Restrainedvengence gets the stiffest test of his career Saturday when he tackles the likes of Grade I Santa Anita Derby winner Roadster in the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes, a major steppingstone to the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 7.
Val Brinkerhoff feels the five-year-old gelded son of Hold Me Back is up to the task.
“He's been second in a Grade II (the City of Hope Mile on grass) and third in a Grade III (beaten a neck in the Longacres Mile on dirt),” points out Brinkerhoff, who trains the Kentucky-bred for his wife and valued assistant Kelly, and Bobby Joe Grayson Jr., son of Brinkerhoff's late longtime friend and associate, owner/trainer Bobby Joe Grayson Sr., who died on Nov. 8.
“His last race was his best, a fifth off the track record and Tyler (Baze) had him soft at the wire,” Brinkerhoff added, referring to a front-running 4 1/2-length romp over eight foes in the Zia Championship in New Mexico at the same mile and an eighth distance as the San Pasqual.
Restrainedvenence gets a new rider for the race in Abel Cedillo, currently in a ding-dong battle with Joel Rosario for riding honors at Santa Anita's Winter Meet.
“I'm sure he'll be forwardly placed but he doesn't have to be on the lead,” said Brinkerhoff, 63, who has 25 head at Santa Anita “and 20 yearlings we're breaking at my St. George (Utah) training center.”
Five of the 19 career starts by Restrainedvengence have come on dirt, where he has won once, that being the aforementioned Zia Park race. He has won four of 14 on grass, earning $360,222 overall.
Brinkerhoff is one of the hardest-working trainers in a game that requires unflagging focus 24/7, a former jockey who gallops his own horses be they at Santa Anita, Del Mar, Turf Paradise or his training center in Utah. It all began when he was 14 on a dot on the map called Fillmore, Utah, population circa 2,500.
“My dad trained about 30 horses when we lived in Fillmore,” recalled Brinkerhoff, a third-generation horseman. “I was 5-10 and weighed 118 pounds, rode at the smaller venues mainly in Utah and Montana, where I was leading rider, and Wyoming and Fairplex Park (in Pomona).
“I'll never forget the day my dad took me to Pomona. I walked in the jocks' room and immediately became aware of how tall I was. While in California, Bill Shoemaker gave me one of his whips, which I cherished. I rode many winners with it.
“But ultimately, I couldn't make the weight. I was already skinny and at 5-10 and 118 pounds, I didn't have an ounce to lose.”
The San Pasqual, race eight: Roadster, Joel Rosario (7-2); Route Sixty Six, Jose Valdivia, Jr. (20-1); Restrainedvengence, Abel Cedillo (4-1); King Abner, Flavien Prat (4-1); Midcourt, Victor Espinoza (3-1); Instagrand, Umberto Rispoli (12-1); California Street, Mike Smith (12-1); Two Thirty Five, Ruben Fuentes(8-1); Bold Endeavor, Mario Gutierrez (30-1); and Combatant, Drayden Van Dyke (10-1).
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