Dan Hendricks will have to wait another year to saddle his first starter in the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap.
The trainer was going to run Top This And That in the Grade I, which will be run for the 69th time today, but a foot problem discovered Wednesday morning kept Hendricks from entering the 4-year-old gray gelding, who had finished second at 18-1 in the Strub Stakes on Feb. 4.
Still, Big ‘Cap Day will be very important to Hendricks.
Five races before Strub winner and 5-2 morning line favorite High Limit and eight others run in the Santa Anita Handicap, Brother Derek, the star of Hendricks’ stable, will make his second appearance of 2006 in the $200,000 Santa Catalina Stakes.
Considered by many to be the top 3-year-old in the country, Brother Derek will look for his fifth victory in seven starts. The Santa Catalina is a Grade II at 1 1/16 miles.
In what will be his final prep for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 8, Brother Derek, a California-bred son of Benchmark, is the 6-5 favorite against eight opponents.
If he is successful for owner Cecil Peacock, Brother Derek will have four graded stakes wins around two turns and that’s a claim no other 3-year-old can make. He already has victories in the Norfolk, Hollywood Futurity and San Rafael.
“We’d like a nice, easy race for him,” Hendricks said. “We don’t need a taxing race. His last two works were phenomenal. He finished strong. The last eighth of a mile was faster than the first eighth. This is just another step for him and we hope to get through it clean.”
The drills Hendricks spoke of were both bests of the morning at Santa Anita. Brother Derek went five furlongs in 59 2/5 Feb. 12, then went six furlongs in 1:12 1/5 11 days later.
“He’s matured,” Hendricks said. “He’s doing things easier now. Over time he’s showed us that he is a good horse.”
Meanwhile, in Florida, another well regarded 3-year-old will try to end a two-race losing streak.
First Samurai, unbeaten before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last Oct. 29 at Belmont Park, had to settle for third that day, then was beaten by Keyed Entry in his first start of 2006 in the Hutcheson Stakes last month.
The son of Giant’s Causeway will try two turns for the first time in the $300,000 Fountain Of Youth today at Gulfstream Park.
“He’s got a great mind, an unusually good mind for a young horse,” trainer Frank Brothers said. “He’ll relax. He’s bigger and, from what I can see, he has done things right from age 2 to now.”
Besides the Santa Anita Handicap and the Santa Catalina, the 11-race card in Arcadia features two other stakes, both on the turf. The $300,000 Kilroe Mile is a Grade I that attracted 14 older horses and the other is the $100,000 Baldwin, a Grade III for 3-year-olds at about 6 1/2 furlongs.
Trainer Bobby Frankel will be trying for his second consecutive Kilroe victory after winning it in 2005 with Leroidesanimaux, who wound up becoming the Eclipse Award winner as the top male turf horse in the country.
Frankel, who also won the race with Decarchy in 2002 and Tychonic in 1996, will saddle Cacique, a 5-year-old Danehill horse making his U.S. debut.
Owned and bred by Juddmonte Farms, Cacique won five of 11 in France. He will be ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, who has never won the Kilroe, which was called the Arcadia Handicap until 2000. Jon Court, who was aboard Leroidesanimaux when he won a year ago, will ride Drum Major today.
The field for the Santa Anita Handicap includes only three horses that have won at 1 1/4 miles.
Giacomo, who has lost nine of 11, became famous with his victory at 10 furlongs when 50-1 in the Kentucky Derby last May 7; Lava Man ran the best race of his career winning the Hollywood Gold Cup by 8 3/4 lengths last July 9 in Inglewood, and Magnum won an optional claimer at Golden Gate Fields last November.