After securing last year's GI Santa Anita H. by a nose over fellow 'TDN Rising Star' McKinzie (Street Sense) in an absolute thriller, Gift Box (Twirling Candy) kicks off his 7-year-old season ready to defend his title in Saturday's Big 'Cap.
Second behind subsequent GI Breeders' Cup Classic hero Vino Rosso (Curlin) in the GI Gold Cup at Santa Anita May 27, the gray was freshened after finishing fourth as the favorite in the GI Stephen Foster S. at Churchill Downs June 15. He resurfaced with a sharp performance capturing the GII San Antonio S. Dec. 28 and tuned up for this with a five-furlong move in :59 3/5 (3/61) (XBTV video) in Arcadia Feb. 29.
“It was a beautiful, stylish work,” said John Sadler, who could become the first trainer to win this historic race three years in a row (Accelerate '18; Gift Box '19). “He just looked smooth as silk. If that's not an A-plus workout, I don't know what one looks like… We're looking forward to [the Big 'Cap].”
Second-choice Midcourt (Midnight Lute) enters having won five of his last six, with his lone loss a well-beaten third behind Gift Box in the San Antonio. Midcourt ran away with a wire-to-wire victory over Two Thirty Five (Stay Thirsty) and Combatant (Scat Daddy) in Santa Anita's GII San Pasqual S. last time Feb. 1.
Godolphin homebred Endorsed (Medaglia d'Oro), fourth in last year's GI Runhappy Travers S., invades from trainer Kiaran McLaughlin's Florida base following a visually impressive optional claiming score at Gulfstream Jan. 11.