09/26/2013 5:42PM

Santa Anita: Schoolofhardrocks intriguing contender in FrontRunner

Shigeki Kikkawa
Tamarando, winner of the Del Mar Futurity, will stretch out to 1 1/16 miles for the FrontRunner.

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ARCADIA, Calif. – There was a sense this summer at Del Mar that the leading 2-year-old males were a solid, but not spectacular, bunch, a theory that seemingly was confirmed in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, which Tamarando, a horse yet to be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup, won with a moderate Beyer Speed Figure of 78 in a race where the first six finishers were separated by two lengths after seven furlongs.

The first three finishers from the Del Mar Futurity – Tamarando, Dance With Fate, and Can the Man – are among the principals Saturday at Santa Anita in the Grade 1, $250,000 FrontRunner Stakes, and it will be interesting to see if they can improve their performances going two turns for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile race. But betting sentiment figures to be wide-ranging in this race, and a lightly raced runner already proven going two turns, like Schoolofhardrocks, offers some appeal.

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Schoolofhardrocks is giving up plenty of experience to the Del Mar Futurity trio. He has raced just once, and is making his stakes debut in the FrontRunner, which offers a fees-paid berth to the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile through the Win and You’re In program. But in his debut at Del Mar on Aug. 31, in which he won going one mile, Schoolofhardrocks gave the appearance of a horse who would improve off the effort.

“The question we had toward the end of the meet was whether to run him short and give him a race, or go long,” said David Hofmans, who trains Schoolofhardrocks for his breeders, Jerry and John Amerman. “It seemed a waste of time to go short, so we trained him up to the long race.”

Ignored at 10-1 in a field of eight, Schoolofhardrocks – by Rock Hard Ten – lagged in sixth place early, then closed stoutly to win going away.
“He was a little clumsy starting out, but that’s the way he works,” Hofmans said. “He just goes along, and then he levels out without even coaxing him. I think he’s a true distance horse. He’s a large horse who’s growing into himself.”

The major question with Schoolofhardrocks, besides facing better competition, is if he can transfer that Polytrack form from Del Mar to the dirt at Santa Anita. Hofmans said two recent workouts at Santa Anita, including one on Wednesday morning, gives him confidence Schoolofhardrocks can do it.

Tamarando captured the Del Mar Futurity in his first start at seven furlongs following three starts at 5 1/2 furlongs or shorter. His trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, believed the additional distance of the Del Mar Futurity would help Tamarando, and he was right, but now the question looms as to whether his kick will be as effective going two turns, or if Tamarando is a late-running sprinter.

Dance With Fate, the Del Mar Futurity runner-up, had a horrible trip in that race. He was stuck behind horses and shuffled back on the far turn while Tamarando was able to commence his rally. More aggressive handling early might suit Dance With Fate, who beat maidens when able to make the lead.

Can the Man has natural speed and is drawn in post 4, so he figures to make a dash for it.

Bob Baffert, who trains Can the Man, also sends out Roundupthelute, who won a minor stakes race at Barretts last time out.
Of the 11 horses in the FrontRunner, five are maidens, the most promising appearing to be Bond Holder, second going a mile last time out, and Ontology, already twice stakes-placed.