Updated on 09/15/2011 12:52PM

Puchungo out to prove he's no 1-hit wonder


MIAMI - Puchungo shook up the local handicap division in late June when he upset Hal's Hope in the Primal Handicap. On Monday, the Peruvian-bred Puchungo will attempt to prove that victory was no fluke when he takes on six rivals, including Dancing Guy, in the $32,000 Higgler Handicap at 1 1/16 miles.

Puchungo beat Hal's Hope at his own game in the Primal, going right to the front and leading throughout en route to a two-length victory. The win was the first in this country for the Puchungo, a son of Swiss Native who was a two-time listed stakes winner and Group 1-placed in Peru in 2000.

Ernesto Sarmiento, who trains Puchungo for Aldo Belaunde, turned the 5-year-old back to seven furlongs for his most recent start, and he did well to finish third from off a lackluster pace. Carlos Hernandez will be aboard Puchungo for the first time in the Primal.

Dancing Guy moved to the head of the local handicap division last summer following victories in the Seminole, Memorial Day, and Groomstick handicaps, but tailed off during the latter portion of the season. A gray son of Robyn Dancer, Dancing Guy has slowly been rounding back to his best form for owner-trainer Newcomb Green, and finally got back on the winning track with a rail-skimming five-length victory in the restricted Amos Handicap on July 28.

Tahkodha Hills has held his form well for most of the year. He needs a livelier pace than in his last start, when he chased a loose on the lead Hal's Hope in the opening division of the Carterista Handicap. Jockey Cornelio Velasquez, who rode Dancing Guy in the Amos, keeps his regular seat aboard Tahkodha Hills on Monday.

Completing the field are Out of Champagne, who outgamed Mr. Livingston to win the second division of the Carterista, Western Honors, Highway Prospector, and Panama invader Brujo.

Miami Mile for Band Is Passing

Owner-trainer Stanley Ersoff has confirmed that Band Is Passing will attempt to defend his title in the $150,000 Miami Mile Breeders' Cup Handicap on Labor Day. A son of Pass the Line, Band Is Passing finished fourth in Churchill's Grade 2 Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap on July 4.

"He got dehydrated the morning of the race," said Ersoff of the Firecracker. "Normally if he was home I'd probably have scratched, but he got some electrolytes and seemed to be okay. It just wasn't his day."