Saturday will mark a day of firsts for Texas Ryano, when the 6-year-old full horse owned and bred by Warren Williamson runs in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on dirt.
For the first time in a career of 20 races, all on turf, the chestnut son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin will race on the main track. He will have a new rider in Mike Smith, and for the first time in 15 starts, will race without blinkers.
Texas Ryano had been scheduled to run in Saturday's marathon San Juan Capistrano Stakes on grass, but owner/breeder Warren Williamson called an audible and trainer Carla Gaines entered him in the Californian.
“If he happens to excel on dirt, perhaps it would enhance his value if he stands somewhere as a stallion,” said Gaines, who has enjoyed a successful business association with Williamson for three decades.
Texas Ryano, a stone closer, has a 5-3-3 record in those 20 grass starts, with earnings of $442,700. He rallied five wide to finish fifth in the G2 San Luis Rey Stakes at a mile and a half on turf March 25.
The earliest he has been in front in any race came at the stretch call, and then but once, against five foes in the G2 Hollywood Turf Cup at Del Mar last Nov. 25.
“We often get caught so far back in those slow-paced grass races, because there's no pace up front,” Gaines said.
“Texas Ryano still comes flying, but they quicken up front and he usually has to circle the field trying catch the horses up front galloping along in 49 and 50 (for a half-mile). We're a victim of a slow pace and have to cover more ground. Curlins can run on dirt, but on his dam side (the Irish-bred Blending Element), it's all grass.
“Mr. Williamson and I have had great success through the years, and there's nothing wrong with trying the horse on dirt.”
The Californian, race eight of 10 with a 1 p.m. first post time: Collected, Martin Garcia, 8-5; Cupid, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; Prospect Park, Flavien Prat, 7-2; Prime Attraction, Santiago Gonzalez, 10-1; Texas Ryano, Mike Smith, 15-1; and Follow Me Crev, Kent Desormeaux, 5-2.
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