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News and Notes Santa Anita April 19

Week 18 is now in the books at Santa Anita Park, and though they didnít have any stakes races this past weekend, they were still able to put together decent race cards. Now they will not have racing locally until April 30 in order to give the turf course a break, and rebuild horse inventory for the final 8 weeks of the meet which will conclude on June 19. This was a planned break right from the start of the season. Out of 437 races run this year at Santa Anita, 220 have been on the turf course, so it certainly deserves a break. Average field size for the turf is 7.75 runners per race so far this year while that number drops off dramatically on the main track to 6.23 runners per race. Both the main track and the turf course played fair for the most part this past week. When racing returns on Saturday, April 30, the track will offer four graded stakes and the Rainbow pick six pool will be starting over at $64,261. †† ††† ††† ††† ††† ††† †

Itís very unusual for someone to hit the Rainbow pick six pool unless there is a mandatory payout, but nonetheless it happened this past Friday when one ticket, and only one ticket, was the lone winning one and paid a whopping $436,787. The ticket was purchased at the Hunt Valley wagering hub in Maryland for $1972.60. The highest price mutual of six races was in the finale at $19.00 while the lowest was $6.20 in the race prior.

When racing does return on Saturday April 30, they should have an outstanding race program. Express Train, who has already won three graded stakes at the meet including the Big Cap, is scheduled to square off against Stilleto Boy in the Grade 2 Californian, the major prep race for the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup on Memorial Day. Stilleto Boy has been third in three Grade ones this year against the best horses in the country. This race will be at 9 furlongs on the main track. