03/18/2011 4:02PM

Santa Anita: Haimish Hy may improve second time going long distance in San Luis Rey


ARCADIA, Calif. – The long-distance turf series continues Sunday at Santa Anita, where the heavyweights of the division are missing from the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes.

No complaints from trainer Ray Bell, who recognizes the absence of California’s top turf horses – Champ Pegasus and Bourbon Bay shipped to Dubai – has elevated Juniper Pass from marginal longshot to major contender in the 1 1/2-mile San Luis Rey.

“The last thing I wanted to do was take on Bourbon Bay and Champ Pegasus again,” Bell said.

Now, if Bell could only do something about Juniper Pass’s pesky rival Haimish Hy.

Eight older horses including one mare entered the San Luis Rey. Haimish Hy is expected to start favored over Juniper Pass, a deep closer, and Dahoud, the lone speed. Buenos Dias, Imponente Purse, Romp, Falcon Rock, and the mare Restless Soul also entered.

Haimish Hy finished third behind Champ Pegasus and Bourbon Bay a month ago in the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo, after which trainer Art Sherman and jockey Garrett Gomez agreed Haimish Hy will be more effective his second attempt going 1 1/2 miles.

“He wanted to go, he was fresh trying to go that far,” Sherman said, referring to Haimish Hy’s most recent start. With that 1 1/2-mile race under his belt, Sherman said he believes Haimish Hy “will be more relaxed and not so eager.”

Gomez told Sherman that Haimish Hy was “a little inexperienced” at the distance, and added “the farther he goes, the better he will be.”

Gomez rode Haimish Hy to an upset victory in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby last fall; the 4-year-old soon may get his chance to go even farther.

“If he runs good in this race, then you have the San Juan Capistrano on closing day,” Sherman said, referring to the 1 3/4-mile a turf marathon on April 17. Haimish Hy has won 5 of 12 races and $305,980.

Juniper Pass finished behind Haimish Hy twice recently, fifth in the San Luis Obispo and third by a neck in the Hollywood Derby. Brice Blanc rode Juniper Pass in all 10 starts; he will be replaced Sunday by Rafael Bejarano.

“Brice rode him well and deserves a lot of credit for his development,” Bell explained.

But after Juniper Pass’s fifth-place finish in the San Luis Obispo, owner Robert Irvin asked Bell if “another jockey might get along better with the horse.”

Bejarano worked Juniper Pass on grass March 10 – “it was a very, very good move” according to Bell – and Bejarano agreed to ride in the San Luis Rey. Bell said Juniper Pass “seems to be doing better than ever.”

Juniper Pass takes off blinkers.

“I don’t think he needs them anymore,” Bell said. “He’s more focused, and more business-like.”

The complexion of the San Luis Rey is one reason trainer Jerry Hollendorfer entered first-level allowance winner Dahoud, a 2-for-10 gelding whose dubious class credentials are adequately compensated for by his advantageous running style.

“Is there anyone that can run with Dahoud?” assistant trainer Dan Ward said. “They’re all horses that come from last.”

Dahoud will be loose on the lead under Joel Rosario. If he relaxes out front he could be long gone.