Grade 1 winner Jeranimo launches his 7-year-old campaign Jan. 13 on the turf at Santa Anita Park in the $150,000 San Gabriel Stakes, a race he won in 2010 and was second in last year.
B.J. Wright's Florda-bred son of Congaree gets a new rider in Rafael Bejarano for the 1 1/8-mile event, which drew a field of seven. The race is the eighth on Santa Anita's Sunday program with a 4:07 p.m. PST scheduled post.
The other leading contender in the San Gabriel is two-time Grade 2 winner Slim Shadey, who should be forwardly placed with Chosen Miracle the likely pacesetter. Slim Shadey carries top weight of 123 pounds, three more than Jeranimo, and five more than the others in the field.
"He likes this turf course," said trainer Simon Callaghan of Slim Shadey. "He always seems to run a good race here. He's won on the lead but he can track. If one [horse] wants to go quick, we'll just stalk, and if we find ourself on the lead, it's no problem either."
In last year's San Gabriel, Jeranimo took a clear lead in the stretch as the odds-on choice after pressuring on the front end, but could not hold off Norvsky and settled for second, beaten by 1 1/2 lengths.
Since then, Jeranimo has taken a more relaxed approach, coming from off the pace for trainer Michael Pender. The tactic produced a clutch 1 1/4-length score in the Shoemaker Mile June 30 at Betfair Hollywood Park. Jeranimo has failed to win in three starts since, however.
Following a third in the Del Mar Mile Handicap, the bay horse ran a non-threatening sixth in the Breeders' Cup Mile, coming from far out of it under Garrett Gomez. He was then outkicked while finishing fourth in the Citation Handicap in his most recent outing Nov. 24.
Jeranimo drew the far outside post for his return, with Slim Shadey to break from post 4.
Phil Cunningham's British-bred 5-year-old by Val Royal shortens up for Callaghan after setting the pace and tiring to fourth in the 12-furlong Hollywood Turf Cup Dec. 15.
Winner of the John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita over 10 furlongs Sept. 28, Slim Shadey ran eighth in his next start, the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Cup Turf.
Slim Shadey has won just four of 24 starts in a career that began in Europe, but three of those victories have come at Santa Anita. Gomez regains the mount.
Chosen Miracle, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, had a troubled trip in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint and was a distant 12th on the hillside turf course. But he rebounded nicely when stretched to 1 1/16 miles for a gate-to-wire tally over an allowance optional claiming field Dec. 8. The nine furlongs of the San Gabriel will be the longest yet for the 5-year-old Ghostzapper horse. Joe Talamo rides him back.
Juniper Pass, winner of the San Luis Rey and San Juan Capistrano in back-to-back fashion over the course in the spring of 2011, gets back on grass for trainer Thomas Bell II. The 6-year-old Lemon Drop Kid gelding faded to fourth in the 1 3/4-mile Breeders' Cup Marathon on Santa Anita's main track Nov. 2.
Temple's Door and Tale of a Champion, fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Citation in their most recent starts, and Fast Track, seeking his first stakes victory, complete the field.
Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens is aboard Tale of a Champion, who races without blinkers for trainer Kristin Mulhall.