DEL MAR, Calif. -- With the launch of the $500,000 Breeders' Cup Marathon at the Oak Tree meeting on Oct. 25, an emphasis has been placed on distance races in California this year. Big Booster is making all the stops along the way.
Wednesday at Del Mar, Big Booster will be heavily favored to win the $150,000 Cougar II Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on the main track, a race that is part of the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In program for the BC Marathon. If the Marathon were to be run this week, Big Booster would be California's best hope.
Already this year, Big Booster has won the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at about 1 3/4 miles on turf at Santa Anita and the Gallant Man Handicap at 1 5/8 miles on the main track at Hollywood Park. Trainer Mike Mitchell is planning for a start in the BC Marathon.
"By winning the San Juan, I'm in, aren't I?" he asked. "I feel like we're in."
Owned by a partnership, Big Booster is the 121-pound topweight for the Cougar II Handicap, which has drawn a field of seven. Mitchell has prepared a schedule that would give Big Booster a break from Wednesday's race to Oct. 25.
"It's a nice purse and it would set him up," Mitchell said. "I could back up and then point for the Breeders' Cup."
Bettors who support Big Booster will get the typical drama present during his performances. Mitchell expects the 7-year-old gelding to drop out to the back of the field and make his customary late run.
"That's his style," Mitchell said. "That's the way he wants to run."
There are three other 2008 stakes winners in the field - Harlene, who won the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood Park in April; Trevor's Clever, the winner of the Alydar Stakes at Hollywood Park in May; and Zappa, who won the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita in January.
Zappa is trained by John Sadler, who also will start Tissy Fit, the third-place finisher in the Gallant Man Handicap. Both geldings are owned by Gary and Cecil Barber.
"Zappa is the better horse," Sadler said.
Winless in his last five starts, Zappa was third in an optional claimer in which he was eligible to be claimed for $125,000 at Hollywood Park on June 26. Earlier, he was fifth in the Santa Anita Handicap. Big Booster was 10th in the same race.