Alysheba was nominated for Sunday's $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita, and then was assigned top weight of 126 pounds. But he won't be running Sunday. He ran his race before a limited audience Wednesday morning at Hollywood Park.
With Chris McCarron in the saddle, last year's Kentucky Derby winner and champion 3-year-old colt worked 1 miles in an excellent 2:03. It is not terribly meaningful to compare times between different tracks because of varying racing surfaces, but Alysheba's winning time at Churchill Downs was 2:03 2/5.
With that workout as a security blanket, trainer Jack Van Berg will continue with his plan to run Alysheba without a prep race in the $500,000 Charles H. Strub Stakes at Santa Anita a week from Sunday.
Alysheba has shown that he knows how to crank himself up when he comes into a race fresh. He ran second, a nose short of Ferdinand, in the $3-million Breeders' Cup Classic last November after a seven-week layoff.
Even with Alysheba on the sideline, Sunday's San Pasqual has turned into a private affair. Only five horses are entered, with Super Diamond, who was weighted a pound under Alysheba, expected to go off the favorite.
Epidaurus, another San Pasqual starter, beat Super Diamond in the San Carlos Handicap Jan. 9, but Super Diamond rallied from last, then missed by a nose at the wire, and that race was only seven furlongs. Sunday's distance is 1 1/16 miles.
Starting at the rail, the San Pasqual field consists of Speedy Shannon, carrying 112 pounds with Sandy Hawley riding; Super Diamond, 125, Laffit Pincay; He's a Saros, 114, Jorge Velasquez; Epidaurus, 118, Pat Valenzuela; and Judge Angelucci, 122, Eddie Delahoussaye. All five are assured a share of the purse, with more than $90,000 going to the winner.
Although Epidaurus won the San Pasqual by three-quarters of a length last year, the most dangerous opponent for Super Diamond Sunday appears to be Judge Angelucci, a stablemate from trainer Charlie Whittingham's barn.
The best distances for Judge Angelucci, who will be making his debut as a 5-year-old, are between a mile and 1 1/8 miles. The Breeders' Cup Classic was too far for him, at 1 miles, but he grudgingly held the lead through much of Hollywood Park's long stretch, settling for third, little more than a length behind horse-of-the-year Ferdinand and Alysheba.
Judge Angelucci finished the year with 7 wins, 1 second and 1 third in 11 starts, earning $1.1 million.
Of Sunday's five starters, only Super Diamond and Judge Angelucci are eligible to run in the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap March 19. It would cost an owner $25,000 to supplement into the Big 'Cap.
The San Pasqual, which used to be a favorite vehicle among trainers as a 'Big Cap prep, is no longer so popular that way, not with the San Antonio Handicap, at 1 1/8 miles, scheduled three weeks before the $1-million race.
The last San Pasqual winner who went on to win the Big 'Cap in the same year was Pretense, who doubled up for Whittingham in 1967. Ferdinand is expected to use the San Antonio are his Big 'Cap prep. It's a route that has worked for Whittingham as recently as 1985, with Lord at War.
Horse Racing Notes
Peter Brant says that he didn't fire LeRoy Jolley. The six-year connection between the highly successful owner and the preeminent New York trainer ended this week, with Brant sending all of his American horses to Wayne Lukas. "Racing has changed," Brant said. "You can't stay in one place with your horses anymore. You've got to send them where the big races are, and Wayne and his organization have been very good at doing that. He is established in New York, where I've always been, and he's also in California, where I'd like to run my horses more often than in the past."
Jolley had a division of horses at Santa Anita this winter, but his headquarters are in New York. Friends of Brant say that an important consideration in switching to Lukas was the owner's high regard for Jeff Lukas, Wayne's 30-year-old son, who has been largely responsible for the family's New York division in recent years. While Jolley has been in California this winter, his son, had been caring for the Brant horses in New York.
Laffit Pincay, who broke a bone in his back Dec. 27, will return today, riding six horses, including the top-weighted Clabber Girl, in the Santa Maria Handicap. Pincay also will be back on Super Diamond Sunday. Corey Black rode the horse in the San Carlos Handicap. Pincay spent time in his native Panama and in Hawaii during the layoff. . . . Ferdinand worked a leisurely mile in 1:40 Friday.
Purdue King, who was favored to win last Sunday's El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows and then had to be scratched because of a fever, is back at Santa Anita and galloped 1 miles Friday. Antibiotics successfully brought his temperature down and now Purdue King will run in either the San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita Feb. 27 or the Florida Derby March 5.
Angel Cordero, sidelined since Dec. 30 with back and neck injuries suffered in a Santa Anita spill, is due to resume riding at Aqueduct Feb. 11, taking the mount on Cougarized in the Whirlaway Stakes for 3-year-olds the following day. After spending the rest of that weekend in either New York or Florida, Cordero plans to return to Santa Anita. . . . Bill Shoemaker is riding Ifrad for Charlie Whittingham today in the $100,000 Turf Paradise Handicap in Phoenix. Seven of the 10 horses in the field are from California.