Horses like Seabiscuit, John Henry, Spectacular Bid, Tiznow, Lava Man and Alysheba have all won the historic Grade 1 $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap during their great careers.
This Saturday, 2011 and 2012 Portland Mile winner Deacon Speakin will look to add his name to the record books as he is one of ten runners entered in the 2013 edition of the ‘Big Cap.’ Deacon Speakin will likely be the biggest long shot in the field as he is also the low weight when it came to handicapping the race, as jockey Alberto Delgado will only have to ride at 108 pounds, 17 pounds less than probable favorite Game on Dude. Game on Dude won the race back in 2011 and last year’s winner Ron the Greek is back as well, so the race figures to be a very tough edition. But all that hasn’t stopped owner Paul Hagemann from taking a shot.
“You know some people think I’m crazy for entering this horse, and I’m not going to say they’re wrong,” said a chuckling Hagemann. “But my trainer (Michael Pender) is just so pumped up about how Deacon’s been training and we’re actually pretty optimistic.”
Deacon Speakin was third last time out in a Starter Stakes on Super Bowl Sunday, a race in which he was a fast closing third behind Bright Thought, who came right back to win last time out and is pointing towards the San Juan Capistrano Stakes at Santa Anita later in the meet.
“He was closing really fast in that last race and the surface switch could help him,” said Hagemann. “Michael (Pender) said he’s watched back both of his efforts in the Portland Mile over the sand surface and thinks that if he can skip over this Santa Anita surface like he did over the Portland surface, then we have a shot.”
Hagemann isn’t just taking a shot for the sake of taking a shot, but he’s putting his money where his mouth is. It cost $300 to nominate for the race and there were nineteen horses that were nominated. With the handicap weight as low as it was, Hagemann was going to need some of the horses that nominated to not enter, which they didn’t. So he ponied up $11,000 to enter his horse in the Santa Anita Handicap.
“We are going to have to run fifth to get our money back,” said Hagemann. “But I think he can and will do better than that, but I also won’t be surprised if he doesn’t run in the top five, it’s a tough race. But I’m not just throwing the money away. I’ve always wanted a horse to run in a big race like this and I think he deserves a shot.”
Deacon Speakin has drawn the number three post-position in the field of ten runners that will compete over a mile and a quarter distance. Deacon Speakin is seven years of age and has won 8 of his 56 career starts and banked $222,874 during his racing career.
“You know he just keeps getting better with age,” said Hagemann. “I’m really hopeful that if they go fast early and he likes the surface that he can make a big run and maybe we can make some history.”