03/05/2014 2:43PM

Santa Anita: Lochte faces new challenge in Kilroe Mile

Barbara D. Livingston
Lochte upsets the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap at 39-1.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Lochte earned his way to Santa Anita for Saturday’s $350,000 Frank Kilroe Mile with a win in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap at odds of 39-1 on Feb. 9.

The results of Saturday’s race will help owner Caroline Vogel and trainer Marcus Vitali determine whether a return trip to California for the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November is realistic.

Lochte won his stakes debut in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, closing from fourth in a field of eight to win by 2 3/4 lengths.

[Santa Anita Handicap: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

In the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile, Lochte will face the toughest field of his career. The list of expected runners includes Za Approval and Silentio, who were second and  third in the BC Mile here last November; Winning Prize, who won the Grade 2 Arcadia Stakes on Feb. 1; and Suggestive Boy, who won the 2013 Kilroe Mile and Arcadia Stakes.

Vitali said that the 4-year-old Lochte is ready for a test.

“I think he’s getting better,” Vitali said on Wednesday via phone from Florida. “We feel like we have a chance to see what we’ve got.”

Vitali, 53, has been based at Monmouth Park, Suffolk Down, and in Florida in recent seasons. Lochte will be his first starter in California.

In the Kilroe, Orlando Bocachica will ride Lochte. He rode the gelding in his last two races. Lochte won an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 24 that led to the start in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.

“The owner suggested that we start in the Grade 1 and I didn’t disagree,” Vitali said. “I thought he’d run well. I was definitely surprised a little bit.”