03/29/2013 11:26AM

Santa Anita: Liaison starts over in Santana Mile

Tom Keyser
Liaison makes his first start since finishing ninth in the Travers Stakes last August.

ARCADIA, Calif. – It should be relatively easy to find the winner of a five-horse race, but that is not the case in the $70,000 Santana Mile on Sunday at Santa Anita.

A small field entered the main-track stakes, and for every reason to like each of the five starters there is another reason to be skeptical.

Liaison is a Grade 1 winner, but he has not started in seven months. Hoorayforhollywood is sharp, but he lugs in. The habit cost him a win last out. Midnight Transfer is good at one turn, unproven at two. Tres Borrachos will try to win consecutives races for the first time in a 5-for-45 career, while Gladding is fast but he trailed the field his last start.

Bob Baffert trains Liaison, whose CashCall Futurity victory in late 2011 stamped him as one of the top California-based 2012 Derby prospects. But he finished off the board in the Kentucky and Santa Anita derbies, did not win all year, and by late summer it was time to call off the season.

“He came out all stiff after the Travers, so we just kicked him out,” Baffert said.

Liaison finished ninth in the Travers, and Sunday marks his first start since that Aug. 25 race.

“He’s training well, he looks really good right now,” Baffert said. “It’s a tough spot, but there’s nowhere else to run. He’s doing well.”

Martin Garcia rides Liaison, while Aaron Gryder is the new rider for Baffert-trained Hoorayforhollywood, who earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 100 five weeks ago. However, he lugged in through the lane and finished second by a head.

“I don’t know why he always gets in,” Baffert said. “That was a really good race. I did a little jockey change.”

Baffert hopes Gryder can keep Hoorayforhollywood running straight. If he does, the 5-year-old could turn the tables on Tres Borrachos.

Veteran 8-year-old Tres Borrachos is the “now” horse. He defeated Hoorayforhollywood by a head last out to go over the million-dollar earnings mark ($1,021,143). Marty Jones trains Tres Borrachos, who will be ridden again by Garrett Gomez.

Rafael Bejarano, who has ridden all five Santana Mile entrants to at least one victory, ends up on Midnight Transfer, who was briefly on the 2012 Derby trail until he was sidelined after finishing seventh in the Santa Anita Derby.

Midnight Transfer scored a sharp allowance comeback Jan. 12 and then finished sixth in the Grade 2 San Carlos. Carla Gaines trains Midnight Transfer, whose two starts in route races produced a third in the Grade 2 San Felipe followed by a seventh-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby.

Gladding is likely to set the pace from the rail. He won the Grade 2 San Antonio at Santa Anita in 2011 and finished second one year ago in the Santana Mile. Gladding has been claimed from his two most recent starts; Vann Belvoir is the gelding’s new trainer. Victor Espinoza rides.

The Santana Mile is race 5 on the nine-race Easter card.