06/12/2014 2:10PM

Obviously needs to avoid possible speed duel in Shoemaker Mile

Benoit & Associates
Obviously wins the American Stakes on May 17 at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Obviously will be the horse to catch in Saturday’s $400,000 Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita, and the runner who will be targeted by six rival jockeys from the first jump away from the gate.

A six-time stakes winner, the 6-year-old Obviously drew the rail in the Shoemaker Mile on turf, a race the gelding won in 2013 when run at Hollywood Park, which closed in December. Obviously is a front-runner, and that could pose a tactical problem for jockey Joe Talamo.

The presence of Pulpit’s Express, winner of an optional claimer for California-breds on May 26, could lead to a speed duel that hurts Obviously, but helps an array of top-class closers such as Jack Milton, Silentio, Summer Front, Tom’s Tribute, and Winning Prize.

The Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile has drawn the best field of milers in California since the Breeders’ Cup Mile last November. The Shoemaker will have implications for the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Mile here in November.

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Pulpit’s Express and Jack Milton are owned by Gary Barber, but have separate trainers. Pulpit’s Express, trained by John Sadler, has never won a stakes. Jack Milton, trained by Todd Pletcher, was the impressive winner of the Grade 3 Poker Stakes over a mile on turf at Belmont Park on May 26, his second stakes win.

Obviously was fifth in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile, losing by six lengths to Horse of the Year Wise Dan. He returned to win the Grade 3 American Stakes over a mile on turf against three rivals here May 17 as a heavy favorite.

“That was the perfect prep race for him,” trainer Phil D’Amato said. “He’s come back and breezed beautifully. He’s ready. His second or third races off a break have been his best.”

Owned by Joe Scardino and Anthony Fanticola, Obviously is best when allowed to lead. D’Amato is hoping Obviously can outpace Pulpit’s Express through the first half-mile.

“It looks like there is a rabbit to disrupt the flow of the race,” D’Amato said. “That’s horse racing.

“I consider that horse to be a non-factor. I hope he doesn’t impede us. If he wants to go head and head with us, that’s fine. I hope he doesn’t interfere. Joe has thought that if he wanted to, he could be second. Joe knows the horse so well.”

If there is a speed duel, several rivals can win. There will be massive support for Winning Prize, who is unbeaten in two starts in one-mile turf races this year – the Grade 2 Arcadia Stakes in February and the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile in March. Trainer Neil Drysdale has pointed Winning Prize to the Shoemaker in recent months.

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Drysdale said that Winning Prize has the Breeders’ Cup Mile as a focus this year “if everything works out.”

He respects the shippers, particularly Jack Milton.

“Jack Milton was very impressive in his last start,” he said.

Summer Front was second by a nose to Silentio in the Grade 2 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park last November. Since then, the two runners have had mixed results.

Summer Front, trained by Christophe Clement, won the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale Stakes at Gulfstream Park in January and was most recently second in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy Stakes at Belmont Park on May 3.

Silentio is winless in two starts this year, including a well-beaten third in the American.

Tom’s Tribute finished behind Winning Prize twice earlier this year, then ran the race of his career to win the Thunder Road Stakes over a mile on turf in 1:31.78, equaling Wise Dan’s 2012 course record. Trainer Jim Cassidy knows that Tom’s Tribute will need another brilliant performance to win a tough running of the Shoemaker.

“I didn’t think the race would come up soft,” he said.

Asked if he thought Tom’s Tribute could win, Cassidy said, “If he runs his race, certainly.”