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July 5 Santa Anita News And Notes

Santa Anita Park, often referred to as the “Great Race Place,” had plenty of great races as they opened their fall meet this past week, but it was a tough place to make a buck, as favorites “ruled” the first three days of the meet. They ran 9 races on Friday and there was only one double digit winner all day and that paid $12.60. On Saturday there was an $18 winner in race six when they ran 11 races, but other than that, the highest mutual in the other 10 races was just $7.80. And then on Sunday they had a $14 winner in race two, but other than that the highest mutual was $10 in the finale out of 10 races. The main track favored speed all three days but the track was deep and tiring, which is the way they like to keep it these days promoting safety first. However, the turf course is rock hard and the times are very fast. How hard was the turf course? In race one on Friday, Cal bred horses racing for the first allowance condition ran a mile in 1:32.89. Then in race three, maiden two year olds went 5/8 on the lawn in 55.40, just four ticks off the track record. Over the weekend, they did set a new track record for six furlongs. If they are going to have any breakdowns this meet, and hopefully they won’t, it will probably come from the turf course, and not the main track. Two top eastern riders were on hand opening week, Joel Rosario and John Velasquez, and they both showed off their talents to the locals. Rosario just rode on Friday, but had three winners from just four mounts, and they were the two longest prices on the card, i.e. $12.60 and $9.00. Johnny V. rode all three days and won twice on both Saturday and Sunday. For the locals, Flavien Prat won four on Saturday and got the hat trick on Sunday. Rosario is a terrific talent, as he is an electrifying rider, bringing horses from well off the pace, and timing his moves just right to get up at the wire. Prat has turned himself into a world class rider, but I’m not sure he is in the same league with Rosario. It also doesn’t hurt that Joel may have the best agent in the business in Ron Anderson. Racing returns on Friday with a 9 race card and they will race four days this week, including Monday, which is Columbus Day. After using up 13 stakes on opening week, they have just one this week, an overnight race called the Swingtime stakes on Saturday. The Rainbow pick six jackpot is at $170,366 for any single ticket winner.

STAKES RECAP: We won’t cover all 13 stakes this past week, but we will touch on the ones that are meaningful, as plenty of them provided the winners with an all fees paid trip to the Breeders Cup on Nov. 5/6. On Friday, the juveniles shared the spotlight with the American Pharoah stakes for the males and the Chandelier stakes for the fillies. Bob Baffert’s Corniche was the heavy 2 to 5 choice in the American Pharoah, and he got the job done under Mike Smith, but it wasn’t overly impressive. However, it was just his second career start and first time around two turns. He received an 85 Beyer as he wired the field to win off by three in this mile and a sixteenth race. He won his debut with a 98 Beyer going five and a half furlongs. But when they pay $1.5 million for a colt, they expect him to be a runner. He should be a factor in the Breeders Cup and he may even go favored, but it wasn’t an overwhelming victory. The jury is still out whether the Breeders Cup will allow Baffert to run his horses, but I believe that they will. However, the winner of the Chandelier stakes was a different story. Phil D’Amato’s Ain’t Easy was also making her second career start and first around two turns, and she was visually impressive. She sat third early, moved through on the inside at the 3/8 pole under Rosario, and then opened up to win by five, just as she did in her debut. She went off at 8/1 in her debut and was well hidden and she was 7/2 on Saturday. She is going to be one tough lady on Nov. 5th at Del Mar and being a daughter of Into Mischief, she could be any kind. I’m sure she will retain Rosario for the Cup and he had her geared down the final 50-75 yards. Baffert’s Grace Adler went off as the 4/5 choice and was a well beaten fifth. They re-opened the hillside turf course for the Eddie D. stakes on Friday, a Grade 2 event for older runners coming down the hill. The only Cal bred in the race was the razor sharp Lieutenant Dan for trainer Steve Miyadi, and he got the money with a fine ride by Geovanni Franco, who kept him on the outside early and timed his move just right at the top of the stretch. He paid $7.00 in a field of nine and it was his third victory in a row. His other two were at 5/8 at Del Mar this summer, which is where the B/C turf sprint will take place. “Dan” is going great guns right now, but he will be hooking much tougher runners in five weeks. He won this race by a half length over Snapper Sinclair, who was shipping in from Churchill Downs for trainer Steve Asmussen. Lieutenant Dan is named for Tom Hanks buddy in the award winning movie, Forrest Gump, who lost both of his legs in Viet Nam.

