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Jan 15 News and Notes Santa Anita

Four weeks are in the books at beautiful Santa Anita Park and management was quite pleased with themselves this past week, as Cal Cup Day on Saturday was a great success with handle that topped $17.2 million for the day, their highest total on Cal Cup Day since 2007. Of course, having a mandatory payout on the pick six where $3.9 million was added to the pool doesn’t hurt. Nonetheless, it all counts, and Saturday was no exception, and when Cal breds race, they usually have good field size and exciting races. We’ll cover some of those outstanding performances in the stakes recap column. The main track played fair this past week as they raced four days and the turf course played fair as well. The main track does have a slight edge to early speed while the turf course has a slight edge to late speed. When the turf rails are all the way out at 30 feet, speed does have a better chance of hanging on but like most races, it all depends how fast they go early and whether the early speed is contested. They did pay out the pick six on Saturday with the mandatory payout and the return was a solid $2633 for the 20 cent wager. Racing returns to their normal three day week on Friday with an eight race card and the Rainbow pick six picks up with a pot of $96,799 for any single ticket winner.

STAKES RECAP: They ran five Cal bred stakes Saturday and the purse totals were just over $900,000 for the five races. Brickyard Ride put in a tremendous performance in the Sprint as he ran six furlongs in a smart 1:09.54 over a very dull fast track with splits of 21.71 and 44.15. There was a lot of speed in this race but nobody on the back side has his kind of speed and the final time doesn’t do justice to his performance. However, the Beyer boys are on top of things at this track and they gave him a lofty 101, which seems about right. He had been off since August but J.J. had him on the engine early and he never looked back winning off by two in a dominating performance for trainer Craig Lewis. Positivity ran on well to get second under Prat. The other sterling performance came in the Filly and Mare Turf Sprint where Leggs Galore was also coming off a long layoff and she made every pole a winning one coming down the hill. She was the speed of the field and has always fired fresh off the bench before and Saturday was no different in a full field of 12. She paid a generous $7.20 to win and was a Turfdom Best Bet on the day. She generated a Beyer number of 95 and won quite easily by two open lengths under Ricky Gonzalez. The layoff king, Phil D’Amato, tightened the screws. Alice Marble, also trained by Phil D’Amato, ran a good second at 9/1, while Eddie’s New Dream, also off at 9/1 ran third. Warren’s Showtime went off as the post time favorite, was finishing fast out in the middle of the course, but was beaten five at the wire while finishing fourth. Leggs Galore has now won 7 of 12 starts, four Cal bred stakes, with earnings of $440,208.

In the Unusual Heat Turf Classic at 9 furlongs on the lawn, Prat turned in a masterful ride on Aligato for trainer Mark Glatt, as he sat well off the pace early and came home with a ton of horse late to get the money at $8.40. Aligato had never raced beyond six furlongs in any of his four starts but had never been off the board. The nine year old gelding, Camino Del Paraiso, off at 8/1, ran second while long shot Ferrariano was third. Whooping Jay was 4/1 as they loaded in the gate, then took a ton of late money and actually turned out to be the favorite at 2/1. He set the pace and faded badly in the lane. Indian Peak never ran a step and was also well back while being heavily supported at the windows. Trainer Glatt will be looking for “open” company now for the improving Aligato. The final race of the 10 race card was the Cal Cup Oaks for soph fillies going a mile on the turf and had a full field of 12 runners and was one of the more difficult races to handicap on the card. But that man Prat does what he always does and found the winners circle once again with Rose Dawson for trainer Phil D’Amato. She paid $11.60 to win for the lady named for Kate Winslet in the hit movie Titanic, a few years back. She came from 11th in a field of 12 from within the quarter pole to get up for the victory. She was trying turf for the first time, she was going two turns for the first time, and was trying stakes company for the first time. No problem, just get Prat to ride your horse and head for the winners circle. Big Novel at 5/1 finished with good interest to get second while the 3/1 favorite, Vivacious Vanessa was third. The winner is now two for two in her brief career and will probably stay on the turf for the top turf trainer on the circuit.

They only have one stakes race lined up this week and it is on Saturday and it’s called the Clockers Corner. It it ungraded for a pot of $70,000 for older runners at six furlongs on the grass. They had 21 nominations and it should be very close to a full field when entries are taken on Wednesday. Chaos Theory, who had no chance in the Breeders Cup, heads up the field for Bob Hess. Trainer Richard Mandella will start the 8 year old Border Town, who has never sprinted in 19 trips to the post. But then again, who’s to question a Hall of Famer who won four Breeders Cup races in one day. Juan Hernandez gets a leg up.

On the human side, Flavien Prat has been on fire lately and going into Monday, he had won at least three races for six consecutive race days. To prove he is only human, he blanked on Monday with four seconds. Not only do horses run for this 29 year old who was born and raised in France, he always seems to be in the right spot during a race and even when he loses, he always seems to give his horse a chance to win. Now that Johnny Velasquez has cooled off from his sterling start, Prat is once again the dominant rider in Southern California and running away with the riding title. The only rider who can compete with Prat on a daily basis is Joel Rosario, and he has decided to stay back east this year and ride at Oaklawn, Keeneland, and then New York. Trainer Jeff Mullins, who always has his horses looking so sharp in the paddock, has also been hot lately winning with five of his last seven starters.

Although the fields have been somewhat on the light side with the exception of Saturday, we have had the winner in 26 of the 28 races ran over the three day weekend from our contenders list, 93%. That includes four winning pick fives and the early one on Monday paid $2739 for the 50 cent wager. Some of the double digit winners were Tom Bombadil, picked second at $21.20, Wishtheyallcouldbe at $15.60 on top, Make Mine Wine at $16.60, Del Mar Drama, picked second at $14.80, and Big Buzz, picked second at $13.20. On Monday, we had all nine exactas on the card. Even with all of their issues, it’s still the greatest game going.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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