Country Grammer , winner of the 2020 Peter Pan Stakes (G3) at Saratoga Race Course, is scheduled to make his first start under trainer Bob Baffert’s guidance in the $200,000 Californian Stakes (G2) April 17 at Santa Anita Park.
Country Grammer is scheduled to face four other older horses, including Independence Hall , who ran third in this year’s Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) to Knicks Go and Jesus’ Team.
Flavien Prat, Santa Anita’s leading jockey, regularly rides Independence Hall and remains on that runner for trainer Michael McCarthy in the Californian at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt. Independence Hall drew the outside post, while Country Grammer, with Abel Cedillo named to ride, drew post 3.
WinStar Farm owns Country Grammer and is a partner on Independence Hall with Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks Racing Stables, and Kathleen and Robert Veratti. A 4-year-old son of Constitution —Kalahari Cat, by Cape Town, Independence Hall won the 2019 Nashua Stakes (G3) and 2020 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct under Michael Trombetta’s tutelage. McCarthy has trained Independence Hall since late last year.
When owned by the late Paul Pompa Jr. and trained by Chad Brown, Country Grammer won two of six races, including a neck victory over Caracaro in the Peter Pan. Mystic Guide , who won this year’s Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1), ran third in the Peter Pan.
From the Lane’s End consignment, Country Grammer, a 4-year-old son of Tonalist —Arabian Song, by Forestry, sold at the 2021 Keeneland January mixed sale for $110,000 to WinStar. Baffert said that as the horse was selling, Elliott Walden, president, CEO, and racing manager of WinStar, called the trainer and asked him to take the colt. Walden and Baffert thought Country Grammer might do well in the older horse division in California.
“I had him in an allowance race last week, and then I scratched him,” Baffert said. “He had the outside. We knew this race was going to be a short field. We’re going to get a feel for him.”
Baffert also entered Magic On Tap in the Californian, which traditionally serves as a prep for the Hollywood Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1), this year scheduled for May 31. Originally, both races were run at Hollywood Park, which closed in 2013. SoFi Stadium, home to the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, now sits on that property in Inglewood, Calif.
A homebred for Jane Lyon’s Summer Wind Equine, Magic On Tap is a strapping gray 5-year-old son of Tapit . He has started only four times, winning twice and running second twice. Most recently Magic On Tap scored in a March 28 allowance level race, his first start since September 2019. The Californian will be his stakes debut.
“We thought we’ll give him a chance to run in here,” Baffert said. “If he runs well here, he can run in the Gold Cup. He’s a beautiful horse–he almost looks like a Lippizaner. We were always very high on him. And then he had some issues over little things.”
Prat piloted Magic On Tap in the March 28 race, but with the jockey remaining on Independence Hall, Umberto Rispoli will ride Magic On Tap from post 2.
Royal Ship, a Brazilian-bred 5-year-old gelded son of Midshipman owned by Fox Hill Farms and Siena Farm, won the Estado do Rio de Janeiro (G1) in his native country, but has been unable to win in four U.S. starts. His best effort in this country was a third in the 2020 Del Mar Mile Handicap (G2T) on the turf. Mike Smith rides Royal Ship, who drew post 4.
Hronis Racing owns Growth Engine, a 5-year-old son of Tapit. An allowance winner at Monmouth Park, Growth Engine has only started once for Sadler, running fifth in the March 28 Santana Mile Stakes. David Ingordo purchased Growth Engine as agent for $150,000 at the 2020 Keeneland November sale. Tyler Baze has the mount, and Growth Engine drew the rail.
The April 17 Santa Anita card also marks the return to the races for Ce Ce , winner of the 2020 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1). McCarthy has entered the 5-year-old daughter of Elusive Quality in a seven-furlong allowance level race and has named Victor Espinoza to ride. Ce Ce, bred and owned by Bo Hirsch, also won last year’s Beholder Mile Stakes (G1) and hasn’t raced since finishing fifth in the Nov. 7 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).
Santa Anita Park, Saturday, April 17, 2021, Race 8
- Grade II
- 1 1/8m
- 4 yo’s & up
- 4:30 PM (local)