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Cougar II Preview: Tizamagician Back Home On Familiar Ground
Tizamagician winning the 2021 Tokyo City Cup (Credit: Ernie Belmonte)

Cougar II Preview: Tizamagician Back Home On Familiar Ground

DEL MAR, CA – After shipping to Belmont Park and finishing second in the Brooklyn Stakes (G2), Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella’s Tizamagician is back home on familiar ground at Del Mar for Sunday’s $100,000 Cougar II Stakes (G3).

The Cougar II is a 1 1/2-mile dirt marathon open to all horses 3 and up. This year’s edition is the penultimate event on an 11-race card and has a local post time of 6:30 PM.

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Here’s a look at the full field for the Cougar II:

1. Heywoods Beach 4/1 – The John Sadler trainee initially campaigned on turf but switched to dirt 3 starts back and finished third in a 1-mile optional claiming event at Santa Anita Park, then won at the same track and level going 1 1/4 miles. Trip issues in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) saw him finish fifth last time out, but veteran rider Tyler Baze keeps the mount for the fourth straight start.

“(Heywood’s Beach) woke up when he came off the turf,” Sadler said. “He won on the dirt and then had a rough trip in the Hollywood Gold Cup, so we want to give him another try on dirt also.”

2. Contagion 6/1 – He steps up and stretches out in a major way after 3 wins and 2 seconds in his past 5 starts, all mile-long dirt routes at Santa Anita Park. He’s yet to win a race longer than 1 mile and sire Fed Biz never succeeded beyond 1 1/16 miles, but jockey Juan Hernandez picks up the mount for the first time and has an 18% win rate for the Peter Miller barn.

3. Campaign 8/1 – He also returns from Belmont Park after finishing fourth, 1 3/4 lengths behind Tizamagician in the Brooklyn after trailing the field early. The 2019 Cougar II champion hasn’t won since that event 24 months ago, with his lone on-the-board dirt effort a second-place finish in 2020’s sloppy edition of the 1 1/2-mile Temperence Hill Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Look for him late.

4. Red King 4/1 – He gives dirt a try for the first time in what is likely a prep race for next month’s 1 3/8-mile Del Mar Handicap (G2), a race he won on the local turf last year. The distance should be no problem and English Channel offspring have won 12% dirt routes historically. The Phil D’Amato barn wins 14% with similar surface swaps and jockey Umberto Rispoli rides for the eighth straight start.

I’ve used this angle before,” D’Amato said. “One day, (Racing Secretary) David Jerkens will write a prep for the Del Mar Handicap. I’ve been asking him for 6 years and I know one day he will. Until that happens, if you have a marathon grass horse, you really can’t take a conventional approach to the Del Mar Handicap, so this race makes sense.”

5. Cupid’s Claws 3/1 – He’ll sport blinkers for the first time since trainer Craig Dollase claimed him last September; Dollase has won with 2 of his past 9 equipment additions. Dollase claimed him with the 2020 Tokyo City Cup (G3) in mind, a 1 1/2-mile Santa Anita Park event that he won in his dirt debut. He’s 0-for-2 to start 2021, but the distance specialist only went 1 mile each time.

6. Tizamagician 8/5 – After finishing second in last year’s Tokyo City Cup as a 3-year-old, he dominated his rivals in this year’s edition, winning his first career stakes by 9 lengths in his first start with Flavien Prat aboard. Prat kept the mount in the Brooklyn when Tizamagician hopped at the start and had to sit further behind than he prefers. With a clean break, he could run gate to wire for his second local score.

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