By Emily Shields
This Saturday, January 19, Aqueduct will hold the Toboggan Stakes (G3) and Santa Anita will run the Palos Verdes Stakes (G2). Both graded events are sprints for older males.
The six-furlong Palos Verdes has seen some of California’s best sprinters win over the years: Lit de Justice and Big Jag won the race in the late 1990s, and Kona Gold kicked off his fabulous 2000 season in the $200,000 event. Two defending champions will try to reach the winner’s circle again: 2017 victor St. Joe Bay and 2018 hero Roy H.
Roy H. is making his first start since romping home in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Churchill Downs in November. He has been working steadily at San Luis Rey Downs since, including a three-furlong move in :37.2 last Sunday. The seven-year-old More Than Ready gelding won three of five starts last year, kicking off with the Palos Verdes victory and then finishing third, beaten only three-quarters of a length, in the Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan. He has earned over $3 million, is expected to be named the Eclipse Champion Sprinter for 2018, and will be ridden by Paco Lopez for trainer Peter Miller.
St. Joe Bay is a hard-knocking type with six wins in 34 starts and 19 top three finishes. The John Sadler-trainee is coming off a smart allowance win at Los Alamitos in December, but has not won against stakes company since his Palos Verdes score two years ago. Others in with a shot at the upset are Kanthaka, eighth in the Malibu (G1) last out but won the seven-furlong Laz Barrera (G3) in his start before that, and Roy H’s stablemate Conquest Tsunami. This will be his first dirt start in 11 months.
Aqueduct’s five-horse Toboggan will go as the fifth race on a nine-race card. The seven-furlong race, worth $100,000, is led by Skyler’s Scramjet and Gold for the King, both of whom are four for seven on the dirt at Aqueduct. Colonel Sharp is coming off two straight victories at Laurel Park, and Bal Harbour was a stakes winner over the course two back. Rounding out the field on the outside is California transplant Solid Wager, who makes his first start outside the Golden State after changing barns. He won the Cary Grant Stakes at Del Mar by 6 ¼ lengths two starts back.
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