01/11/2013 2:18PM

Santa Anita: Chosen Miracle should control pace in San Gabriel


ARCADIA, Calif. – The power of lone speed will be tested Sunday in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes at Santa Anita, where Chosen Miracle should be loose on the lead.

“I don’t want to say what my strategy is right now,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said this week. No problem, it is obvious. The controlling speed in the mile and one-eighth turf race, Chosen Miracle has one good chance to win – by shaking loose.

Never mind the longer trip and tougher competition. Chosen Miracle, front-running allowance winner last out setting a fast pace, is sharp and improving. And if Hollendorfer believes the 5-year-old can stay nine furlongs in his 11th start, who will argue?

“Of course, [distance] might be a little bit of a challenge. We think he can do it,” the trainer said. Asked what inspires his confidence, Hollendorfer said with a laugh, “I’ve been doing this a long time.”

So have two veteran San Gabriel starters with established turf-route credentials. Slim Shadey is a 24-start pro; his 3-for-6 record at Santa Anita includes two graded stakes. Jeranimo is a 7-year-old millionaire that has accomplished more – with five graded stakes wins – than any in the field.

Seven older horses entered the $150,000 San Gabriel including outsiders Juniper Pass, Temple’s Door, Fast Track, and Tale of a Champion. Slim Shadey, likely to be positioned second behind the speed, is the most likely winner under Garrett Gomez. Chosen Miracle and jockey Joe Talamo are the ones to catch.

Chosen Miracle won two of six sprints for Hollendorfer before he rolled the dice and entered him in a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance Dec. 8 at Betfair Hollywood Park.

“If you have a horse with tactical speed, you have to try it,” Hollendorfer said. It opens up options, and after a pace-pressing 12th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, he had nothing to lose.

Chosen Miracle and Talamo took charge, set fast fractions over a “good” turf course, and won by three-quarters. It was the fourth win from 10 starts for the son of Ghostzapper.

If distance is a challenge for Chosen Miracle, the question for Jeranimo is current form. A creditable sixth in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile, he followed with a flat fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Citation at Hollywood. Trainer Mike Pender resists negativity.

“I’ve heard the whispers that our millionaire is tailing off at the ripe age of 7,” he said. “I don’t believe a word of it.” According to Pender, Jeranimo does not act like a horse that is ready to call it a career.

“Some horses hide in the back of their stall for three or four days after they run,” he said. “They give little signs. I watch for that [with Jeranimo]. Instead, the day after he runs the tub is empty, he is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and wants to go back to the track.”

Jeranimo has been around the track 31 times, winning eight races including the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile last summer and four Grade 2 races – the Citation, Oak Tree Mile, San Gabriel, and Strub.

Pender recognizes that Jeranimo disappointed last out, but said he trained well since and expects an improved effort. “He’s made of iron; his legs are as good now as they were when he ran in the San Felipe [in 2009],” Pender said.