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Thursday, 31 January 2013

New Mexico regular to run in G2 Arcadia Stakes

When we think of major turf stakes races, we picture European shippers coming in to face some of our favorite turf stars. We look at pedigrees and at who can handle the turf, and we cheer for our locals to beat the foreigners, although it doesn't always work out that way. We think about the Breeder's Cup Turf, the Canadian International and the Stephen Foster Handicap, among others. However, we don't think about New Mexico, a state with 5 race tracks, none with a turf course. But the 'Land of Enchantment' will be represented on Saturday in the Grade II, 1-mile Arcadia Stakes at Santa Anita by Forest Mouse.  
      Forest Mouse spent his 2012 campaign running in the New Mexico Handicap division, and has spent his entire career as a stakes regular in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. The 5 year-old horse is coming off of back to back victories in the $200,000 Zia Park Distance Championship and the $50,000 Winsham Lad Handicap at Sunland Park.
Forest Mouse in the $200,000 Zia Park Distance Championship
        Forest Mouse is the kind of horse that confuses me in these kind of races. His form is incredible, he didn't finish worse than 2nd in his 8 starts in 2012, and throughout his 28 race career he's notched 12 wins, 8 seconds and 2 thirds. He's earned over $400,000, which is impressive for a horse who's never raced at a major track (with one exception, one start at Arlington in 2011.) His turf form is also very good, 4-for-6 with multiple stakes wins at Turf Paradise on the lawn. Speed figure wise, he's very competitive here. If this were the next handicap at Sunland, he'd likely go off under even money.
       But this isn't a New Mexico handicap race. This is a Grade II at Santa Anita. He's got to face the big boys today. Who are the big boys? There's Irish-bred Vagabond Shoes, a multiple Group III winner in France who's been working steadily on the Santa Anita turf for John Sadler. How about Gary Mandella trainee Silentio, who's only been beaten once in his 4 start career, and is coming off of a victory in the Grade II Sir Beaufort Stakes about a month ago. Then there's multiple Group I winner in Argentina Suggestive Boy, who's exiting the Breeder's Cup Mile. It's not an easy spot for a horse who hasn't touched the grass in over a year.
       But I'm a believer in cheering for the underdog. The little horse who could. Forest Mouse is a big fish in the small pond that is New Mexico, but that doesn't mean he can't be a winner in the big lake. It may not be as great a tale as Mine That Bird, but I'll be cheering all the way for Forest Mouse to pull the upset in the Arcadia, and remind everybody to take some time to think about and enjoy the racing from the Land of Enchantment.

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