ARCADIA, Calif.–At the top of his game at age seven, trainer Phil D’Amato’s venerable gelding Say the Word, fresh off a big come from behind victory in his most recent start, heads a compact field of six older horses going a mile and one quarter on turf in Sunday’s Grade II, $225,000 San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita.
Third to Say the Word in the Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup Nov. 26, Friar’s Road came up a nose short as the 3-5 favorite in the Grade III San Gabriel Stakes here on Dec. 26 and will hope for better luck going an extra furlong.
Irish-bred Lincoln Hawk, although trying graded stakes competition for the first time since running a close fifth at 28-1 five starts back in the Grade II Del Mar Derby, could certainly qualify as a “now” horse as he comes off an impressive allowance tally over the course at a mile and one eighth.
With a short field in prospect and what appears to be a dearth of front-running speed, eight-year-old Acclimate, a highly accomplished California-bred gelding, could be long gone on the San Marcos lead.
Throw in San Gabriel winner Bob and Jackie, who will be tasked with keeping Acclimate busy early, and the San Marcos looks to be very competitive affair.
Under a well-timed ride from Kent Desormeaux, Say the Word, an Ontario/Canadian-bred son of More Than Ready, flew from far off the pace to collar Acclimate late going a mile and one half on the Del Mar Turf and won the Hollywood Turf Cup going away by one length while earning a 101 Beyer Speed Figure.
A Group I winner in his final Canadian start at Woodbine nine starts back on Oct. 18, 2020, Say the Word has won two of his eight starts for D’Amato, including a Grade II stakes at Keeneland on April 17, 2021. Owned by Agave Racing Stable and Sam-Son Farm, he’ll be ridden back by Desormeaux as he bids for his fourth graded stakes win and his eight overall victory from what will be his 34th career start.
Off as the 3-5 favorite with Irad Ortiz in the Grade III San Gabriel, Friar’s Road stalked the early pace, wheeled three-deep turning for home and just missed in what was his fifth start of 2021. Third, beaten 1 ¼ lengths by Say the Word two starts back in the Hollywood Turf Cup, Friar’s Road flew late to be third, beaten a head by multiple Grade I winner United three starts back in the Grade II John Henry Turf Championship here on Oct. 2.
With Flavien Prat taking over, look for Friar’s Road, who seeks his first graded stakes win, to get plenty of pari-mutuel attention. Owned by Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren, Friar’s Road, a 5-year-old horse by Quality Road, is trained by Michael McCarthy and brings an overall mark of 12-2-4-2.
Although his Bob and Jackie comes off a gutty nose win in the Grade II San Gabriel, trainer Richard Baltas may have an Ace in the hole with Lincoln Hawk, who surged late to take a first condition allowance on Dec. 27. Patiently handled by Juan Hernandez, Lincoln Hawk is one of several who will have to hope for a realistic pace on Sunday. Owned by Rockingham Ranch and Supreme Racing, Lincoln Hawk, who has won two of his seven stateside starts with D’Amato, is 12-2-2-2 overall and will be trying a mile and one quarter for the first time.
If he’s up to the challenge at age eight, conditions could be to order for front-running Acclimate as it doesn’t appear anyone can match strides with him early. A gate to wire winner of the mile and three quarters turf Grade III San Juan Capistrano Stakes five starts back on June 19 of last year, Acclimate, a three-time graded winner, will be handled for the seventh consecutive time by Ricky Gonzalez.
The lone Cal-bred in the field, Acclimate, who is by the Eclipse Award-winning Unusual Heat stallion Acclamation, is trained by Phil D’Amato and is owned by the Ellwood Johnston Trust, Timmy Time Racing, LLC, Brooke Bartlett, Ryan Bartlett, Michael Goritz and Kenneth Tevelde. With an overall mark of 29-7-6-5, he has earnings of $683,872, $306,000 of which was earned at age seven last year.
Owned by Calvin Nguyen and Joey Tran, Bob and Jackie, who was off at 5-1, took the Dec. 26th San Gabriel in gate to wire fashion, managing to hold off Friar’s Road by a nose. A 6-year-old horse by Twirling Candy, he notched his first graded stakes win and his fourth overall stakes tally in the San Gabriel under a perfect ride from Jose Valdivia, Jr., who rides back on Sunday.
With an overall mark of 16-5-5-1, Bob and Jackie, who will be trying a mile and one quarter for the first time, will hope to keep Acclimate honest in the early going.
THE GRADE III SAN MARCOS WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER
Race 7 of 9 Approximate post time 3:30 p.m. PT
- Dicey Mo Chara–Abel Cedillo–120
- Lincoln Hawk–Juan Hernandez–120
- Say the Word–Kent Desormeaux–124
- Friar’s Road–Flavien Prat–120
- Acclimate–Ricardo Gonzalez–122
- Bob and Jackie–Jose Valdivia, Jr.–122
First post time for a nine-race card on Sunday is at 12:30 p.m., with admission gates opening at 10:30 a.m.
Santa Anita Press Release
Photo: Say The Word (Benoit Photo)