Morning Line (right): was just touched off in the Breeders' Cup Dirt MilePICTURE: Getty Images
Morning Line has high hopes in Hal's Hope
Preview: USA, Saturday 9.52pm GMT
Gulfstream Park: Hal's Hope Stakes (Grade 3) 1m, dirt, 4yo+
TRAINER Nick Zito is confident Morning Line (John Velazquez) has what it takes to become one of the top older horses in the States.
Last seen when caught on the line by shock winner Dakota Phone in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, the four-year-old reappears in the Hal's Hope, the designated Grade 3 trial for next month's prestigious Donn Handicap.
Morning Line, a typically tough son of dual-Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow, came to prominence last term with a front-running victory in the Pennsylvania Derby.
He so nearly repeated the dose at the Breeders' Cup, only to get nabbed in the shadow of the post and lose by a head.
Todd Pletcher: reports Rule to be training well in build up to racePICTURE: Getty Images
Great things are expected in 2011, but first he must overcome fellow pace factor Rule (Todd Pletcher/Javier Castellano) in the Hal's Hope.
After compiling a four-race winning streak, Rule was third in last year's Florida Derby on his most recent visit to Gulfstream.
But he missed the Kentucky Derby after failing to shine in pre-race workouts and hasn't been seen since.
"We just gave him some time off," said Pletcher. "We didn't feel like he was thriving coming into the Derby and we were running out of time for the summer races.
"He's been training very well," added the trainer. "It's his first start since the Florida Derby, so it's not ideal conditions to come back against a horse with the quality of Morning Line."
Also on Saturday
Santa Anita: San Pasqual Stakes (Grade 2) 1m½f, dirt, 4yo+ (11.36pm GMT)
Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Dakota Phone (Jerry Hollendorfer/Joel Rosario) bids to make the most of a 4lb pull against Aggie Engineer (Paddy Gallagher/Joe Talamo), who beat him into fourth last time out.
Tactics will be crucial here, though, as Aggie Engineer made all to win the Native Diver last time out. Runner-up Spurrier (Bob Baffert/Rafel Bejarano) also returns - with the aid of a 'rabbit' in Red Door Drive to take on Aggie Engineer up front, where Ryehill Dreamer also likes to play.
So with half the six-runner field vying for the lead, plus a switch to dirt, and slight shortening up in trip, Dakota Phone may well find things more to his liking in this trial for the celebrated Santa Anita Handicap in March.