News and Notes June 23 – by Rod Young Turfdom
With just one week to go in the long Santa Anita meet, which started way back on December 26,
both the turf course and the main track continue to play fair, and continue to hold up very well. They
“aerated” the turf course once again Sunday morning as warmer weather continues to tighten up the
course. The temp has been above 90 in the afternoons for most of this past week. They are also
using the course quite a bit as they continue to card 4 turf races per day.
• The only graded stakes over the weekend was won by the 2/5 favorite Stellar Wind, but she didn’t
win like a 2/5 choice as she was life and death to prevail over Tara’s Tango, a Turfdom Best Bet at
9/2. “Tango” stuck her nose in front at the sixteenth pole and for a second it looked like she would
win, but “Stellar” showed her class and got up by a whisker right at the wire. Both fillies are going
for the big money later on this summer, as both are pointing for the $1 million Cotillion stakes in
Pennsylvania at Parx Racing. The companion stakes race on the Saturday program was called the
Singletary stakes for 3 year olds at a mile on the grass, named for the former Breeders Cup winner.
Soul Driver, with Gary Stevens up, rallied from well off the pace and was an easy winner at $9.20
for trainer Jeff Mullins. He will be pointed for the 3 year old series at Del Mar starting with the
Oceanside stakes on Opening Day, July 16. He made our HTW list off this impressive performance.
• As mentioned earlier, this will be the final week of racing at the Great Race Place. We will be taking
two weeks off as the circuit moves to Los Alamitos the following Thursday, but will be all geared
up for the opening of Del Mar on July 16. Santa Anita will end with a flourish this week with 4
graded stakes on Saturday headed up by the Grade 1 Gold Cup at a mile and a quarter on the main
track. They have 9 confirmed for this race as of Monday morning and the field will be headed up by
Catch a Flight, who just won the Grade 2 Californian. Other contenders will be Moreno, 2nd in the
Santa Anita Handicap to Shared Belief, Motown Men, who recently won the Tiznow stakes,
Majestic City, coming off a win in the Grade 3 Lone Star Handicap, Finnegans Wake, a graded
stakes winner on the turf, and salty runners such as Hard Aces and Big Cazanova. Baffert is on the
fence with Grade 1 winner Hoppertunity. Also on tap will be the Grade 1 Triple Bend stakes at 7
furlongs for older runners. That field will include Masochistic, Wild Dude, Sahara Sky, Appealing
Tale, and San Onofre among others. Older fillies/mares will be in the Grade 2 Royal Heroine at a
mile on the turf, and that field will include Blingismything, Birdlover, Alexis Tangier, Famous Alice,
Fanticola, and Queen of the Sand. That may be the best wagering race of them all. The Grade 3
Senorita stakes rounds out the stakes program. On closing day, Sunday, they will have the San Juan
Capistrano at mile and three quarters on the grass for older runners. Ashleyluvssugar would be the
favorite in this race, but instead is heading East to Monmouth Park for the Grade 1 United Nations
worth a half million dollars on July 5. Gary Stevens will keep the mount and travel with her.
• In the jockey colony, both Rafael Bejarano and Gary Stevens changed agents this past week.
Stevens was understandable as he was sharing the same agent with Tyler Baze, and Baze seemed to
be getting the better mounts, but Bejarano’s departure from Joe Ferrer is a bit more puzzling.
Bejarano continues to dominate all the meets he rides in and Ferrer has always been an excellent
agent. Tora Yamaguchi is the new agent for Bejarano. Steven’s agent will now be Ron Ebanks, who
has been out of racing for the last 3 years.
• Everybody is trying to lure Triple Crown winner American Pharoah to their race track for his next
few starts. Del Mar is “exploring” the possibility of a $5million bonus if he runs in the Pacific
Classic on August 22. If he does, he will have to face older horses. My guess is that he goes East and
stays with 3 year olds for his next two starts, the Haskell at Monmouth August 2 and then the
Travers at Saratoga on August 29. The colt’s owner, Ahmed Zayat, lives in New Jersey.