04/24/2014 11:12AM

Switch to turf benefits Snow Chief favorite Tamarando

Benoit & Associates
The Snow Chief Stakes favorite Tamarando likely will benefit from the race's switch to turf.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita is the new home of the California Gold Rush, and turf is the new surface of the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-olds.

The timing is perfect for Snow Chief favorite Tamarando.

Jerry Hollendorfer trains Tamarando and six others entered in five stakes for California-breds on Saturday at Santa Anita, where the Gold Rush program will take place for the first time after 13 years at Hollywood Park. And for the first time, the Snow Chief is on turf.

The Grade 1 winner Tamarando is the class of the Snow Chief and is trying new footing. Based on his turf workouts, Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward is certain he will love it.

“I’ve seen him work [many] times, and I’ve never seen him work like he works on turf,” Ward said. “On the turf, he’s a different horse. He seems like he gets a hold of it.”

[DRF Live: Get live reports and handicapping insights from Santa Anita this Saturday]

If Tamarando gets a hold of the course Saturday, he and jockey Rafael Bejarano are likely to win the Snow Chief, the 10th-race centerpiece on a five-stakes, 11-race Gold Rush program that has undergone revision beyond the move from Hollywood to Santa Anita.

The $100,000 Fran’s Valentine Stakes for fillies and mares (race 4) remains a one-mile turf race. Unusual Hottie, trained by Jeff Mullins, seeks her second straight Fran’s Valentine win. She faces Halo Dolly, trained by Hollendorfer, and Unusual Way, trained by Jeff Bonde.

The $125,000 Tiznow Stakes (race 5) was stretched from 7 1/2 furlongs around one turn to a mile around two turns. The Hollendorfer-trained Rousing Sermon is the favorite. Stablemate Kate’s Event won the Tiznow last year when it was a sprint.

The $125,000 Spring Fever Stakes for fillies and mares (race 7), formerly the B. Thoughtful Stakes, was shortened from 7 1/2 furlongs to six. Our Pure Creation, trained by Bonde, will try to knock off multiple stakes winner Marks Mine, trained by Steve Specht. Hollendorfer entered the comebacker Top Kisser.

The $250,000 Melair Stakes for 3-year-old fillies (race 9) remains 1 1/16 miles on the main track. It might be the most difficult on the card for handicappers. Swiss Lake Yodeler, trained by Hollendorfer, returns to her preferred footing against several stretch-out sprinters, including Rovenna, trained by Mike Machowsky.

Seven entered the Snow Chief, and while the switch to grass could benefit Tamarando, so will a drop in class. He ran poorly last time on synthetic at Turfway Park but two back defeated subsequent Blue Grass Stakes winner Dance With Fate on synthetic at Golden Gate Fields.

The winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last summer at 2, Tamarando has won four races and $630,120 from 11 starts for owner-breeder Larry Williams.

[California Gold Rush: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

His main rivals include turf stakes winner Aotearoa and multisurface specialist Alert Bay, the expected pacesetter.

Leonard Powell trains Aotearoa, the winner of the $100,000 Zuma Beach Stakes on turf at Santa Anita. He later finished second in a Grade 3 on turf at Hollywood, misfired in a synthetic-surface stakes, and ran worse when he tried dirt in the California Cup Derby won by California Chrome.

“Gary [Stevens] thought he was not handling the dirt, and he did not persevere,” Powell said.

It was time to regroup and get back to preferred footing. Mike Smith will ride Aotearoa, who is making his first start in two months at the longest distance he has attempted.

“Fitness-wise, I am a little on the fence,” Powell said. “Being a turf race, you don’t have to be as fit as on dirt.”

Aotearoa adds blinkers, which Powell considered last year except that the gelding was running well without them.

“We’ll try blinkers just to give him more confidence,” Powell said. “Last year, he was running good, so we left him that way.”

Alert Bay seeks his fourth straight victory while stretching out from a sprint stakes win. Trained by Blaine Wright, Alert Bay won the $200,000 Echo Eddie Stakes on April 5. Tyler Baze will ride.

The field for the Snow Chief also includes Frensham, a maiden stretching to a route for the first time in his fourth start; recent allowance runner-up Awesome Return; the filly Kukaluka; the Hollendorfer-trained sprinter Pray Hard; and Patriots Rule.