11/03/2011 9:22AM

Santa Anita: John Johny Jak preps in Lure Stakes


ARCADIA, Calif. – John Johny Jak was never seriously considered for Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs.

He was third behind two entrants in that race – Jeranimo and Mr. Commons – in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile, but John Johny’s Jak’s performance did not justify a trip to Kentucky in the mind of trainer Kristin Mulhall.

Mulhall has chosen the $250,000 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park on Nov. 26 as John Johny Jak’s big race for late fall. To get there, she says John Johny Jak must start in Saturday’s $65,000 Lure Stakes at Santa Anita.

“I’m not sure I could train him into the Citation,” she said. “He’s so aggressive. He’s feeling very, very good. When he worked a half the other day, he was dragging me the whole way.”

The workout was a half-mile breeze in 48.40 seconds at Hollywood Park last Monday, and the exercise was reflective of the enthusiasm that John Johny Jak has shown in recent weeks.

“He keeps getting better and better,” Mulhall said. “In his gallops, he used to lean out and you’d have to make him start to gallop. Now, he bucks and plays and pulls. He’d run off if I’d let him.

“If he keeps on moving forward, who knows what he could accomplish next year.”

Owned by Kretz Racing, John Johny Jak has won 7 of 22 starts and $242,709. Bought privately at Calder in the summer, John Johny Jak has started three times for Kretz and Mulhall, always finishing inside the first three. A nose loss in the restricted Wickerr Stakes at Del Mar on July 27 was followed a month later by a win in the restricted Brubaker Stakes. In the Oak Tree Mile, John Johny Jak finished 3 1/4 lengths behind Jeranimo in the field of seven.

“He bounced out of that race so well,” Mulhall said.

The Lure Stakes is restricted, with the field limited to horses who have not won a first-place purse of $60,000 or more in a stakes at a mile or more this year The Lure is run over a mile on turf and has drawn a field of nine, including the stakes winners Assessment, Blue Chagall, Fantastic Pick, Leroy’s Dynameaux, Make Music For Me, Monterey Jazz, and Posse Power. War Element is making his stakes debut.

Leroy’s Dynameaux was unlucky not to win the Grade 3 Morvich Handicap on the hillside turf course on Oct. 10. A 4-year-old gelding trained by Mark Glatt for Ellenay Racing, Leroy’s Dynameaux was blocked at a pivotal point in deep stretch and was beaten only 1 1/4 lengths by California Flag.

On Saturday, California Flag is among the entrants in the BC Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs.

The Lure Stakes is the ninth of 10 races at Santa Anita on Saturday. The first live race is 10:40 a.m., and the program will be interspersed with simulcasts of Breeders’ Cup races at Churchill Downs. The final race at Santa Anita is due off at 4:55 p.m.