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San Pablo Arrives for Essex Handicap; Assigned Top Weight | Sports & Recreation

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San Pablo Arrives for Essex Handicap; Assigned Top Weight
San Pablo Arrives for Essex Handicap; Assigned Top Weight

Dan Bearden’s San Pablo arrived in Hot Springs Tuesday for his engagement in Saturday’s $100,000 Essex Handicap after flying in from trainer Todd Pletcher’s Palm Meadows base in South Florida. He was assigned top weight of 120 lbs. for the 1 1/16-mile race.


The 5-year-old Jump Start horse enters the Essex having won four of his last five starts, including his last two – the $75,000 Queens County at Aqueduct Dec. 8 and $100,000 Swatara Stakes at Penn National Nov. 21. His  only poor performance came three races ago in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Sept. 29. Prior to the Jockey Club, he had earned his first graded stakes victory in the Iselin Handicap (G3) at Monmouth Park and won the Birdstone Stakes at Saratoga.


San Pablo’s best races have come when he has been on or near the lead, but Pletcher is not worried about how Saturday’s race might shape up.

“He is the kind that can adapt to any pace scenario,” said Pletcher via email. “We are hoping for a good performance that could bring us back for the Oaklawn Handicap.” 

Endorsement Passes Work Test; Awaiting Final Word on Essex

Casner Racing’s Endorsement, the beaten favorite in the opening day Fifth Season Stakes, showed he’s capable of running in the Essex Handicap after a bullet five-furlong in 1:01 1/5 Monday, but a final decision will be made after assistant Brian Ange confers with trainer Eoin Harty later this afternoon. Should he run, Endorsement will call 118 lbs.

The 6-year-old Distorted Humor horse was making his first start since the Whitney Handicap (G1) last August in the Fifth Season Jan. 11 and Ange believes the interruption in training prior to that race due to the weather may have played a role in his performance that day where he raced near the pace early, but faded to eighth. 

“He came out of the work in great shape,” said Ange. “He’s always a good work horse. Going into his last race the weather made it tough. I guess you have to try and prepare for it, and I know a lot of us were in the same boat, but going into that race I think there were about 10 days where we couldn’t train him. He came back blowing pretty hard and drank up two buckets of water and I’m pretty sure Eoin thinks he wasn’t tight enough. I think the winner was coming off a more recent race, so I don’t think [the weather] affected him as much as we were coming back.

For a couple days after the race he was kind of quiet, but he started to pick his head up and now he’s pretty much back to his old self.”


Rose to Gold Hopes to Take Oaklawn Path to the Oaks


Delta Princess Stakes (G3) winner Rose to Gold arrived at Oaklawn Monday after vanning from her Calder Race Course base with aspirations of making the Kentucky Oaks via the Oaklawn path that produced 2009 Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra and 2010 winner Blind Luck. Her first target in Oaklawn’s series that culminates with the April 10 $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) is the $75,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 9 where the winner will receive 10 points based on Churchill Downs’ new point system for making the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.


“She loves to ship,” said trainer Sal Santoro, who is the private trainer for owners Alejandro “Alex” Centofanti, his wife Kathleen Amaya and their son Raffaele Centofanti. “She loves the trailer. We had her and three others shipped up privately. They spent a night at Horatio Luro’s old place outside Atlanta and got in here without much trouble. She walked yesterday and this morning she got to gallop. She was reasonably well behaved with all the new surroundings. We’re looking forward to [the race]. We’ll probably breeze her. Give her a little blowout mainly to try the surface. Most of her prep work was all done at Calder.”


The Friends Lake filly was purchased modestly for $1,400 at the 2011 Fasig Tipton January Mixed Sale, but it didn’t take her connections long to realize they had found a true diamond in the rough.


“When we got her in from breaking, she didn’t really set off any bells,” said Santoro. “She did everything right and she handled the training. I like to put a lot of miles on my horses, and she was fine with all of it. Then she got away one morning and went a little too quick and came back with some shins. I treated those, and when she came back and started galloping, that’s when you could see she was going to a different level. Her first time breaking from the gate, she went with two other horses. She went three-eighths in 34 & 2. And she galloped out all the way back around to the half-mile pole, and literally she would not blow out a match after it. It was apparent at that point that we had a little something. It kind of proves that even the blind squirrel finds the nut once in a while.”


Rose to Gold made her career debut in the $75,000 Lindsay Frolic Stakes at Calder August 25 and won by 13 lengths. She won her next start, the $100,000 Brave Raj, by 13 ½ and then suffered her only loss to date in the Alcibiades Stakes (G1) at Keeneland. Her win in the Delta Princess reaffirmed her connections’ confidence in her and set her on the course to Hot Springs.


“She has the world’s best disposition, she loves training and she’s the sweetest horse,” said Santoro. “She thoroughly enjoys herself. She’s a happy horse. We’ve had some serious offers, but we ain’t selling. The owner is like ‘we’ve come this far. Win, lose or draw, we’re going to go all the way with her at this point.’ We just love her.”