01/16/2014 2:51PM

Santa Anita: Hear the Ghost looks to complete comeback in Strub Stakes

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Emily Shields
Hear the Ghost and jockey Corey Nakatani win the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes last March.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The last time Hear the Ghost ran 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita, he won the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes last March, briefly rising to the fore of the circuit’s 3-year-old division.

An injury detected after that race ended Hear the Ghost’s spring campaign, but there are signs that he could be back to stakes-winning form.

Hear the Ghost returned to racing last fall, and his runner-up finishes in two starts at Hollywood Park in November and December suggest that he can win Saturday’s $200,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds at Santa Anita. The distance should be ideal – the Grade 2 Strub Stakes is at 1 1/16 miles.

Owned by Halo Farms and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Hear the Ghost was second to Cyclometer in an optional claiming race for sprinters in early November and second to stablemate Blueskiesnrainbows in the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Dec. 14.

The form of those races has held up. Cyclometer won the Midnight Lute Stakes this month at Santa Anita. Blueskiesnrainbows won the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes last weekend.

[Strub Stakes: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

Corey Nakatani has ridden Hear the Ghost in his last three starts and retains the mount. For Nakatani, the loss in the Native Diver was not a setback in advance of the Strub Stakes.

“The other day, he kind of needed the race because he had one sprint,” Nakatani said. “He only got beat a half-length. He ran a big race. I don’t think he has any limitations. He’s a horse with a high cruising speed.”

Hear the Ghost is one of two Hollendorfer-trained runners in the Strub, which is being run for the first time this year in January at 1 1/16 miles. The Strub previously was contested at 1 1/8 miles in early February. The Strub essentially takes the place on the stakes calendar of the San Fernando Stakes, which was run in past years at 1 1/16 miles in January but was not scheduled this year.

Hollendorfer also will send out Zeewat, the winner of the Damascus Stakes at seven furlongs for 3-year-olds in November on Breeders’ Cup weekend. Zeewat was third to Shakin It Up in the Grade 1 Malibu at seven furlongs for 3-year-olds here on Dec. 26. Shakin It Up is part of the Strub field.

Zeewat won the California Derby at 1 1/16 miles at Golden Gate Fields in January 2013 and was fifth a month later in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at the same track behind Dice Flavor, another Strub runner. Zeewat did not start again until August and was kept to one turn for the rest of 2013.

“He can run long,” Hollendorfer said. “I gave him some time off, and we ran him short.”

The Strub Stakes will be the first start on dirt for Dice Flavor and Rookie Sensation, who won the Grade 2 Twilight Derby on turf here in November. They have raced on turf and synthetic tracks so far.

The field includes longshots Heir of Storm, seventh in the Malibu, and Saw Ow, fourth in an optional claimer on Jan. 1. Trainer Bob Baffert will saddle both Shakin It Up and Govenor Charlie, the latter unraced since finishing eighth in the Preakness Stakes.

Govenor Charlie was entered in an allowance race on Jan. 1 but did not start after experiencing stomach cramps. Shakin It Up has won two graded stakes at seven furlongs but was fourth behind Govenor Charlie in the Sunland Park Derby at 1 1/8 miles. That race was his only start around two turns.

“I don’t know if he’ll go two turns, but we’ll find out,” Baffert said. “He came out of his last race well.”