01/06/2013 5:05PM

Santa Anita: Handsome Mike should be stronger, fitter for San Fernando

Barbara D. Livingston
Handsome Mike, winner of the Pennsylvania Derby in September, will try to rebound from a pair of sub-par performances in the San Fernando.

For Saturday’s $150,000 San Fernando Stakes, trainer Doug O’Neill is starting Handsome Mike, who was fourth in the 2012 Sham Stakes and won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby in September.

The last two starts have not gone as well for Handsome Mike, who was ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic here on Nov. 3 and 10th in the Hollywood Derby on turf on Nov. 25.

In recent weeks, O’Neill said that Handsome Mike has undergone a tougher training schedule.

“He was off form but we’re trying him a little bit,” he said. “You might see a fitter and stronger horse.”

Owned by Paul and Zillah Reddam, Handsome Mike has 2 wins in 12 starts and earned $756,780. The Grade 2 San Fernando is run over 1 1/16 miles, and leads to the $200,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 2.

“I think we can turn it around against straight 4-year-olds,” O’Neill said. “I haven’t done a real good job of training him in his last few starts.”
The San Fernando is unlikely to have a large field. The other candidates include Castaway, Drill, Fly Lexis Fly, Regulus, and Tritap.