01/27/2011 3:54PM

Stately Victor returns to his roots for Connally Turf Cup

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Photos by Z/Keeneland
Although Stately Victor's best races have come on Polytrack, he does have experience on turf and a pedigree for the surface.

Stately Victor and Southern Anthem appear primed to put on a show through the stretch run of Saturday night’s Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Cup Turf at Sam Houston Race Park. Both horses registered their biggest career wins at the handicap’s 1 1/8-mile distance, and each is thriving heading into what is the richest race of the meet.

Stately Victor will start as the 120-pound highweight on the strength of his win in the Grade 1 Blue Grass last April. He was a flourishing winner of that 1 1/8-mile race, which was run on Polytrack. The move back to turf Saturday is something of a return to Stately Victor’s roots as he won his maiden on the grass and his dam, Collect the Cash, was a Grade 1 winner on turf at Keeneland.

“There’s nothing really ideal out there on Polytrack for him right now,” said Mike Maker, who trains Stately Victor. “I like the distance Saturday. I think the distance is a good fit for him.”

Maker also said Stately Victor has been training “superbly” of late. The horse comes into the Connally off a runner-up finish in the $50,000 Prairie Bayou at Turfway on Dec. 18. He was beaten a nose in the 1 1/8-mile run on Polytrack.

“He had a little bit of trouble and I believe it was the difference between first and second,” Maker said of an incident in which the horse was bumped and carried out. “Considering the margin of defeat, it cost him a little bit of momentum.”

Stately Victor stalked the pace last time and could get a similar trip under Alan Garcia.

Southern Anthem will be making his case late. He could have run at his Fair Grounds base last weekend in the Grade 3 Colonel Bradley, but that race was run over a 1 1/16 miles and his trainer, Jeff Thornbury, felt the distance was less than optimum for Southern Anthem.

“Really, his best distance is beyond that, a mile and an eighth, which is why we chose this race,” he said.

Southern Anthem made his last start Dec. 22 at Fair Grounds, and was second by a half-length in an $80,000 optional claimier that was won by future Colonel Bradley winner Gran Estreno.

“I thought he ran a bang-up race,” Thornbury said of Southern Anthem, who gets in at 114 pounds Saturday.

James Graham has the mount in the Connally.

Others in the nine-horse field include stakes winners Schramsberg, Stachys, and Barrier Reef.