03/23/2012 1:55PM

Santa Anita: Bourbon Bay tries to turn tables on Slim Shadey in San Luis Rey

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Shigeki Kikkawa
The 1 1/2-mile distance of Sunday's San Luis Rey may be a big advantage for Bourbon Bay.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Bourbon Bay was left with too much to do in the stretch of the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 11, closing from last in a field of six to finish fourth behind Slim Shadey.

Those two meet again in Sunday’s $150,000 San Luis Rey Stakes at Santa Anita, and this time race circumstances could be different. Bourbon Bay, a 6-year-old gelding trained by Neil Drysdale, is proven over the San Luis Rey distance of 1 1/2 miles on turf, while the 4-year-old Slim Shadey, trained by Simon Callaghan, is running that far for the first time.

Bourbon Bay’s experience will make him the favorite in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey, the fourth of nine races on Sunday.

“I think that’s his optimum distance,” Drysdale said.

Drysdale said he was not discouraged by Bourbon Bay’s loss in the San Marcos, when the gelding was beaten 1 1/4 lengths in his first start since November.

“He’s doing really well this year,” he said.

Owned by David and Jill Heerensperger, Bourbon Bay has won 7 of 24 starts and $788,536, more wins and earnings than any of his San Luis Rey rivals. He has won five stakes, including the 2010 San Luis Rey when the race was run as a handicap.

Slim Shadey was ridden by David Flores in the San Marcos Stakes, over 1 1/4 miles on turf. Flores put Slim Shadey on the lead, set a slow pace, and held off a late run from Utopian to win by a head, the gelding’s second consecutive victory. In January, Slim Shadey closed from seventh in a field of 10 to win an optional claimer over 1 1/4 miles on turf.

“He can do either,” Callaghan said of race strategy. “He’s such a relaxed horse that he can sit anywhere in the race. David knows the horse well.

“Now, we’re going two extra furlongs. We’re not going in with any game plan. I’m confident he’ll get it. The fact that he was a relaxed horse gives me the confidence that he’ll get the distance.”

Three of the other four runners – Highway Bandit, Hog’s Hollow, and Utopian – are seeking their first stakes win. Porfido, a 10-year-old gelding trained by Eoin Harty, won six stakes in Chile in 2005, and placed in seven stakes when trained by the late Bobby Frankel in the late 2000s. Earlier this year, Porfido won turf races for $25,000 claimers and an optional claimer.

Utopian is the biggest threat to Bourbon Bay and Slim Shadey. Trained by John Shirreffs, the 5-year-old Utopian, by Rock Hard Ten, is starting in the longest race of his career on Sunday.

“It should not be an issue,” Shirreffs said. “I think his pedigree indicates that, too.”