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ARCADIA, CA – Defending race champions Mo Forza and United will attempt to repeat their respective prior year’s successes in the $200,000 City of Hope Mile Stakes (G2) and the $200,000 John Henry Turf Championship Stakes (G2) in the twin turf undercard stakes on Santa Anita Park’s star-studded Saturday card.
Joining them on the are a trio of 2021 Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events: the Awesome Again (G1), the Rodeo Drive (G1), and the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2). First post is 12:30 PM Pacific.
A winner of his last 3 starts (all Grade 2 turf stakes), Peter Miller’s Mo Forza and Michael McCarthy’s ultra-consistent Smooth Like Strait headline the City of Hope Mile’s field of five 3-year-olds and up.
Bred in Kentucky by the late trainer Barry Abrams’ Bardy Farm, Mo Forza, who won last year’s City of Hope Mile 2 starts back, emerged from a 10-month layoff on August 21 to rally and win the Del Mar Mile (G2), his third consecutive Grade 2 win at a mile on grass. With Flavien Prat bidding for his fourth consecutive win aboard the 5-year-old full horse by Uncle Mo out of the Unusual Heat mare Inflamed, Mo Forza seeks his sixth 1-mile turf win from 8 tries.
Owned by Bardy Farm and OG Boss, Grade 1 winner Mo Forza has 4 wins from 6 starts over the Santa Anita turf. With lofty Beyer Speed Figures of 104, 106, and most recently 103 to his credit, he rates tops billing.
Trained by Michael McCarthy and owned and bred by Cannon Thoroughbreds, LLC, Smooth Like Strait has 4 wins from 8 tries at a mile on turf, with all 4 wins coming at Santa Anita. A solid second, beaten a head in the Del Mar Mile August 21, he was second, beaten a neck 2 starts back in the Eddie Read Stakes (G2). In his career-best performance, he sped to a 1 1/2-length win the Shoemaker Mile (G1) here 3 starts back on May 31.
A 4-year-old colt by Midnight Lute, Smooth Like Strait, who along with Mo Forza will tote co-high weight of 126 pounds, is 3 necks and a head away from being unbeaten in 5 starts this year. With an overall mark of 17-7-5-2, he has earnings of $1,043,823 and will be ridden by Umberto Rispoli for the ninth consecutive time.
A gutty neck winner of the Kilroe Mile (G1) on turf here March 6, trainer Dan Blacker’s Hit the Road was subsequently fifth as the 5/2 favorite in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland on April 9. Subsequent to that, he was freshened up and returned to the races on August 21 at Del Mar, finishing a big third, beaten 1 length by Mo Forza.
With a recent race to his credit, Hit the Road will again get the services of eastern-based Florent Geroux as he bids for his fifth win from 6 starts over the course. A 4-year-old colt owned by D K Racing, LLC, Radley Equine Inc., Taste of Victory Stables, Rick Gold, Tony Maslowski, and Dave Odmark, Hit the Road has 6 wins from 11 overall starts and earnings of $539,751.
Red Storm Risen (post 1, jockey Joe Bravo) and Order and Law (post 4, Abel Cedillo) complete the lineup. The City of Hope Mile is carded as race 3.
One of the top turf horses in the nation over the past three years, Richard Mandella’s United is back to defend his title in the 1 1/4-mile John Henry Turf Championship as part of a strong field of 13 horses 3 and up.
Dating back to his win in the Eddie Read Stakes (G2) in July of 2020, United has settled into an 8-race pattern in which he’s won every other start. With a close fourth-place finish in the Del Mar Handicap (G2) on August 21 coming on the heels of a neck victory in the Eddie Read on July 24, Mandella is hoping the win-lose-win pattern holds on Saturday.
Ridden by Flavien Prat in all but 2 of his 18 starts with Mandella, United will again be partnered with the French-born superstar in the John Henry as he readies for a third try in the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Del Mar on November 6.
In an old school move, Mandella had United blow out 3 furlongs this morning in a bullet :36.40. Owned by LNJ Foxwoods, United is a 6-year-old gelding by Giant’s Causeway. With 5 wins from 11 starts over the Santa Anita lawn, including a head defeat in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Turf, United is 21-9-4-1 overall with earnings of $1,693,549.
In what will be his fourth start for Peter Miller, Neptune’s Storm comes off a close fourth place finish in the Del Mar Mile and although he’s in good form, he’ll be trying a mile and 1/4 for the first time. Second, beaten a 1/2-length as the 4/5 favorite in the American Stakes (G3) at 1 mile on turf 3 races back on June 20, this 5-year-old Stormy Atlantic gelding took the 1-mile turf restricted Wickerr in gate to wire fashion 2 starts back on July 18.
Owned by CYBT, Saul Gervertz, Lynn Goetz, Michael Nentwig, and David Weiner, Neptune’s Storm is a 2-time graded stakes winner with earnings of $936,485 from an overall mark of 22-7-4-6.
In his first start for trainer Michael McCarthy, Chilean-bred Master Piece rallied from far off the pace to finish second, beaten a 1/2-length in the Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf and would benefit greatly from some fast early fractions on Saturday.
Front-running California-bred Acclimate tired late to finish a close third in the Del Mar Handicap, his lone start since winning the marathon San Juan Capistrano Stakes (G3) at a mile and 3/4 on turf here June 19. Trained by Phil D’Amato, this 7-year-old gelding by Acclamation, who was a close second in the 2019 John Henry, appears at the top of his game and could pose an elusive target with Ricky Gonzalez back aboard.
Award Winner, Camino Del Paraiso, Ready Soul, Count of Amazonia, Media Blitz, Red King, Cupid’s Claws, Friar’s Road, and K P All Systems Go complete the lineup. The John Henry is the 11th and final race carded Saturday.
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