03/04/2014 1:19PM

Santa Anita Handicap: Much-improved Imperative among seven probable starters

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Benoit & Associates
Imperative (right) second to Blingo in the San Antonio Stakes last time out, was claimed for $50,000 in December.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday will have a smaller field than expected, with the early week defections of the speedy Appealing Tale and the longshot Majestic Harbor.

Led by Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge, the first two finishers of the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita last November, the race has a projected field of seven. One is a former claimer who has overachieved in the last 60 days.

Imperative was claimed for $50,000 by owner KM Racing and trainer George Papaprodromou at Hollywood Park on Dec. 21, the second-to-last day of racing in that track’s history. A start in the Big Cap became realistic after the 4-year-old Imperative finished a hard-fought second by a half-length to Blingo in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 8.

“We didn’t think we’d get to the Big Cap,” Papaprodromou said with a smile earlier this week. “He’s improved tremendously in the last two races. We took a shot in the San Antonio and he ran a big race. We’ll take a shot at the Big Cap.”

Imperative began his career with Darley Stable and trainer Eoin Harty, winning as a 2-year-old and in an optional claimer last March. Imperative was dropped into claiming races last May, and started in his fifth claiming race when he was taken in December.

In the San Antonio, Imperative led on the turn and was within a head of Blingo at the eighth pole before giving way late. Kent Desormeaux rode Imperative in the San Antonio and retains the mount on Saturday.

“We have a jockey who rode the horse in the San Antonio,” Papaprodromou said. “He knows the horse. He knows what to do. Mucho Macho Man is the horse to beat and Will Take Charge ran great in the Breeders’ Cup. I hope Imperative can run a big race.”

Imperative is likely to be near the front, stalking expected leader Game On Dude, who won the Big Cap in 2011 and 2013. Game On Dude was fifth in the San Antonio Stakes as the 1-5 favorite after engaging Blueskiesnrainbows in a speed duel.

Appealing Tale, the winner of optional claimers over a mile on Jan. 4 and Feb. 1, was considered a Big Cap candidate in late February, but trainer Peter Miller said he has changed his mind. Appealing Tale could instead run in Saturday’s $350,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf.

“I don’t think he wants a mile and a quarter,” Miller said on Monday. “I think he wants a mile to a mile and an eighth.”

Majestic Harbor was second in the San Pasqual Stakes in January and fourth in the San Antonio. Trainer Sean McCarthy said on Monday that races at Fair Grounds and Oaklawn Park will be considered for the 6-year-old Majestic Harbor.

Game On Dude, Imperative, Mucho Macho Man, and Will Take Charge are joined on the list of candidates by American Blend, Blingo, and Rousing Sermon.

rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Will take charge is in the one hole. :( BadLuck. Hear the Ghost in a big upset. I like him at 15-1 maybe way more. All the money will be on top three heavy with blingo getting some love. I don't believe game on dude will be 5-1 like a lot of people hope. MMM-9/5 maybe less,WTC -5/2 G.O.D-7-2 maybe 4-1.
LoganKenly More than 1 year ago
The man and will take charge and the dude will probably run 1,2,3 with blingo running gamely for fourth. He (the dude) won the SA Handicap, the Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic last year, which Lava Man did in 2006 and continued to win those races except for the classic in 2005 and 2007.
Jon More than 1 year ago
The Dude will be the controlling pace. The last race is a throw out, since it was a speed duel & adjusted pace figures showed they went half in 109 and change & both of them got toasted. Here no one has any early speed even close to The Dude and anyone ( including MMM ) tries to push him will be toast. If he is not tested by MMM early, then the race will be between the 2 and it will be hard for WTC to run them down late (Yes WTC ran him down at the long CD stretch). But, no matter what, I just wish Garcia was at the controls of The Dude ( For the hundredth time are you listening BOB?). Stevens would have been OK to, but, he is on WTC.
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
Stevens is on MMM. As for Game on Dude, nobody does it better than Mike Smith when there is 750k Purse.
softballscrub More than 1 year ago
GOD - wire to wire
Lawrence Redding More than 1 year ago
Really liked Mucho MM. but concerned about his w/o Sunday. He was gawking all over the place.I hope he is focused on Sat..If so a walk in the Park.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Another race to watch from the sidelines rooting WTC.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
The defection of Appealing Tale is huge. It obviously helps Dude, but since I question whether Dude is good enough to take advantage of a favorable pace scenario at this point in his career, I'm more concerned with how it affects MMM and WTC. Because MMM has the tactical speed to stay on Dude's flank, I think MMM shouldn't be negatively affected by Appealing Tale's defection. WTC, on the other hand, would have really benefitted from a lively pace battle that could have forced Gary to move early. With what should be a moderate pace, WTC is going to have to be used some in the early stages so that he stays close enough before then trying to grind them down.
Shawn Britton More than 1 year ago
WTC is due for a clunker
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Most trainers put their horses on the shelf after a number of demanding races or if they sense a stinker coming will premptively give the horse some time off. Bobby Frankel was a master of this approach, spacing a horse's starts out, running them only when he was confident the horse was in a sharp form cycle. This type of training produces horses that make only a handful of starts a year, but are productive in these starts. That's not how Lukas operates. He runs his horses through form cycles. When the horse is in a sharp form cycle, he strikes and strikes again while the iron is hot. When the horse is in declining form, he basically tries to run the horse out of its bad form. Whereas Frankel emphasizes training, and properly spacing races and bringing horses up to races on works, Lukas stresses racing, and getting a horse to a goal by giving it a series of preps. He's not afraid of his horses running subpar races if it gets them closer to an ultimate goal. The result of Lukas'philosophy is horses with past performance like WTC. Runs big in the Smarty Jones, bombs next out, wins the Rebel, but then bombs in the 3 Triple Crown races. Most trainers would have stopped on WTC after the Preakness, and if they persevered on to the Belmont would have shelved the horse after a 3rd subpar effort. Lukas, instead, kept racing WTC, with the result being a 2nd half of the season that won an Eclipse.
Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
The Dude's last two starts have been none too impressive. Will he rebound if left to do his own thing on the front? Do you want to find out at 3-1? MMM and WTC are the two best older horses at a mile and a quarter in the states right now - if Dude hangs on for 3rd it will be a good showing. Blingo could nip him for the show dough - in light, improving and dusted the Dude last out when he melted in a pace duel and he'll be 10 or 12-1 in this field. Yes, lone speed is dangerous speed, the Dude could fire one more bullet and if he does I will happily eat a plate of crow. I see him as ready to either retire or make a living facing lesser. Even when in better form he has not been able to best the top level stakes horses outside of CA.
J.L. Boey More than 1 year ago
Game on Dude has finished in front of these G1 winners outside of CA: Acclamation Tizway Awesome Gem Ron the Greek Havre de Grace Flat Out So You Think To Honor and Serve Ruler on Ice Stay Thirsty Ron the Greek
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beauty post J.L. ... but doubt the Dude haters will let any facts get in their way ....
JDS0810 More than 1 year ago
Are any of those horses still racing? Relevance? I think you have to live in the now. I am not hating on GOD at all, I actually think he is going to win this. There is no speed to go with him and MMM maybe the only one close. GOD gets so brave on the lead. If nobody goes with him, it is his. If somebody goes with him, Blingo and WTC will fight it out.
Gene More than 1 year ago
Eoin Harty might be one of the worst trainers for the stock he gets on the planet. Imperative is another in a long, long line of horses that exit his barn and go up the class ladder.
Drew More than 1 year ago
you're right, he always gets well bred horses and they hardly win
Anna Montanucci More than 1 year ago
Part of it may be that when the horses leave Harty's barn, they are trained and raced like actual racehorses instead of potential Darley stud prospects.
sgvoak . More than 1 year ago
I wouldn't go without boxing the 3 a couple of times and also single with some underneath but cant make a choice till I see them post time. just pay attention to the race u will not see mike and stevens take each other out early no way no how
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Why would you even bet this race? Its a losing proposition.