03/06/2014 4:12PM

Santa Anita: Frank Kilroe Mile talent pool runs deep


ARCADIA, Calif. – The gang of top turf milers has gathered for Saturday’s $350,000 Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita. Well, almost the whole gang.

“The only one missing is Wise Dan,” trainer Neil Drysdale said.

The Grade 1 Kilroe Mile drew a field of 10, led by Za Approval and Silentio, the second- and third-place finishers behind Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile here last November.

They may not be favored, a role likely to go to the Drysdale-trained Winning Prize, who won the Grade 2 Arcadia Stakes here Feb. 1. Others in the field include Regally Ready, who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in 2011; Lochte, who won the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap in a 39-1 upset Feb. 9; and Suggestive Boy, who won the 2013 Kilroe Mile.

The prize money and prestige of the race were key factors in drawing a national field, according to trainer Gary Mandella, who starts Silentio.

“That’s why you get guys coming in from the East Coast; $350,000 is a lot of money in the mile division,” Mandella said.

[DRF Live: Get live reports and handicapping insights from DRF writers and handicappers this Saturday]

Silentio has not started since winning the Grade 2 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park on Nov. 29, finishing a nose in front of Summer Front and three-quarters of a length in front of Winning Prize. Mandella opted to rest Silentio during the early winter and missed the Arcadia Stakes.

Even with the top competition, Mandella expects a strong effort from Silentio on Saturday.

“He’s training strongly, and I think we’re in good shape,” Mandella said. “His gallop-outs are strong. He’s staying sound. He’s a little frisky from the days we missed from the rain. Hopefully, he’ll be settled for the race.”

[Santa Anita Handicap: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

Leading jockey Rafael Bejarano rode Silentio and Winning Prize in their most recent starts and will ride Silentio. Joel Rosario rides Winning Prize for the first time Saturday.

Winning Prize was a Group 1 winner in Argentina in 2012 and has won 2 of 4 starts in this country. In the Arcadia, Winning Prize was second on the backstretch and kicked clear with a powerful run through the final furlong to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Tom’s Tribute, another runner in the Kilroe. Regally Ready was third.

The win impressed Drysdale.

“He showed that he’s not one-dimensional, that he can run from off the pace,” Drysdale said.

Winning Prize, and other stalkers such as Lochte, Optimizer, Silentio, Suggestive Boy, and Za Approval, should have a pace to follow in the Kilroe. Horizontalyspeakin, who has yet to win a stakes, has speed, as does Regally Ready and Lakerville.

“There is enough pace that it could thin out on the first turn and everybody gets a good trip,” Mandella said.

Za Approval was beaten three-quarters of a length by Wise Dan in the BC Mile. Trained by Christophe Clement, Za Approval was second in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park last June and won the Grade 3 Knickerbocker Stakes at Belmont Park in October.

Assistant trainer Christophe Lorieul said a firm turf course at Santa Anita was preferred for Za Approval rather than waiting and gambling on the condition of the Keeneland turf course for the Maker’s 46 Mile on April 11.

“He really likes the firm turf,” Lorieul said. “The horse is well. He will have to run his ‘A’ race.”

The same must be said of Lochte and Suggestive Boy.

Lochte won his stakes debut in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, closing from fourth in a field of eight to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Trained by Marcus Vitali, Lochte has won three of his last four starts.

“It seems like every time we run him, he gets a little better,” Vitali said.

Suggestive Boy was fifth in the Arcadia Stakes in his first start since the 2013 Kilroe. Trainer Ron McAnally expects improvement, if the pace is strong.

“We need a good pace up there for a chance,” he said. “I think he was a little short last time.”

Thirteen line up for China Doll

The stakes winners Full Ransom, On the Backstreets, and Sushi Empire are part of a field of 13 for Saturday’s $75,000 China Doll Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over a mile on turf.

The China Doll is the sixth race on an 11-race program, the first of five stakes and the first leg of a competitive pick six.

On the Backstreets will be well backed to win her third consecutive race. Trained by Peter Miller, she won the Sweet Life Stakes on the hillside turf course Feb. 15 in her 2014 stakes debut. The China Doll will be the first start over a mile for On the Backstreets.

There will be support for the maiden race winners Diversy Harbor and Nashoba’s Gold. Diversy Harbor won her debut on the hillside turf course Jan. 26. Nashoba’s Gold won her debut impressively in a maiden race over 1 1/8 miles on turf Feb. 8.