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ARCADIA, CA – Drawing the rail for Sunday’s $70,000 Clockers’ Corner Stakes at Santa Anita Park could give Jay Em Ess Stable’s fleet-footed Mr Vargas the edge as he seeks a return to the winner’s circle .
The Clockers’ Corner is a 6-furlong turf sprint restricted to horses ages 4 and up who have not won a graded stakes in 2020 or 2021. This year’s edition is the sixth event on an 8-race card and has a local post time of 3:00 PM.
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Here’s a look at the full field for the Clockers’ Corner:
1. Mr Vargas 9/5 – He switches back to turf after a never-in-doubt 4-length score against allowance rivals on the Los Alamitos dirt that netted him a career-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure. His previous high was a 102 that he earned after taking the 2019 Green Flash Handicap (G3) on Del Mar’s lawn, and apprentice rider Jessica Pyfer retains the mount for her stakes debut.
2. Strongconstitution 12/1 – He gets much-needed class relief after finishing off the board in both the Hollywood Derby (G1) and the Mathis Brothers Mile (G2). He won the mile-long Let It Ride Stakes and broke his maiden on debut in a 5-furlong sprint, but both of those came at Del Mar. Trainer Doug O’Neill adds blinkers for the first time, a 13% winning move for the barn.
3. Thanks Mr. Eidson 8/1 – He necked out victory over optional claimers in a 5-furlong turf sprint at Del Mar 2 starts back, then missed by just a nose while covering 5 1/2 furlongs on the Los Alamitos dirt. He’s been part of the exacta in his last 4 starts, all with returning rider Edwin Maldonado aboard, and lost by a 1/2-length in last June’s local 5 1/2-furlong Desert Code Stakes.
4. Real News 4/1 – He sheds the blinkers for his first start under new trainer Peter Miller, whose wizardry with reformed claimers (he was tagged for $40k last out) has led to a 28% strike rate first off the claim. Miller also hits at 23% when removing blinkers and 22% in turf sprints (where he’s earned 8 of his meet-leading 9 wins, through Thursday). Expect more magic here.
5. Ghoul 5/1 – Miller’s second entry steps up to the American stakes ranks for the first time since he crossed second in last year’s edition (though he was later disqualified and placed fifth for interference in the stretch). He exits a rallying 1 1/4-length victory against optional claimers over this same course and distance that he could repeat if imminent rain softens the lawn.
6. Oiseau de Guerre 30/1 – The longest shot on the board exits the same race as Ghoul, though he didn’t fare nearly as well, fading to eighth after setting the early tempo. Still, that was his first start in 7 months, and the talented Ruben Fuentes shows faith riding him back in this spot. Expect O’Neill’s second entry to show improvement in his second start back.
7. Strike Me Down 5/1 – He makes his first start on California turf after relocating from the east coast, where he was a multiple stakes-placed runner at Woodbine and Monmouth Park. He finished second against optional claimers in a 1-mile Los Alamitos dirt route in his debut for Phil D’Amato, whose trainees hit at 21% with a strong $3.18 ROI in turf sprints.
8. Gregorian Chant 4/1 – D’Amato’s second entry takes a big class drop after finishing 11th in the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2). The British-bred 5-year-old has only sprinted once before in his entire career, winning his debut in a 7-furlong dash over Dundalk’s synthetic course in Ireland. Juan Hernandez, the meet’s leading rider (through Thursday), retakes the mount.
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