07/20/2016 12:46PM

Win the Space up against it in San Diego Handicap


DEL MAR, Calif. – After a game second to Melatonin in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 25, Win the Space will be an outsider in Saturday’s $200,000 San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles at Del Mar. Typically, a second-place finish in the Gold Cup would make Win the Space a leading contender in the Grade 2 San Diego. But the race came up unusually tough this year and is led by California Chrome, the 2014 Horse of the Year, and Dortmund, a millionaire multiple stakes winner.

“This is a different area code against California Chrome and Dortmund,” Win the Space’s trainer, George Papaprodromou, said on Wednesday.

Win the Space, by Pulpit, is performing at his highest level this year. He won his first start of the year in an optional claimer at Santa Anita on May 15 and was beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Melatonin in the Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles, his best result in a stakes.

Owned by Rustin Kretz, Win the Space will have his 12th start in the San Diego. Papaprodromou is hopeful that Win the Space can run well enough to justify a start in the $1 million Pacific Classic here on Aug. 20, the richest race of the summer in California.

“We’ll take it step by step,” Papaprodromou said. “Hopefully, he’ll run a huge race. My horse is going great.”

Win the Space is part of a projected field of six, although the race may not have that many starters. Others entered include Crittenden, Follow Me Crev, and Hard Aces.

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On Wednesday, trainer John Sadler said that Hard Aces, who was third in the Gold Cup, will be entered for the $100,000 Cougar II Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on Sunday. A decision on which race will be chosen for Hard Aces will be made closer to the weekend, he said.

Win the Space was ridden by Gary Stevens in the Gold Cup. Mike Smith has the mount Saturday. Stevens has the mount on Dortmund, who has not raced since winning the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes here last November. Dortmund was sidelined with a foot issue earlier this year.

California Chrome will be favored in his first start since a win in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 26. On Wednesday, California Chrome galloped and was schooled in the gate and paddock, trainer Art Sherman said.