10/02/2014 10:20AM

Rock Me Baby uses City of Hope to determine Breeders' Cup plans

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Benoit & Associates
Rock Me Baby and jockey Corey Nakatani win the California Dreamin' Handicap in July at Del Mar.

Rock Me Baby is at his best going anywhere from 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course at Santa Anita to a middle distance. His performance Saturday in the Grade 2, $200,000 City of Hope Mile at Santa Anita will determine where he heads next for the Breeders’ Cup, to either the Turf Sprint down the hill, in which he finished sixth last year, or the Mile on turf.

The City of Hope Mile mirrors the BC Mile in that it is a one-mile race on the same course where the Breeders’ Cup will be held four weeks later. The field for the BC Mile will be demonstrably stronger, and because many of the West’s top contenders for that race – Obviously, Silentio, and Tom’s Tribute – are sitting this race out, a bulky field of 12 was entered, with Rock Me Baby faring worst of all, landing the outside post.

Rock Me Baby is coming off a disappointing try in the Los Alamitos Mile on dirt. He is getting back on turf Saturday, and the last time he ran on grass, he was a sharp second behind Tom’s Tribute in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile on Aug. 24

His trainer, Craig Dollase, thinks the subsequent sixth-place finish in the Los Alamitos Mile was largely due to coming back just two weeks after the Del Mar Mile.

“It was a quick turnaround, and it was a hot day, too,” Dollase said. “He just didn’t fire. We regrouped, he’s had two good works since, and we’re hoping he can run back to his Del Mar Mile.”

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The race also includes Big Bane Theory, second in the Harry Brubaker at Del Mar on Aug. 30; Mr Commons, beaten narrowly in this race in 2011 and 2012 but a loser of 12 straight; and Soi Phet, the romping winner of the Los Alamitos Mile.

City of Hope Mile, race 9

KEY CONTENDERS

Rock Me Baby (Last 3 Beyers: 70-95-90)

◗ His Del Mar Mile was the best race of the five he has run this year since returning from a seven-month layoff, so if he can get back to that form, he will be right there.

The outside post going a flat mile is a detriment, but jockey Corey Nakatani is the best grass rider in Southern California, so if anyone can work out a trip from there, it’s him.

Dollase referenced the heat possibly being a factor in the Los Alamitos Mile. The forecast for Saturday at Santa Anita is for very hot weather, around 100 degrees, so it will be prudent to see how Rock Me Baby looks in the paddock.

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Big Bane Theory (Last 3 Beyers: 96-94-91)

◗ Turned in a sharp effort when second in his comeback race at Del Mar, his first start since finishing a close fourth in the Grade 2 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park last November. He should move forward off that race.

Though lightly raced, there’s plenty of upside here, and he drew well, landing post 4. A major player for sure.

Soi Phet (Last 3 Beyers: 94-87-94)

◗ Been a terror on dirt at Los Alamitos this year but not as effective on grass. With regular rider Kent Desormeaux sidelined, Olivier Doleuze – in town to ride Rich Tapestry in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship – picks up the mount.