02/02/2017 3:06PM

St. Joe Bay avoids heavyweights in Palos Verdes

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Benoit & Associates
St. Joe Bay, along the inside, dead heats with Solid Wager in the Midnight Lute Stakes.

ARCADIA, Calif. – St. Joe Bay will be favored to win the $200,000 Palos Verdes Stakes at Santa Anita largely by default. Many of the circuit’s top sprinters did not show up for the six-furlong race.

Drefong, the champion sprinter of 2016 and the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint here in November, is likely to run in the Golden Shaheen in Dubai in March. The multiple stakes winners Kobe’s Back and Masochistic are expected to start in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Stakes here on March 11.

There is no doubt that St. Joe Bay is in peak form. Owned by David Bernsen and trainer Peter Miller, St. Joe Bay has won his last two starts – an optional claimer at Del Mar on Dec. 4 and a dead heat with stablemate Solid Wager in the Grade 3 Midnight Lute Stakes on a sloppy track at 6 1/2 furlongs on Dec. 31.

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The Grade 2 Palos Verdes drew a field of five 4-year-olds and up and may have only three or four runners. Trainer Jim Cassidy said on Thursday that Ocho Ocho Ocho is “50-50” to start. Ocho Ocho Ocho has not raced since June, and Cassidy said the 5-year-old could benefit from additional training.

Miller said the former claimer Distinctive B is not a definite runner. The other entrants are the John Sadler-trained Moe Candy, who has won his last three starts, and Ike Walker, who was claimed for $50,000 on Jan. 1.

“Sadler’s is the horse to beat,” Miller said.

KEY CONTENDERS

St. Joe Bay, by Saint Anddan

Last 3 Beyers: 98-104-95

◗ Earlier in his career, St. Joe Bay raced around two turns and was sixth in the Louisiana Derby in 2015. St. Joe Bay’s two recent wins have coincided with a reduction in race distances.

“It took me two years to figure out what he wants to do,” Miller said. “We finally got it. He’s very sharp.”

◗ St. Joe Bay is quick and expected to set the pace under jockey Kent Desormeaux.

“We’ll let him roll out of there,” Miller said. “Why change it?”

Moe Candy, by Candy Ride

Last 3 Beyers: 95-90-82

◗ Moe Candy won a maiden race in October and consecutive optional claimers, one at Del Mar in November and one here Jan. 8. Moe Candy, 5, has made six starts. He ran twice at 3 in 2015.

“He had two races and had an injury,” Sadler said. “He’s staying sound, and he’s improving. It’s a natural development for him.”

Moe Candy, who starts from the outside post, typically races as a stalker, which should allow jockey Victor Espinoza to gauge St. Joe Bay as the race develops.