02/15/2013 3:38PM

Santa Anita: Stephanoatsee and Handsome Mike join field for Santa Anita Handicap

Barbara D. Livingston
Stephanoatsee will race at 1 1/4 miles for the first time in the Santa Anita Handicap.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Stephanoatsee and Handsome Mike, second and fourth in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds Feb. 2, will start in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 2, their respective trainers said.

Stephanoatsee, trained by Maryland-based Graham Motion, has remained in California since the Strub. A winner of 3 of 9 starts and $253,000 for My Meadowview Farm, Stephanoatsee will race at 1 1/4 miles for the first time in the Big Cap, the richest race of the meeting for older horses.

“I think that’s what he wants,” Motion said. “I had hoped to run in the Travers last year, but we were late coming back from injury.”

Stephanoatsee did not start at the Saratoga meeting last summer, missing the Travers Stakes over 1 1/4 miles. He did finish fourth in the Pennsylvania Derby over 1 1/8 miles behind Handsome Mike before winning the Barbaro Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Delaware Park in October.

Julien Leparoux will ride Stephanoatsee in the Big Cap, Motion said.

Handsome Mike was beaten 2 1/4 lengths by winner Guilt Trip in the Strub, his fourth consecutive loss since winning the Pennsylvania Derby.

“He wasn’t beaten that far for the whole thing,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “He’s an interesting horse. There are a lot of times he leaves you with the feeling that with a little luck we can win one.”

Owned by Paul and Zillah Reddam, Handsome Mike was ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic here last November.

The Big Cap field is led by Game On Dude, who scored a convincing win in the San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 3. Trained by Bob Baffert, Game On Dude won the 2011 Big Cap, but did not run in the race last year.

Baffert also may run Strub winner Guilt Trip and the allowance race winner Sky Kingdom, but stopped short of saying they were definite runners Friday.

Other candidates are defending champion Ron the Greek, Called to Serve, Clubhouse Ride, John Scott, and Tritap. Ron the Greek, trained by Bill Mott, won the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 19.