In what could likely develop into all-out charge to the wire, Saturday's Grade II, $200,000 City of Hope Mile (turf) has attracted a field of nine 3-year-olds and up and is headed by trainer Mark Glatt's hard knocking Sharp Samurai, who will be handled by wily veteran Hall of Famer Gary Stevens. Most recently second in the Grade II Del Mar Mile Handicap on turf Aug. 19, Sharp Samurai seeks his fourth graded stakes win here on Saturday.
Among those who also rate huge chances in the City of Hope Mile are trainer Christophe Clement's White Flag, who comes off a close second in the Grade III Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint on Sept. 8, Peter Miller's California-bred Fly to Mars, who was disqualified to third after finishing 1 ½ lengths in front of Sharp Samurai in the Del Mar Mile and Dan Blacker's English-bred Double Touch, who earned a lofty Beyer Speed figure in winning the restricted Wickerr Stakes on July 22.
Owner: Red Baron's Barn, LLC, Rancho Temescal and Mark Glatt
Trainer: Mark Glatt
A winner of four consecutive turf stakes last year (all in combination with Gary Stevens), culminating with a score here in the Grade II Twilight Derby at 1 1/8 miles on Oct. 28, he was freshened by Glatt following a close fourth place run as the 7-5 favorite in Del Mar's Grade I Hollywood Derby on Nov. 25. A classified allowance winner here in his comeback June 17, he was then a tough-luck second, beaten a neck in the Grade I Eddie Read Stakes July 22. Bothered in deep stretch when finishing third in the Del Mar Mile Aug. 19, this 4-year-old gelded son of First Samurai looms the horse to beat as he seeks his fourth graded stakes win and his eighth victory from 14 lifetime starts.
Owner: Robert S. Evans
Trainer: Christophe Clement
A proven late-running sprinter on grass, this 4-year-old War Front colt flew late to finish second, beaten a head, in the Grade III Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint going 6 ½ furlongs on Sept. 8. With an overall mark of 11-4-2-3, White Flag, who is based at Belmont Park, will hope to be rolling late under Kent Desormeaux, who will be up for the first time as the Robert Evans homebred seeks his first graded stakes win.
FLY TO MARS
Owner: Gary Barber
Trainer: Peter Miller
The lone California-bred in the field, this 4-year-old Ministers Wild Cat gelding sports the best last-out Beyer Speed figure, as he recorded a career-top 103 in finishing second, 1 ½ lengths in front of Sharp Samurai in the Grade II Del Mar Handicap Aug. 19. Erratic in the stretch, he was disqualified to third by the stewards while ridden by eastern-based Tyler Gaffalione. Fly to Mars will be reunited with Flavien Prat on Saturday, who rode him to a pair of consecutive victories while pressing the early pace in both a one mile turf allowance here on June 10 and a 1 1/16 miles turf Cal-bred stakes at Del Mar July 28. With an overall mark of 15-5-2-2 and earnings of $287,358, he's a solid fit as he seeks his first graded win.
Owner: Radley Equine, Inc., Roadrunner Racing, R. Gold, Scott MacDonald and K. Smole
Trainer: Dan Blacker
A surprise 29-1 winner when ridden from well off the pace in the restricted one mile turf Wickerr Stakes on July 22 by Gary Stevens, he'll be handled for the first time by Alonso Quinonez in the City of Hope Mile. Although well beaten by Sharp Samurai in two graded stakes last year, this 4-year-old English-bred gelding appears to be coming to his best, evidenced by his 96 Beyer Speed figure in the Wickerr—easily the best of eight stateside starts with Blacker. With Stevens opting to stick with Sharp Samurai, Double Touch's fate would appear to rest in large part with the early pace, as the very capable turf rider Alonso Quinonez will hope to pick up tiring horses as he swings for home.
GRADE II CITY OF HOPE MILE WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER
Race 9 of 11 Approximate post time 4:30 p.m. PT
1-Double Touch—Alonso Quinonez—121
2-White Flag—Kent Desormeaux—121
3-Le Ken—Tyler Baze—121
5-Ohio—Drayden Van Dyke—121
6-Pyscho Sister—Edwin Maldonado—118
8-Sharp Samurai—Gary Stevens—123
9-Fly to Mars—Flavien Prat–121
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