First Peace after his victory in the John Shear over the hillside turf April 9 (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)
Santa Anita Press Box
ARCADIA, Calif.— Trainer Mark Glatt’s First Peace returns to Santa Anita’s hillside turf course and is the horse to beat in Sunday’s $100,000 Desert Code Stakes at a field of six sophomores go about 6 ½ furlongs.
With four of Sunday’s participants having faced each other coming down the hill in the ungraded John Shear Stakes on April 9, First Peace, who was a very impressive one-length winner, should be extremely tough to deny with regular rider Mike Smith back aboard.
A Kentucky-bred colt by the More Than Ready stallion Funtastic, First Peace, in his only start of the year, demonstrated the tactical speed required to gain a position coming down the hill and when Smith found room inside at the dirt crossing, he responded with an eye-catching turn of foot as he held off the late run of Mas Rapido, who he’ll again face in the Desert Code.
Owned by Rancho Temescal, LLC, Red Baron’s Barn, LLC and Rodney Orr, First Peace was a close second going one mile on turf two starts back in the ungraded Eddie Logan here on Dec. 30 and was third to multiple stakes winner Speed Boat Beach three races back in the Grade III Cecil B. DeMille Stakes at one mile over the Del Mar turf on Dec. 4.
Unplaced at 5 ½ furlongs on dirt in his career debut Sept. 10, he’s posted two wins, as many seconds and a third in five subsequent tries on grass. Out of the Point of Entry mare Peace Opportunity, First Peace was purchased for $75,000 out of a 2-year-old in training sale in June of last year. With earnings of $141,300, he’ll be trying the hillside turf for the second time.
Trained by Bob Hess, English-bred Mas Rapido, who broke from the rail in the John Shear, was fifth, a length behind First Peace at the dirt crossing and shifted outside, put in a stout bid, but never threatened the winner while beaten one length. In his most recent start, a six-furlong turf allowance here on May 6, Mas Rapido was unhurried out of the gate and was poised to pounce while a joint fourth at the rail, about 2 ½ lengths off the lead.
Ridden for the first time by Kent Desormeaux, he headed a very well-meant Itzel a furlong out and drew clear to win by a length as the even-money favorite. A close second in a first condition allowance down the hill four starts back on Jan. 27, Mas Rapido thus has a pair of seconds from as many tries over the course.
Owned by Schroeder Farms, LLC, Mas Rapido, who has been no worse than third in his last five starts, is 8-2-2-2 overall and will be seeking his first stakes win on Sunday with Desormeaux up.
Fourth, beaten 5 ½ lengths with no apparent excuses at the 3-5 favorite in the John Shear, Phil D’Amato’s Conclude, who had been ridden in his previous three starts here by the now-departed Flavien Prat, will be paired with Juan Hernandez for the first time as he tries the hill for the second time in what will be her fourth career start.
An emphatic 4 ¼ length maiden winner going 5 ½ furlongs as the 4-5 favorite on turf March 4, Conclude has ample early speed and could certainly lay closer if Hernandez opts to. A son of Collected out of the Proud Citizen mare Believe You Can, Conclude was bred in Kentucky by Brereton C. Jones and is owned by Little Red Feather Racing, Madaket Stable, LLC and Jones.
A gelding on the improve, Peter Miller’s Acquired Class sped to the front and never looked back in breaking his maiden going 6 ½ furlongs out of Santa Anita’s turf chute on April 22, in what was his third start. Although ridden by Juan Hernandez in his last two races, it appears Hernandez has opted to ride Conclude on Sunday, opening the door for Umberto Rispoli, who trails Hernandez 15-10 in the jockey standings at entry time.
A Kentucky-bred by Cairo Prince out of the More Than Ready mare Auntie Sparkles, Acquired Class sold for $70,000 as a Keeneland September Yearling and is owned by Slam Dunk Racing and So Cal Seven Racing.
Last, about eight lengths off the lead at the half-mile pole in the April 9 John Shear, Valiancer was in behind a wall of horses a furlong out and finished a better-than-looked third, beaten 4 ¾ lengths under Hector Berrios who will ride back for Jeff Mullins in the Desert Code, which will be his second try down the hill.
With Berrios and Mullins proving to be a formidable combination this year, Valiancer, with what appears to be an abundance of early speed in the lineup, rates a solid chance late in what will be his 12th career start.
A narrow second on synthetic in his five-furlong debut at Gulfstream Park on May 27 of last year, Valiancer has raced exclusively on grass in all of his subsequent starts, breaking his maiden three starts back going six furlongs on turf Feb. 11, which he followed with a solid come from behind allowance score going 5 ½ furlongs on March 19.
Sold for $150,000 out of a 2-year-old in training sale in June, 2022, Valiancer, who is by Tapiture out of the Declaration of War mare War Angel, is owned by Doug Gans, Gary Jacobs and Larry Katz. With an overall mark of 11-2-3-3, he has earnings of $162,700.
THE $100,000 DESERT CODE WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER
- Valiancer—Hector Berrios—122
- First Peace—Mike Smith—124
- Mas Rápido—Kent Desormeaux—122
- Conclude—Juan Hernandez—120
- Acquired Class—Umberto Rispoli—120
- Ransomwear—Ramon Vazquez—120
First post time for an eight-race card on Sunday is at 1 p.m. with admission gates opening at 11 a.m.