03/31/2011 3:37PM

Santa Anita: Plenty of comebackers in Potrero Grande Stakes


ARCADIA, Calif. – One was exhausted, one needed knee surgery, and another was plagued by bad feet.

The stakes winners M One Rifle, Crown of Thorns, and Chocolate Candy all had their 2010 campaigns end with disappointment. All three have left their trainers optimistic that those issues are behind them as they approach their first start of 2011 in Sunday’s $150,000 Potrero Grande Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita.

M One Rifle has not started since finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park last July. In late 2009, he won the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes, giving trainer Bruce Headley, 77, his first win in that race. By last summer, M One Rifle was worn out, Headley said.
“He just got tired,” he said. “It was nothing more. When I turn a horse out and you let them in the paddock, they usually tear off and run free. He didn’t. He walked off and started grazing.”

Headley does not want to try that now.

“He’d run a hole through the wind,” he said.

Crown of Thorns was the morning-line favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs last November when a knee problem forced him to be scratched the day before the race. The winner of the 2008 Robert Lewis Stakes, Crown of Thorns underwent minor surgery to repair damaged tissue. He rejoined trainer Richard Mandella’s stable at Santa Anita earlier this year.

“He trains like he’s ready to run,” Mandella said. “I haven’t over-trained him. We operated on him, and boom, he was ready to run. It was quicker than I expected. He seems to be in good shape.”

Crown of Thorns, who races for B. Wayne Hughes, is a 6-year-old who has won 2 of 8 starts. In 2009, Crown of Thorns was second in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita, losing by a nose to Dancing in Silks.

Chocolate Candy, winner of three stakes in 2008-09, was eighth in the BC Dirt Mile at Santa Anita in 2009 and was winless in three starts last year. In his only stakes appearance of 2010, he was fifth in the Grade 3 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs in May. He was out of training by the summer, and is coming back from a hoof problem.

“He needed some time off,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “He had a hard campaign and he needed the rest anyway.”

The Potrero Gande will be Chocolate Candy’s first start in a sprint since a sixth in a maiden race over six furlongs for 2-year-olds in July 2008.

“We want to get him started,” Hollendorfer said of Saturday’s race.

They are not the only horses returning from layoffs in the Potrero Grande. Atta Boy Roy, who won the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes last May, has not raced since finishing 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last fall. Bet On Victor has not raced since a seventh in the Los Angeles Handicap last June.

Other probable starters are Amazombie, Captain Cherokee, and Colgan’s Chip.

Valenzuela to ride Indian Winter

Jockey Patrick Valenzuela will ride Indian Winter in the $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 9, Hollendorfer said Thursday.

Valenzuela has never ridden Indian Winter, who won the San Pedro Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs here Jan. 17 but was third, later promoted to second, in the Turf Paradise Derby in Phoenix on Feb. 26. Indian Winter was promoted after a rival was disqualified.

“He’s been training really well,” Hollendorfer said.

Indian Winter worked seven furlongs in 1:23.80 last Sunday and will have another workout before the Santa Anita Derby, which is run over 1 1/8 miles.

As of Saturday, there were 10 probable starters for the Santa Anita Derby, led by Premier Pegasus, winner of the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes by 7 3/4 lengths on March 12. The other candidates are Anthony’s Cross, Bench Points, Celestic Night, Comma to the Top, Jaycito, Mr. Commons, Offlee Wild Boy, and Silver Medallion.

Quail Hill, fifth in the San Felipe, is a candidate but is more likely to start in the $100,000 La Puente Stakes for 3-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles on turf on April 10, trainer David Hofmans said.

Food trucks coming Saturday

Santa Anita is hosting its second food truck promotion Saturday, and this time the event will take up most of the expansive infield.

On Jan. 29, the track drew an ontrack crowd of 26,694, many lured by the first food truck promotion. The size of the crowd caught racing officials and the 23 food truck operators by surprise, with long lines and some trucks running out of food. The event took up about half of the infield.

This Saturday, the track is promoting that 80 trucks will take part. Admission to the food truck festival is included in regular admission prices.