09/28/2012 2:50PM

Santa Anita: John Henry an important race for Slim Shadey, Turbo Compressor

Benoit & Associates
Slim Shadey, whose last win was in the San Marcos, needs to run well to remain a Breeders' Cup Turf contender.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Off-the-board finishes last out will not prevent Slim Shadey and Turbo Compressor from entering the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship as key contenders Sunday at Santa Anita.

It will be a different story Nov. 3 in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. The field will be stronger, the distance longer, and Bourbon Bay and Casino Host will be fully cranked after using the $150,000 John Henry as their tune-up prep.

The urgency Sunday is greater for Slim Shadey and Turbo Compressor.

Both enter off disappointing finishes. If they are to remain candidates for the BC Turf, they need to show up Sunday in the 1 1/4-mile John Henry.

Slim Shadey finished fifth in two recent starts at Monmouth Park and Del Mar. Turbo Compressor finished ninth and last in his most recent start at Saratoga. The trainers of both graded stakes winners expect improvement.

“I think he’s back to his best form for this,” said Simon Callaghan, Slim Shadey’s trainer. “I think he’ll run a big race.”

Callaghan is sometimes excessively optimistic, but he makes a reasonable case for Slim Shadey. The gelding stole the Grade 2 San Marcos in February at Santa Anita by setting a slow pace, and subsequently improved with runner-up finishes in three stakes, including Grade 1’s at Churchill Downs and Betfair Hollywood Park.

In summer, things went downhill. Slim Shadey was compromised by circumstances finishing fifth as the favorite in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth, then wheeled back two weeks later and finished a flat fifth in the Grade 1 Eddie Read at Del Mar.

“We ran him back too quick after the trip to Monmouth, which was probably a bad move,” Callaghan said. “Since then, we intentionally freshened him up for this race.”

Garrett Gomez rides Slim Shadey, while jockey Joe Bravo plays the most important role. He will dictate the pace on Turbo Compressor, front-running winner this summer in the United Nations and $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup prior to a last-place finish in the Sword Dancer.

Todd Pletcher trains Turbo Compressor, who could have stayed in New York for the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on Saturday at Belmont.

Pletcher instead looked to the West.

“I think he’ll appreciate the firm turf course out there,” Pletcher said. “I wasn’t really wanting to run here a mile and a half on a softer turf course against [Turf Classic entrant] Little Mike – they’re two horses that both want to be on the lead.”

Turbo Compressor shipped to California with Zenyatta Stakes entrant Love and Pride, who was scheduled to run Saturday. Both horses will stay in California for the Breeders’ Cup, depending on their weekend performances.

Bourbon Bay and Casino Host also are Breeders’ Cup-bound, and neither has to win on Sunday to move to the next round.

Bourbon Bay has won 6 of 9 on the Santa Anita turf course, but the John Henry will be his first start since April. “Sometimes he needs a run, and I don’t think he’s quite at his best at a mile and a quarter,” trainer Neil Drysdale said. Rafael Bejarano rides Bourbon Bay.

Casino Host is already in the BC Turf, having captured the Win-and-You’re-In Del Mar Handicap on Aug. 25. Trainer Ron Ellis hopes to use the same pattern this fall that worked so well this summer at Del Mar. Casino Host finished third in a 1 1/8-mile race, then stretched out and won at 1 3/8 miles.

“He likes a mile and a half. A mile and a quarter on this course could be a little short,” Ellis said. “We’re going to take him back and make a run. That’s what I did down at Del Mar, and it really worked.”

Joe Talamo rides Casino Host.

Grassy makes his second start in California for his new trainer Marty Jones, and can improve after a decent prep at 1 1/16 miles.

Other starters include Balladry, Temple’s Doo, Interaction, Fire With Fire, and Brushburn.

– additional reporting by David Grening