Las Vegas, NV - The Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap comes our way from Del Mar Race Track in Del Mar, California on Friday, July 25. Horses three years old and upward will take to Del Mar's All Weather Track and go 1 1/2 miles searching for the winner's share of the $100,000 purse.
A large but somewhat unflattering field of 11 have been confirmed for the Cougar II - race 7 on Del Mar's Friday card. Post time is 7:00 PM. Here is a brief look into the past performances of all 11 combatants for this Grade 3 stakes.
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2014 Cougar II Handicap Race Favorite Entries
Sky Kingdom - raced for the first time since last August on July 4 for trainer Bob Baffert and posted a nice win over Handsome Mike in the minor American Flag Stakes at Los Alamitos. Before the long layoff was a fourth in the minor Harry F. Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar, a good second behind Richard's Kid in the 2013 Cougar II Handicap and a third in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup. He won two of three starts to begin 2013 as well including a career highlight win in the 2013 Grade 3 Tokyo City Cup in March, 2013. Sky Kingdom has five wins, a second and two third place finishes in 14 career starts and has been good in his recent limited starts. Victor Espinoza has the mount on the probable favorite from post 8.
Old Time Hockey - Thomas Proctor trained gelding won the Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap August 11 2012 and took until March, 2013 to post victory again - a win in the minor Tampa Turf Classic Stakes followed an Allowance Optional Claiming score on that same track a couple of weeks earlier and a second in the minor Florida Sunshine Millions Turf Stakes. Last time out was a fourth in the minor American Flag Stakes July 4 after an ugly tenth in the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland in April. Old Time Hockey has 23 career starts with five wins, three seconds and three third place finishes and has placed in three of his last five overall. He had looked good before a recent hiccup - hopes are that he can return to form Friday. Joe Talamo rides from post 4.
Cougar II Handicap 2014 | Remaining Contenders
Soi Phet - has 27 career starts with seven wins, two seconds and two third place finishes and enters on a nice two race win streak - by 3 3/4 lengths in the minor Bertrando Stakes last time out July 3 at Los Alamitos and a Starter Handicap at Santa Anita June 8. He failed to place in four starts prior including a sixth in the 2014 Grade 2 Charles Whittingham Stakes and a fifth in the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes but has looked much better since that stretch. He also had a four race win streak last summer - three Allowance races at Del Mar and a Starter Allowance at Hollywood Park in June. Soi Phet leaves from post 9 with Kent Desormeaux in the reins, looking to make it three straight wins.
Lideris - made his North American debut June 28 trainer Peter Miller and finished fifth in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Before that was a good win in the Group 1 Gran Premio Asociacion Latinoamericana de Jockey Clubes e Hipodromos in Peru March 15 after a second and a fifth in stakes action on that same track to start his year. He also ended 2013 with a Grade 2 score - the Clasico Hipodromo de Monterrico. Lideris was successful at home and hopes are that his success finally translates to North America. Juan Eugenio Enriquez gets the call aboard the most intriguing entry from the rail Friday.
Longview Drive - Jerry Hollendorfer pupil hasn't been worse than fourth in 10 starts dating back to October, 2013. He was at his best early in his career - three wins, a second and two third to start his career - 2011 and 2012. He is coming off a win in the minor Oak Tree Handicap June 21 after a good second in the Grade 3 All American Stakes and a fourth in the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile - the last two starts coming at Golden Gate. He also had a pair of minor stakes win in 2011. Overall Longview Drive has four wins, three seconds and seven third place finishes in 23 career starts and has placed in four of seven starts this year. Off a win and a second in his last two starts, Longview Drive looks to be moving in the right direction ahead of this race. He departs from gate 2 with William Antongeorgi in the saddle.
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American Blend - has 15 career starts for trainer Carla Gaines with three wins, a second and two third place finishes. He finished an OK third in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes in February but has failed to place in his last four starts overall - a fifth last time out in a Claiming June 15 followed fourth place finishes in the Grade 3 Precisionist Stakes and in the Tokyo City Cup before his career worst result- an eighth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap. He had an Allowance Optional Claiming score to start his year but hasn't been great lately. Stewart Elliot has been tabbed to ride American Blend from post 3 Friday.
Ice Cream Truck - AC Avila trained gelding makes his stakes debut Friday after 16 career starts yielded just two wins, seven seconds and two third place finishes. He enters having placed in all eight starts this year - two wins, five seconds and a third place finish. Last time out was a third in a Starter Handicap after consecutive Claiming scores - all three results at Santa Anita. Ice Cream Truck is in decent form but takes an enormous step up in competition Friday. Tiago Josue Periera has the call from gate 5.
Big John B - has won four of seven starts this year and three of his last four starts overall. He enters on a two race win streak - a Starter Handicap June 29 and a Claiming score in May. Big John B has 26 career starts with nine wins, five seconds and three third place finishes. He departs from post 6 with Mike Smith aboard.
Bailoutbobby - Doug O'Neill trained gelding made his first start in graded stakes company last time out and finished fourth in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Stakes at Santa Anita June 29 after a second in an Allowance May 24 and a win in a Starter Allowance May 8. He has four wins, a second and two third place finishes in 17 career starts and enters in so-so form. Tyler Baze gets the call from gate 7 Friday.
Irish Surf - had a two race win streak last summer including a MSW in July but has failed to place in his last seven starts overall. He is coming off an OK fourth place finish in the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham Stakes here May 24 after a fourth and a fifth respectively in a pair of Allowance Optional Claiming races here this year. Last year Irish Surf had a fourth in the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup, a ninth in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, a seventh in the Grade 2 Twilight Derby in November and a ninth in the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship in September. He has just two wins, a second and four third place finishes in 17 career starts and looks to be in tough here. He looks to hit the board for the first time in a year with Elvis Trujillo in the saddle from the outside post.
Layton Register - has 15 career starts with just two wins, three seconds and two third place finishes and is coming off a disappointing sixth in an Allowance Optional Claiming at Arlington June 19 which followed an Allowance score, an eighth in an Allowance in April and an eleventh in his only stakes action to date - the Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs in November. He steps back into stakes company in less-than-spectacular form and will have Corey Nakatani in the irons from post 10.