02/09/2012 4:05PM

Santa Anita: Sanagas looks in fine form for San Marcos

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Benoit & Associates
Sanagas, with Rajiv Maragh up, wins the Hollywood Turf Cup.

ARCADIA, Calif. – There was a brief learning curve when the Grade 1 winner Sanagas joined trainer Peter Miller’s stable last fall.

“He’s a tremendous work horse,” Miller said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

In the last few months, Miller has watched in admiration as Sanagas has repeatedly worked rapidly at his base at Hollywood Park. The preparation has led to the 6-year-old gelding’s 2012 debut in Saturday’s $150,000 San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita.

The Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes is run over 1 1/4 miles on turf, and will be Sanagas’s first start since a win in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup over 1 1/2 miles on turf. “It’s actually a little short for him,” Miller said of the San Marcos Stakes. “He’s better at a mile and a half. The way he’s training, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Sanagas was trained by Graham Motion when he won the Hollywood Turf Cup. A German-bred who has won 7 of 10 starts and $282,282 in the United States and Germany, Sanagas was subsequently sold to a partnership and transferred to Miller. The partners plan to run Sanagas this winter and spring at Santa Anita and then ship him to Australia for an expected start in the Melbourne Cup in November.

“I’m hoping we can maintain the form he had with Graham,” Miller said. “I don’t think he needs to get any better.”

The San Marcos Stakes drew a strong field, including defending champion Bourbon Bay, the multiple Grade 1 winner The Usual Q.T., and the improving Norvsky. Ashtar, Slim Shadey, Utopian, and Worth Repeating will be longshots. Worth Repeating has not started since winning the Grade 3 Tokyo City Stakes over 1 1/2 miles here last May.

Bourbon Bay, who drew the outside post in the field of eight, was second to Sanagas in the Hollywood Turf Cup. Trained by Neil Drysdale, Bourbon Bay won two stakes in 2011.

The Usual Q.T. is winless in eight starts since the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar in July 2010. A 6-year-old gelding, The Usual Q.T. was third behind Norvsky in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes here on Jan. 16, his first start since May.

[SAN MARCOS: Get PPs, watch video previews]

The Usual Q.T. was beaten 4 1/2 lengths by Norvsky, a performance that trainer Jim Cassidy classified as a promising comeback. “I was very happy with him,” he said. “If he’d done too much we could have had the almighty bounce.”

There is unlikely to be a quick pace in the San Marcos, and Cassidy would prefer to see The Usual Q.T. behind horses, perhaps Worth Repeating. “I don’t want to have the lead, but he’ll be close,” Cassidy said.

Norvsky was fifth in the Hollywood Turf Cup, but rebounded to win the San Gabriel Stakes, his first graded stakes win. Trained by Don Warren, Norvsky has won three stakes since late July, two of which were for California-breds. The latest win left Warren surprised since Norvsky easily beat The Usual Q.T. and the multiple stakes winner Jeranimo.

“I think that was the best race of his life,” Warren said. “He hadn’t beaten horses that good before and he went right by them.”

Still, Warren admits a win on Saturday will be difficult. “Sanagas looks like a pretty good horse,” Warren said.

San Marcos S. (G2), Post Time: 4:38 PT Saturday

Purse: $150,000; 1 1/4 miles (T)

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

ML Odds

1

Utopian

J. Shirreffs

M. Smith

15-1

1

Norvsky

D. Warren

J. Talamo

7-2

1

Sanagas (GER)

P. Miller

J. Rosario

8-5

1

Ashtar (CHI)

K. Nettles

K. Krigger

20-1

1

The Usual Q.T.

J. Cassidy

V. Espinoza

4-1

1

Slim Shadey (GB)

S. Callaghan

D. Flores

15-1

1

Bourbon Bay

N. Drysdale

R. Bejarano

5-2