A dazzling winner of his only two stateside starts, Irish-bred Hong Kong Harry steps into graded stakes competition and shortens up a furlong as he Fitzdares Royal Whip Stakes Day heads a field of 10 3-year-olds and up in Sunday’s Grade 3, $100,000 American Stakes at one mile over the Santa Anita turf.
In what shapes up as perhaps the best betting race on the closing day program, the inaugural American, which was won by Bing Crosby’s Ligaroti in 1938 at Hollywood Park, will be contested for the 83rd time on Sunday.
Small in stature but blessed with what appears to be tremendous talent, Hong Kong Harry, a 5-year-old chestnut gelding, won four out of his seven starts in England at ages three and four and made his U.S. Debut here at Santa Anita on March 6. Off at 1-2 in a mile and one eighth turf allowance, he was away slowly but won easily by three lengths under Flavien Prat.
With Ramon Vazquez taking over on April 16, the result was similar in a second condition allowance at a mile and one eighth as Hong Kong Harry stalked the early pace, pounced around the far turn and finished up impressively to win by 1 ½ lengths at 9-5.
In his final English start and his only try at one mile on turf, “Harry” was second, beaten a half length as the 7-2 favorite in a field of 10 on Sept. 18.
One of two Phil D’Amato trainees in the American, Hong Kong Harry is owned by Scott Anastasi, Jimmy Ukegawa and Tony Valazza. With an overall mark of 9-6-1-1, he has earnings of $125,097.
Most recently second, beaten a half length as the 5-2 favorite in the G3 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields April 30, Vanzzy would appear to rate big chance in what will be his first start for trainer Dan Blacker. A well beaten fifth in his Southern California debut going six furlongs out of the turf chute in the Clockers’ Corner Stakes three starts back on Jan. 22, Vanzzy came back to register an emphatic one-length score in a one mile turf allowance here March 25, earning a lofty 96 Beyer Speed Figure.
A three-time ungraded stakes winner on the east coast, Vanzzy is owned by Michael and Julie Iavarone and will be ridden for the third time in a row by Joe Bravo. With two wins and a second at a mile on grass, Vanzzy, a 5-year-old horse by Verrazano out of the Forest Wildcat mare Selva, is 19-6-2-3 overall with earnings of $390,692.
Although he was never a threat, finishing 11th at 4-1 in the G3 San Francisco Mile, French-bred Ecrivain ran a big third, beaten 1 ½ lengths as the even money favorite in a one mile turf classified allowance on March 25, posting a 93 Beyer. Trained by Richard Mandella and owned and bred by Wertheimer and Frere, 5-year-old Ecrivain will be ridden by Umberto Rispoli, who was aboard two starts back. A two-time Group 3 winner at one mile on turf in France, Ecrivain is 18-4-2-2 overall with earnings of $213,922.
Neil Drysdale’s Brazilian-bred Homer Screen, a Group 2 winner at one mile on turf in Brazil, comes off an improved fourth place run going 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf course in the G3 Daytona Stakes May 29. Owned by Team Valor International, LLC, 6-year-old Homer Screen rates a solid chance with Drayden Van Dyke aboard for the first time.
Last year’s G1 Pacific Classic winner Tripoli, idle since well beaten in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar Nov. 6, returns to turf after running five consecutive races on dirt. Trained by John Sadler and owned by Hronis Racing, LLC, Tripoli has a win, two seconds and a third place finish from five tries at one mile on turf and rates and upset chance with his Pacific Classic-winning jockey Tiago Pereira back aboard.