Peter Eurton would like to have a decent start for Giant Expectations in Saturday's Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita, a nine furlong test for older horses that is a precursor to the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 9.
A six-year-old New York-bred son of Free Giant, Giant Expectations is a notoriously balky gate horse, as the trouble lines in his 14 career starts indicate: “Off slow, fractious gate, off slow, hopped, bobbled start, slow start, slow start.”
“He has to break well,” Eurton said. “He's had issues, but lately, he's been standing good in the gate, so we'll see what happens.”
Great Expectations closed a gap in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile last Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs despite yet another tardy beginning.
“It wasn't a bad start,” Eurton said. “It's just that the track was not like it was when we ran a month before that (third in the Ack Ack at Churchill on Sept. 29) . . . He's trained well for this race although this is a tough spot with McKinzie and Battle of Midway, but we'll be there.”
The field for the San Pasqual, race nine: Pavel, Mario Gutierrez, 8-1; Dalmore, Kent Desormeaux, 20-1; Dabster, Joe Talamo, 5-1; Shivermetimbers, Geovanni Franco, 30-1; Giant Expectations, Joel Rosario, 12-1; Sonneteer, Rafael Bejarano, 20-1; McKinzie, Mike Smith, 4-5; and Battle of Midway, Flavien Prat, 5-2.
World traveler Pavel is back home for Saturday's San Pasqual Stakes and Team Doug O'Neill hopes the gray son of Creative Cause owned by principal client Reddam Racing returns to form for the steppingstone to the Santa Anita Handicap on March 9.
Pavel was “never a factor” finishing 10th in the Grade I Champions Cup in Japan last out on Dec. 2, but has been working well at Santa Anita for the San Pasqual.
“It didn't seem like the race in Japan took that much out him; that's why he's back Saturday,” said O'Neill assistant Leandro Mora. “It was just another trip for the horse, who is OK traveling, but the track was different and he couldn't get a hold of it. It was very sandy.”
With three wins from 13 starts on tracks including Saratoga, Parx, Belmont, Del Mar, Meydan, Churchill Downs and Chukyo in Japan, in addition to Santa Anita, Pavel has more than paid his way, earning $1,375,000.
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