ARCADIA, Calif. (March 18, 2009) – Venerable grass marathoners Artiste Royal and Spring House, separated by less than two lengths in their only previous meeting, will share high weight of 118 pounds Saturday among seven entrants in Santa Anita’s 58th running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Rey Handicap at 1½ miles on turf.

A multiple Grade I stakes winner at the age of 8, David and Jill Heerensperger’s Artiste Royal may rate a narrow edge over his 7-year-old rival as the result of his victory over Spring House on Jan. 19 in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Marcos Handicap at 1¼ miles on grass. As the lukewarm 5-2 favorite, Artiste Royal crossed the wire 1¾ lengths ahead of fourth-place Spring House, sent off at odds of 7-2.

The latter, however, returned to capture the Grade II San Luis Obispo at the San Luis Rey distance while Artiste Royal encountered a troubled trip while closing too late when fifth behind Gio Ponti at one mile in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Handicap on March 7.

Rafael Bejarano will be aback aboard Irish-bred Artiste Royal, a son of Danehill, whose pair of Grade I victories were gained at 1¼ miles in Oak Tree’s 2007 Clement L. Hirsch Championship Stakes and in Hollywood Park’s 2008 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap. The Neil Drysdale-trained ridgling has competed at 1½ miles six times with a 1-2-1 showing. The victory was achieved in a 2004 allowance event in France. Career-wise, Artiste Royal shows earnings of $877,790 from a 7-8-5 record in 29 starts.

R. D. Hubbard’s Spring House, a Kentucky-bred son of Chester House, has posted a 3-0-2 mark in seven races at 1½ miles with each of his victories coming over the Santa Anita grass course. Alex Solis rides the bay gelding for trainer Julio Canani. Spring House has earnings of $838,284 from 38 career starts with a record of 8-5-11.

You Got Me Rocking, a 5-year-old roan gelding trained by Mike Mitchell for Burt and Jane Bacharach, is expected to attempt to steal the San Luis Rey with front-running tactics under Tyler Baze and an assigned 113 pounds.

Returning from a four-month layoff on Feb. 26, You Got Me Rocking ran off to an impressive 4¼-length win in an optional claimer while going 1 1/8 miles on turf in a snappy 1:46.
While the San Luis Rey will mark his first try at the marathon distance and he weakened to third behind Spring House after setting the pace in last summer’s Del Mar Handicap, the revitalized You Got Me Rocking has been likened to Star Over the Bay by Mitchell. Star Over the Bay was a front-running type who rose through the ranks to become a multiple graded stakes winner with Tyler Baze in the saddle.

“I look at this horse as a Star Over the Bay-type horse,” said Mitchell. “Before, he’d get a little worked up and hot. Now, he’s settled down real nice. I always thought he could go this distance, so I asked Tyler how far the horse could run, and he said, ‘All day.’”

The complete field for the San Luis Rey Handicap, with jockeys and weights in post position order: You Got Me Rocking, Tyler Baze, 113; Bonjour, Joseph Talamo, 114; Medici Code, Joel Rosario, 115; Midships, Victor Espinoza, 113; Spring House, Alex Solis, 118; Artiste Royal, Rafael Bejarano, 118, and On Fire, Brice Blanc, 112.

In a supporting feature, the $65,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs on turf, U S Ranger will make his first start for Drysdale after being competitive with some of the leading sprinters in Europe. Mike Smith will be aboard the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Danzig, who earned $425,676 from a record of 5-2-2 in 16 races while trained by Ireland’s Aidan O’Brien. U S Ranger was turned over to Drysdale after last October’s Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. He finished fifth, four lengths behind Goldikova in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, his U.S. debut.

The complete field for the Joe Hernandez Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Carrilero, David Flores, 118; U S Ranger, Mike Smith, 118; Racketeer, Espinoza, 118; Dodgen Bullets, Tyler Baze, 118; Doppio, Bejarano, 118; Talkin to Mom Roo, Blanc, 118; Euroglide, Michael Baze, 118; Noble Court, Rosario, 118, and Dilemma, Solis, 120.

The San Luis Rey is scheduled as the seventh race on a 10-race program with the Hernandez going as the ninth. The entire card, with first post at 12:30 p.m., will be televised by HRTV.