Hronis Racing’s Hard Aces and jockey Santiago Gonzalez win the 2016 Grade III $ 100,000 Cougar II Handicap
Hronis Racing’s Hard Aces, winner of the 2016 $ 100,000 Cougar II Handicap, will be back to defend his title Wednesday in this summer’s renewal of the Grade III mile and one-half test over the main dirt track at Del Mar.
Hard Aces, a winner of $ 1.2 million in his career, will shoulder highweight of 124 pounds including jockey Santiago Gonzalez versus six opponents – Argentine-bred Infobedad, 117, Tyler Baze; Curlin Road, 119, Flavien Prat; Big John B, 122, Rafael Bejarano; French Getaway, 117, Kent Desormeaux; Noble Nick, 114, William Antongeorgi III, and Giant Influence, 117, Jamie Theriot.
Hard Aces, a son of Hard Spun trained by John Sadler, was a wire-to-wire winner of the Cougar last summer, scoring by a game half-length over Quick Casablanca while carrying two pounds less than he will pack Wednesday. Most recently, he was third, beaten six lengths, to Cupid in the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita in late May.
Hard Aces’ most formidable rival is probably the veteran campaigner Big John B, who lost to Hard Aces by only a neck in the 12-furlong Tokyo City Handicap at Santa Anita last April while being conceded two pounds 124-122, same as Wednesday’s weight spread. However, Big John B was a well-beaten sixth in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Big John B won the 2015 Cougar II as well as the Del Mar Handicap on grass later that summer.
Coming into Wednesday’s race fresh from victories are Curlin Road, French Getaway and Giant Influence.
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