Thursday, December 27, 2007 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . December 27, 2007 . . . Graded stakes winner Sweetnorthernsaint, favored in the 2006 Kentucky Derby and second in the Preakness that year, returns to racing Saturday in the $50,000 Holiday Cheer Stakes at Turfway Park. The 4-year-old gelding has not raced since a hard-fought neck loss to Bob and John in the Grade III Lone Star Park Handicap in May.
The six-furlong Holiday Cheer returns Sweetnorthernsaint to a distance he hasn't seen since his third race, his 7 3/4-length maiden win at Aqueduct. The race also gives him his first start on Polytrack, a prep for Sunshine Millions day on Santa Anita's all-weather surface. He has twice breezed over the all-weather surface at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, including a best-of-eight last week. A confirmed frontrunner, Sweetnorthernsaint has posted six wins, three seconds, and two thirds in 15 starts for trainer Michael Trombetta, earning $860,175. Victor Lebron has been named to ride in the Holiday Cheer.
Also likely to be contesting the lead early is Junior College, one of two entries from the barn of Anthony Reinstedler. A multiple stakes winner, Junior College comes in to the Holiday Cheer off a five-length wire-to-wire victory in the Bet On Sunshine Handicap at Churchill Downs last month. Jesus Castanon returns to Turfway for the mount.
Four others of the 12-horse field are previous Turfway stakes winners. The Holiday Cheer is the second race back off a layoff for both Awesome Hero, winner of the 2007 Hansel Stakes, and U D Ghetto, Reinstedler’s other entry and winner of the 2006 Kentucky Cup Juvenile (G3). Reigning Court, winner of the 2006 Kentucky Cup Sprint (G3), and Carnacks Choice, winner of the 2007 Turfway Prevue, also return to Turfway in the Holiday Cheer.
The field for the Holiday Cheer from the rail out includes Dooze (jockey John McKee); Reigning Court (Mary Doser); Awesome Hero (Thomas Pompell); Carnacks Choice (Dean Sarvis); Markum (Justin Vitek); Junior College (Castanon); Storm Marcopolo (Larry Melancon); Three Twenty Three (Dylan Williams); Raedonald (James Lopez); U D Ghetto (Brian Hernandez Jr.); Star By Design (Carlos Silva); and Sweetnorthernsaint (Lebron). Banbury Cross and Big Rushlet are on the also-eligible list.
Saturday is also Turfway Park's annual calendar giveaway day. The first 1,500 fans through the gate will receive a free 2008 wall calendar, with each page showing strategy involved at various stages of a race.
Gates open at 11:15 am. Racing begins at 1:10 pm. Admission and parking are free.