03/06/2014 1:32PM

Santa Anita: Sahara Sky leads strong Hollendorfer trio in San Carlos

Shigeki Kikkawa
Sahara Sky is the defending winner of the Grade 2, $250,000 San Carlos, which will be run on Saturday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Sahara Sky is the most decorated, Zeewat the most versatile, and Wild Dude has the best recent form. Together, they make up a formidable team that Jerry Hollendorfer will send out Saturday in the Grade 2, $250,000 San Carlos Stakes at Santa Anita, a seven-furlong sprint whose result will chart the future course of all three runners.

Hollendorfer said Thursday that it’s “not ideal” to run all three against one another. He was speaking both as their trainer and as a co-owner of all three.

“But there are limited opportunities for horses like this,” he explained, “and we’ve got plans for them after this that hinge on running in this race.”

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Sahara Sky is the defending winner in the San Carlos, a race he used last year as a springboard to success in New York; two starts later, he won the Metropolitan Mile. But Sahara Sky has raced just once since the Met Mile, when he returned from an eight-month layoff and finished last of five in the six-furlong Palos Verdes here Feb. 2, 3 1/2 lengths behind Wild Dude.

Sahara Sky starts from the rail Saturday in the 10-horse field.

“His works since his last race are good, and I don’t think the 1 post will bother him, since he usually comes from quite a bit off the pace,” Hollendorfer said.

The main question regarding Sahara Sky, though, is if he will move forward significantly off the Palos Verdes, a race he won last year when returning from a six-month layoff.

“We’re hopeful he needed the race and that he does move forward, but do we really know? No,” Hollendorfer said.

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Wild Dude has come on strongly this winter. The Palos Verdes marked his third straight victory, and besides beating Sahara Sky, second in that race was Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle. It was a career-best effort.

“He beat some very good horses last time,” Hollendorfer said. “We’re hopeful he can live up to his last race.”

Zeewat has won on both dirt and synthetic, sprinting and around two turns, but seven furlongs might be his ideal distance. He came flying late at that distance in the Grade 1 Malibu on Dec. 26 to finish third, falling just 1 1/4 lengths short of catching the victorious Shakin It Up.

Zeewat has raced twice since then and comes off a victory on Tapeta in the Lost in the Fog at Golden Gate on Feb. 17.

There is both depth and quality to this San Carlos. Although Secret Circle is bypassing the race to go to Dubai later this month, his connections – trainer Bob Baffert and co-owner Mike Pegram – are well-represented by Shakin It Up, who won the Malibu, stretched out to win the Strub at 1 1/16 miles, and now turns back to seven furlongs, a distance at which he owns two wins and a second in three starts at Santa Anita.

The vastly improved Big Macher, who made his first four starts in claiming races, is making his first start in a graded stakes race following a victory last time out in the California Cup Sprint.

Let’s Get Crackin has an upset look off his excellent second to Wild Dude in an allowance race earlier this meet.

Clubhouse Ride, Cyclometer, Midnight Transfer, and Ready for More complete this outstanding field.