Californian Stakes (Grade 2)- $200.000 Purse
SA- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile and One Eighth on the Dirt
April 18, 2020
The field is set for the 16th running of the Californian Stakes, a race that will send its field of seven a total of nine furlongs around the main track. This is one of those races that was first run at HOL, and in the early days saw both Icicle and Dark Crown get the win. The purse dropped for a while, but has recouped some of that back to its current level. Mb Stables has won the race more then anyone with three wins, but we could have been looking for a Maxmillion Farm three-peat here. That stable does not have an entry in the race. Their winner last year was A Storm Has Arrived, a gelding that won the New Orleans Handicap last month, so is still running strong. Let’s look at the field!
#1- Maniaco del Controll (Threshold, ridden by T J Pereira)- After a long string of runs on the grass, and not facing a BC quality field, Maniaco del Controll returned to the winners circle in the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap in late November, but has not returned to graded company since. In fact, he’s only had one start since then, and that was a dismal outing in an open allowance. He’s not working as well as he was late last year, either, making him a tough horse to support here.
#2- The Spaniard (Big Jd Racing, ridden by M E Smith)- The majority of this gelding’s recent career has been running on the turf, but he did have a second place run in the Haskell back when he was a three year old. Last month, he finally returned to the main track in over a year, and ran third in an open allowance. His last two works are inconsistent with one another, so I don’t know if I can trust him, though I do like his chances if he runs his race.
#3- Komet (Estero Farms, ridden by N Arroyo Jr)- This is the first of two three year olds in the field, and that gets them a three pound weight allowance. Komet has made a few attempts at stakes race, but his only two wins are in overnights so far. Neither of this two races this year have been going long, though he did gain experience at that last year. His running style should keep him in contention here.
#4- Space Commander (Nakamura Stables, ridden by Ru Fuentes)- Good looking four year old gelding that has run well for Nakamura after he picked him up in private sales from Joshua Stables in August of last year, for $110.000. His last six starts have seen him rotate wins and third place finishes, and that pattern points to a win here. He may do exactly that because this is a very consistent horse who may have been made a little better after moving over to his new barn. I don’t think he finishes any lower then second here.
#5- Halon (Twobyfour, ridden by Di Sanchez)- The trainer is hoping for their first stake win of any sort with Halon. He was entered three weeks ago in the Grade 3 Hals Hope and could not keep up at the end. The race prior to that, though, an optional claimer, is actually quite ugly, so I have to wonder if the trainer has had time to figure out has been going wrong in a short turnaround time. I like rooting for smaller barns, but I have to pass on this one.
#6- Starship Leader (Eastern Equine, ridden by J I Velez)- The trainer acquired this three year old in private sales for $450.000 from Mb Stables two months ago after having decent success as a two year old. It’s a price tag that shows more was hoped for, and his effort last month at the Grade 3 Ruby Stakes did not create optimism. Speed figures are a little lower then I like to see for a race like this. He gets the weight allowance, but I don’t think that will make much of a difference. He could come away with a piece of the purse as it is moderately wide open here after the top two, but I can’t put him on top.
#7- Burning Approval (Mb Stables, ridden by D Van Dyke)- We get our headliner here with the horse that ran second in the BC Dirt Mile. Prior to that, he won a couple of big name races back to back: the Travers and the PA Derby, and despite being restricted, the Prince of Wales win right before that was also impressive. So, what’s happened since? He’s only raced twice, winning an open allowance, but then throwing up a dud in the GP Mile on Leap Day. Sure, there were some big boys in that race, but Burning Approval wasn’t a factor. He gets a good field here to bounce back into the win column with, but has one big rival here that could knock him off, and that’s Space Commander. It will be a good battle.