Santa Anita News and Notes (May 14)

<div>• Santa Anita Park is getting back to normal. It has now been six straight weeks of racing without a fatality and over 6800 horses working on the main track without an incident. The race times on the main track got quicker over the weekend but not overly so. The main track continues to play fair and favorites are winning at a 37% clip for the current spring/summer meet, which runs through June 23. However, the turf course is another issue. Early speed is absolutely dominating in the two turn route races. The course is playing fair for the five furlong sprints on the grass, but early speed dominated all three days last week in the route races. Favorites on the turf are winning at 33% for the meet, the national average. Racing continues with the three day week this Friday but the entries are getting stronger by the day. Both Friday and Saturday have strong cards with lots of full fields with also eligible lists as well. The 20 cent pick six remains elusive for the single ticket winner and the pot has climbed to $523,445 for this Friday.</div><div><br /></div><div>• There were two stakes over the weekend, both were on the turf, and you guessed it, both were won with early speed. On Saturday, they ran the Grade 3 Santa Barbara at a mile and a half for older fillies/mares. Causeforcommotion, who ran second in this race last year, sat a close second to Animosity, took over on the far turn, and pulled away to a 9 length win as the 6/5 favorite. She was a Turfdom Most Probable Winner on the card and returned $4.40 to win. She’s a grinder with tactical speed and she’s good anywhere from 9 furlongs to 12 furlongs on the lawn. None of the others in a field of just five were any factor in the race. On Sunday, Cal bred fillies/mares got a chance at a $100,000 purse in the Frans Valentine stakes at a mile on the turf, and Cordiality defended her title by going wire to wire under Joe Talamo to pay $7.00 in a quick 1:34.70 for the distance. There was quite a bit of speed signed on in this race, but when two other speedsters didn’t break alertly, Talamo took advantage of his rail post and got to the front into the clubhouse turn, and the speed bias took it from there, as she strolled home to win by a length and a half with Queen Bee to You running second and doing the chasing all the way around. The stretch runners had no chance. The winner was claimed by Tim Yakteen in February for $62,500 and they got all their money back in just one race.</div><div><br /></div><div>• On Saturday, they have the Grade 3 Laz Barrera stakes at 7 furlongs on the main track for three year olds and Sparky Ville, a 7 furlong specialist heads up the field along with Baffert’s Mucho Gusto on a very good 10 race card. Laz Barrera was the trainer of the great Affirmed, one of the greatest thoroughbreds of all time, who had the speed of a sprinter, yet could carry that speed for 10 furlongs, even when hounded all the way. He also won the Triple Crown in 1978 and was a dominant force in racing in a decade that produced Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Secretariat, Riva Ridge, and Cougar ll. Then on Sunday, Danuska’s Girl, who has won three straight, heads up the field for the Grade 3 Desert Stormer stakes at six furlongs on the main track for older fillies/mares. “Danuska” worked 5/8 on Saturday in 1:01.40 on the training track under regular rider Geovanni Franco for the Dorf.</div><div><br /></div><div>• Flavien Prat and Rafael Bejarano top the rider standings with 12 wins apiece for the current meet, but Prat has far fewer mounts as he has been out of town a lot for stakes races. Tiago Pereira, Joe Talamo, and Ruben Fuentes are all close behind with 11 victories. A rejuvenated Victor Espinoza and Kent Desormeaux have the best win percentages at 31% of any riders in the top 20. Doug O’Neill, who has been red hot lately has 14 wins for the trainers, 4 more than Richie Baltas.</div><div><br /></div><div>• The Preakness stakes is this Saturday at Pimlico and although hardly any of the stars will be present, other than Improbable, it shapes up as a good wagering race at a mile and 3/16 on the main track. They should have at least 11 go to the post and there’s a host of newcomers who didn’t have enough points to get into the Derby. Among them, is Anothertwistafate, the talented runner out of Golden Gate Fields, who runs with a lot of heart and determination. He will be a factor in the race. Improbable is the likely favorite, as he was only beaten three and a half in the Derby while being bottled up in traffic most of the way and covered with mud. Also War of Will, Bodexpress, and Win Win Win will all come back in just two weeks out of the Derby race. “Big Money Mike” Smith takes over as the rider of Improbable for Baffert and the very talented Jose Ortiz gets up for Blaine Wright on Anothertwistafate. Tyler Gaffalione retains the mount on War of Will, who was involved in the DQ of Maximum Security in the Derby, a controversy that simply won’t go away. Now they say they have new films of the race that show that War of Will actually started the contact and not “Maximum”. They being owner Gary West and his lawyers. It doesn’t really matter one way or the other. The stews have the final say in Kentucky and they made their decision, right or wrong. The race is over and it really is time to move on.</div><div><br /></div><div>• Trainer Mark Glatt was going to ship 12 horses to Churchill Downs for their spring meet, but decided against it when Santa Anita raised their purse structure by $10 grand per race just two weeks ago. He got together with his owners and they all agreed staying in California was the right thing to do, as the Stronach Group was trying to show some stability to their racing program. He is one of many trainers who have benefitted from the increased structure, which is shown in many of our Horses to Watch listing out this week.</div><div><br /></div><div>• Saturday’s selections for Santa Anita and the Preakness will be out on Friday evening due to the early posts and the three hour time zone difference back east at Pimlico.</div><div><br /></div><div>By Rod Young (Turfdom)<br /></div><br />