Friday, November 21, 2008

Colt Could be Long Gone in Prevue Stakes

by Jack Shinar

Unbeaten Backbackbackgone puts his three-race winning streak on the line against a field that includes two-time graded stakes winner Azul Leon in the $100,000 Hollywood Prevue (gr. III) Nov. 23.

The seven-furlong Cushion Track test attracted a compact field of six 2-year-olds.

Trained by Peter Miller for Gerson Racing and partners, Backbackbackgone has posted back-to-back stakes wins that came nearly five months apart.

The Florida-bred son of Put It Back tallied a front-running nose victory over Charlie's Moment in spite of drifting out a bit as the favorite in Oak Tree's Jack Goodman Stakes Oct. 18. Prior to that, the chestnut colt scored a four-length win in the Willard Proctor Memorial at Hollywood Park May 25.

Leading Hollywood jockey Rafael Bejarano, who rode Backbackbackgone for the first time in the Goodman, has the mount once more. They will break from post 2.

Joseph Lacombe's homebred Azul Leon cuts back to a sprint distance for trainer Doug O'Neill after a pair of rough outings in grade I races at 1 1/16 miles. The Lion Heart colt was shuffled back early and was never a factor at odds of 45-1 in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Santa Anita Oct. 25, finishing ninth while less than five lengths behind the victorious Midshipman. In the Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) one month earlier, he failed to fire and finished sixth.

Prior to that, Azul Leon ran second in Del Mar's 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal (gr. II), but was awarded victory on the disqualification of Kelly Leak for interference. At Hollywood Park July 5, the bay romped to a four-length victory in the six-furlong Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III).

Azul Leon worked five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 at Hollywood Nov. 16. Garrett Gomez will ride for the first time.

Arriving from Canada for trainer Mark Casse Nov. 19 was Eugene Melnyk's homebred Congor Bay, who is two-for-two in his brief career, both wins coming over Woodbine's Polytrack racing surface. Congor Bay broke his maiden at first asking by nearly seven lengths in a six-furlong heat Oct.1. The son of Speightstown came back Oct. 26 with a two-length triumph over four first-level allowance rivals at 6 1/2 furlongs as an odds-on choice.

The bay colt got his first workout over the track Nov. 20 and will be ridden for the first time by Michael Baze.

“He seemed to handle it pretty good,” said Ricky Griffith, assistant to Casse. “He was a little fired up this morning, but he’s kind of dropped his head and relaxed a little.”

Griffith added, “The competition is hard to say, but he should handle seven furlongs. He’s flawless thus far.”

Bob Baffert, who has won the Prevue a record four times, is represented by Ventana. The Toccet colt finished fourth with a wide trip in the six-furlong Goodman after shipping from New York a week earlier. That followed a last-place effort in the Champagne (gr. I) Oct. 4. Mike Smith becomes the bay's fourth rider in as many starts.

Arashi Cat, trained by Jeff Mullins, finished third in the Goodman after a first-out maiden win at Del Mar in August.

Jack o' Lantern, a 3 1/2-length winner over $75,000 maiden claimers at Oak Tree one month ago, completes the field.

$100,000 Hollywood Prevue Stakes (gr. III, Race 8, 4:05 p.m.), 2-Year-Olds, 7 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Jack o' Lantern (KY), 116, Isaias D. Enriquez
2. Backbackbackgone (FL), 120, Rafael Bejarano
3. Azul Leon (KY), 122, Garrett K. Gomez
4. Ventana (KY), 116, Mike E. Smith
5. Congor Bay (KY), 118, Michael C. Baze
6. Arashi Cat (KY), 116, Clinton L. Potts

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