On Saturday they had five graded stakes and we will cover four of them. In the Grade 1 Awesome Again stakes at 9 furlongs on the main track, a prep for the B/C Classic, 8 went to the post but none of them could catch the gutty Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, who went right to the front under Johnny V. and galloped from there to win off by five at the wire. He received a 107 Beyer for his effort, and this was the highest number so far in his career and it was the first time he tackled older runners. There was one other sophomore in the race and he went off at 50/1 and ran a bang up second for trainer Ed Moger named Stilleto Boy. Express Train was third but well beaten, as was Tripoli who ran fourth. The winner will head for the Classic, if they allow him to run, as he is trained by Baffert and the Breeders Cup committee is still mulling over the decision. “Medina” loves to be on the lead and he is tough to get by. Unfortunately, Brad Cox has a runner named Knicks Go, and he runs the same way and has accomplished much more. The main track at Del Mar has a history of favoring early speed in the early part of their programs, and then horses start coming from off the pace as the day wears on. The Classic is always run as the final race on Saturday, so an abundance of early speed will certainly favor someone from off the pace, i.e a Maxfield or a Tripoli, the latter who was just prepping on Saturday, and ran two bang up races at Del Mar this summer in the San Diego Handicap and the Pacific Classic. In the Sprint Championship, a Grade 2 at six furlongs on the main track, the winner was impressive and has as good a chance as any in the B/C Sprint. Dr. Schivel went off as the 9/5 choice in a field of 7, but unfortunately drew the rail. But as it turned out, he was just so much better than his counterparts, he got through on the inside and sailed on home to win by three when mostly geared down through the stretch. A buckle broke on his right rein shortly after the break and it was difficult for Prat to control the horse. He hollered to Cedillo, who was on the lead with Vertical Threat to let him through, and he quickly obliged. The winner is trained by Mark Glatt and his go-to rider is Abel Cedillo in most of his races, so he knows which side his bread is buttered on. Dr. Schivel won his fifth straight and four in a row since Prat became his regular rider. Flagstaff ran on well for second as did C Z Rocket, but they were no threat to the winner. “Schivel” looks tough in the B/C Sprint. In the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive stakes for older fillies and mares at 10 furlongs on the turf, another favorite prevailed. There was absolutely no pace in this race with the exception of the winner, and she had it all her own way wiring the field. But she held on to win by only a head as the Turfdom Best Bet named Luck was rolling in the lane and had the winner with one more jump. Going to Vegas was the front runner and the winner as she set fractions of 24.39 for the opening quarter on a rock hard turf course and settled in nicely getting ¾ in 1:13.49 under Umberto Rispoli. No wonder she had plenty left in the tank for the drive. Richie Baltas trains both the winner and the runner up but there is much more upside to the runner up, Luck, who was making just her second start in the states. Baltas is going on to the Cup with Going to Vegas, but the Euros will swallow her up in the final furlong, if not sooner. Still, the winner has now made $654,151, not bad for a $50,000 claim. In the finale on Saturday, they ran the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship, also at 10 furlongs on the turf for older runners. Named for a horse that was named Horse of the Year in this country as a nine year old, it was only appropriate that a six year old named United got the money with a superb ride by Flavien Prat, who got up in the final jump to win by a head over the early speedster Acclimate. It was Prat’s fourth winner on the day and he had to come from far back as United got shuffled back near the rear in the early part of the race. Acclimate ran too good to lose but United, who has been a bit unlucky in his recent races, found enough late to get the job done as the 7/5 choice in a full field of 11 runners. It does appear that the winner has lost a step over the years, but Mandella will undoubtedly try him again the Breeders Cup Turf on Nov. 6th.

On Sunday, they had three races of importance heading into the Breeders Cup with two juvenile races on the turf and the Grade 2 Zenyatta stakes for fillies and mares on the main track, three and up. In the Zenyatta, the fast improving sophomore, Private Mission, made short work of the field as the even money favorite, in a convincing two length win under Prat for trainer Bob Baffert. Once again, she is headed for the B/C Distaff, if they let her in along with the trainer. This race had an abundance of early speed, yet she still was amongst the early leaders, and still had plenty of gas late to slip away from the field. Being by Into Mischief, she has a lot of upside, and this was her best performance yet, as she garnered her 4th win in just five starts, after beating her elders for the second straight race, after taking a Grade 3 at Del Mar by six. Stable mate As Time Goes By rallied to get second while Mis Bigly ran third in a field of 7. In the Zuma Beach for two year old males at a mile on the turf, Mackinnon was loaded turning for home and once again showed a good kick late to get the money by two at the wire under Juan Hernandez. He was yet another favorite winning, this time at 6/5 and paid $4.40 to win for his third successive victory. Silver Surfer looked like the winner at the 1/8 pole but had no answer to the favorite the final furlong under Flavien Prat. The fractions were quick early to set up the winner’s late run with an opening quarter in 22.33 and the half in 46.08. Mackinnon is a strong player in the B/C Juvenile Turf. In the filly division, called the Surfer Girl stakes, we finally had a stakes winner who was not the wagering choice. Cairo Memories, off at 4/1 for Bob Hess Jr., and a Turfdom Best Bet on the day, got the money in just her second career start with a strong turn of foot at the ¼ pole, and went on to a two length score over the 3/2 favorite, Helens Well. Winning by four and a half in her debut, which was also at a mile on the turf, she got the jump on the late runners with an early move at the ¼ pole under Desormeaux and was just as impressive on Sunday as she was in her debut. She’s a major player in the B/C Juvenile Fillies Turf on November 5th.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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