Gift Box Will Try to Defend Big Cap Title

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By Emily Shields

Saturday is one of the two biggest cards of the Santa Anita 2020 meeting, with five stakes races and two Grade 1 events. The headliner is the $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap (G1), which features defending champion Gift Box taking on Midcourt and shippers Endorsed and Hofburg.

TVG will be offering live coverage of the race, which drew eight runners set to go 1 ¼ miles. Gift Box will try to give trainer John Sadler an unprecedented third consecutive winner in the race after taking it with Accelerate in 2018. Gift Box outdueled McKinzie last year to win by a nose, but the former Chad Brown trainee then ran second in the Gold Cup (G1) behind future Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso, and fourth in the Stephen Foster (G2) at Churchill Downs as the favorite. Gift Box had six months off, but returned in the San Antonio (G2) opening day with a powerful win, scoring by nearly four lengths.

Third in the San Antonio was Midcourt, a lean dark bay trained by John Shirreffs. The son of Midnight Lute out of the star mare Mayo On the Side came right back to win the San Pasqual (G2) here February 1, which was his fifth win in six starts. The horses he defeated in the San Pasqual, Two Thirty Five and Combatant, are back for this. Victor Espinoza will ride.

Hofburg is one of two shippers from out of state. Bill Mott trains the son of Tapit, who was seventh in the 2018 Kentucky Derby. He ran third in the Belmont Stakes (G1) that year, then won the Curlin Stakes, but was away from October until July, 2019, when he won an allowance in style. He then went back to the sidelines until February, where he ran seventh in his grade 3 comeback at the Fair Grounds.

Endorsed will break from the outside. The son of Medaglia d’Oro will be ridden by Drayden Van Dyke. He was fourth in the Travers (G1) last summer after running second in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga. He was off from August until January, when he won an allowance at Gulfstream Park by two lengths under Luis Saez. Kiaran McLaughlin will have one of his final starters here, as the trainer is going to becoming the jockey agent for Saez.

Multiplier and Born Storm complete the field.

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