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On a roll at age five, John Sadler’s Kings River Knight, who is a nose shy of being a four-time stakes winner, heads a field of seven going about 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course in Sunday’s $100,000 California Flag Handicap.
The California Flag, for three year olds and up, is part of the lucrative CTBA-sponsored Golden State Series for eligible California-bred or sired horses.
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Unraced until June of his 4-year-old campaign, Kings River Knight is enjoying a banner year, with three wins and two seconds (one of them by a nose to top-rated Cal-bred The Chosen Vron) from six starts, good for $221,750 in earnings in 2023.
Although he’ll likely have to contend with classy Brickyard Ride for early supremacy, Kings River Knight is without question the “now horse,” coming off a facile two length win going a flat mile on dirt in the statebred E.B. Johnston Stakes at Los Alamitos Sept. 16—his third win of the year.
Although he’s shortening up out of four consecutive routes, two on dirt and two on grass, this 5-year-old Acclamation gelding more than proved he could handle the hillside turf in his lone try over the course when second to the Chosen Vron in the Sensational Star Stakes here on March 19.
Out of the Poteen mare Seasontoperfection, Kings River Knight was bred in California by Old English Rancho and is owned by Integrity Thoroughbred Racing, LLC, the Johnston Family Trust and Kenneth Tevelde.
With an overall mark of 12-6-5-0, Kings River Knight with be making his sixth start for Sadler and with earnings of $366,010, he’ll be ridden back by Juan Hernandez, who is three for three with him.
Has he lost a step? That’s the question handicappers must ask when evaluating Brickyard Ride’s chances on Sunday.
A 7-time stakes winner, three of them in graded competition, Brickyard Ride, a 6-year-old full horse by top sire Clubhouse Ride, showed brief speed and then caved in the seven furlong Grade II Pat O’Brien Aug. 26 at Del Mar, finishing eighth, beaten 15 ¾ lengths.
Trained by Craig Lewis, Brickyard Ride’s most recent win came four starts back in the Grade III Kona Gold at 6 ½ furlongs on dirt here April 22. Subsequently a distant third to The Chosen Vron in the statebred Thor’s Echo May 28, he was a very respectable third, beaten three lengths two starts back in the Grade II San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on July 29.
One for five, with three third place finishes on the year, Brickyard Ride is one for two over the hillside course, his win coming in the statebred Sensational Star Stakes in March of last year.
Owned and bred by Alfred Pais, Brickyard Ride, who is out of the Southern Image mare Brickyard Helen, was long considered perhaps the quickest sprinter on the grounds, dating back to his 3-year-old campaign in 2021, when he customarily unfurled opening quarter mile splits of 21 and change—even blazing 21 flat en route to a second place finish in the Kona Gold on April 18, 2021.
A remarkable 28-13-1-5 with earnings of $865,477, Brickyard Ride will be ridden for the second time by Umberto Rispoli, who was up for this third place finish two starts back in the San Diego Handicap.
Second in last year’s California Flag to The Chosen Vron, Peter Miller’s None Above the Law, winless in 12 starts since taking the Grade II Del Mar Derby in September of 2021, rates a puncher’s chance with Joe Bravo back aboard.
Owned by his breeders Kirk and Judy Robison, None Above the Law, a 5-year-old gelding by Karakontie, is based at San Luis Rey Downs. With an overall race record of 26-6-3-2, he has earnings of $541,060.
First post time for a 11-race card on Sunday is at 12:30 p.m. with admission gates opening at 10:30 a.m.
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