't have to hammer on this horse because he's nice and fit," Hollendorfer said.
Hollendorfer said there was a chance that Heatseeker would remain in California, but that "we're looking at the [Oaklawn Handicap] pretty hard."