News and Notes Jan. 31 – by Rod Young Turfdom
- Although the State of California really needs the rain, it’s nice to have turf racing back in the mix at Santa Anita, as well as a fast track. That all came to fruition this past weekend on Cal Cup Saturday with five stakes on tap and four turf races under sunny skies and ideal weather conditions. The turf course played fair with the rails in their normal position and the main track also played fair with an equal amount of races being won from off the pace. There is a pick six c/o into Thursday’s card of $71,437 and the jackpot pick six has a separate pool of $38,405.
- Form prevailed in the Cal Cup stakes series on Saturday with the favorite winning four of the five races. The second choice in the wagering won the other race, the Cal Cup Derby. The feature was the Classic and the very consistent Ashleyluvssugar wore down What a View in the final 1/16th to squeeze out the victory at 9 furlongs on the lawn. This is not his best distance as he prefers 10 to 12 furlongs for his best and he will get that next time, when he goes in the San Luis Rey stakes at a mile and a half on March 25. What a View had it all his own way on the front end and still got run down late. He’s just not as good as he was a year ago. Ann Arbor Eddie, the lone non favorite to win at $7.20, is all heart and guts as he wore down the favorite, California Diamond in the Derby. The latter is probably better up to 7 furlongs but his record of 5 wins and 5 seconds in 10 starts is tough to beat. Trainer Doug O’Neill will probably go up against the big boys in the San Felipe on March 11 now with “Eddie”. This is a prep for the Santa Anita Derby in April and I’ve got to stay with this one, as he is all race horse. Phil D’Amato’s Enola Gray made it two for two down the hill taking the filly/mare sprint and they are going to stretch her out now. She’s a fighter, but doesn’t really have the right style to win at two turns on the turf. They will probably go in the Royal Heroine on April 8th against “open” company at a mile, and I just can’t like her in that spot. Trainer Peter Miller remained hot and won the Cal Cup sprint on the main track with his good turf sprinter Richard’s Boy. He paid $6.00 as a Turfdom Best Bet, but he was all out to win and hung on by the thinnest of margins. He’s off to Dubai for his next start in a turf sprint for the big dollars. And finally, the Dorf has another top filly as Sircat Sally remained undefeated by taking the Cal Cup Oaks, as she relaxed nicely and prompted the pace to win very easily at 4/5. This was her first try on the turf and though she is not bred for the surface, you would never know it by her performance. She has won all 3 of her starts by a combined 20 lengths. With fillies like Songbird and Unique Bella, and throw in It Tiz Well who races this Friday, and now “Sally”, the Dorf has most of the top fillies on the grounds.
- It was a crying shame that California Chrome didn’t run his race in the first running of the $12 million Pegasus in Florida on Saturday. This was his swan song before the breeding shed and he rarely throws in a clunker, but he did, and Arrogate is of course the “now” horse. The post position didn’t help his cause but still that was not the issue. He was only 3 wide going into the first turn and for a horse that loves to run on the outside, he was really in pretty good shape. In fact Arrogate was the one in trouble. He had to be hustled from the get go from the rail and was pinned on the inside down the back side. But because Chrome couldn’t go on with it from the outside at the 3/8th pole, Arrogate was able to get off the rail, and then that long, smooth stride took over and that was that. Even the superstars don’t fire every time. After winning the Triple Crown in 1973, Secretariat was upset twice later that year. And of course, he was one of the ones, of all time.
- They say there’s a 20% chance of rain fall this week in Arcadia, and in Southern California that means nil. And that’s good because they have 4 stakes on Saturday and two more on Super Bowl Sunday. The San Antonio has the biggest purse at $300K Saturday and is a prep for the Big Cap. Accelerate, Dalmore and Hoppertunity head the field along with Mor Spirit, who may run a big one, Avanti Bello, Prospect Park, and Hoffenheim. The San Antonio is at 9 furlongs on the main track and is a Grade 2. At 10 furlongs on the grass is another Grade 2 and it is called the San Marcos, headed up by the stretch running Texas Ryano. Flamboyant is the defending champ and will be in the field along with A Red Tie Day, up and comer Conquest Daddyo (my choice), Frank Conversation, Twentytwentyvision (knocks, doesn’t enter) and others. It will be a good race. The other Grade 2 is the Palos Verdes, a sprint on the main track for older runners, but that field is coming up light. Trainer Ron Ellis doesn’t have Masochistic ready yet and the nominations came up light. Joe Bay for Peter Miller might be the “now” horse in a small field. Moe Candy, Kentuckian, Ike Walker, and Stallwalkin’ Dude are probable. Another prep for the Santa Anita Derby is the Robert Lewis stakes, which is a Grade 3 at a mile and a sixteenth on the main track. Royal Mo and Sheer Flattery head up that field along with Dangerfield (named for the comedian Rodney), Term of Art and others. Then on Sunday, Champion filly Champagne Room squares off against Unique Bella in the Grade 2 Las Virgenes at a flat mile on the main track. “Room” won the B/C Juvenile Fillies in 2016 and “Bella” just won the Santa Ynez stakes and is amazingly fast. Due to the Super Bowl on Sunday, there will be an early first post of 11:00 M.
- Young rider Drayden Van Dyke (22 years old) went down in a spill last Thursday and remains in the hospital with a broken arm. Van Dyke has been an excellent turf rider and has been making good headway into the top barns. You can feel sorry for Van Dyke, but don’t feel sorry for his agent, Brad Pegram. He will not go hungry while his jock is on the mend. His other rider is Mike Smith and in less than two minutes on Saturday, Pegram pulled down a cool $175,000 when Arrogate took the Pegasus stakes in Florida. Tyler Baze, who won two races on Sunday, caught Flavian Prat and they are tied for the jockey lead at 20 victories apiece. Kent Desormeaux is third with 14. Trainer Peter Miller also won twice on Sunday and moved one ahead of Hollendorfer in the trainer standings, 11 to 10. Richard Baltas is third with 9 victories. I don’t know if Peter Miller cheats or if he is just plain good, but when horses come into his barn, they normally improve by leaps and bounds. He has been on a roll now for the last six months.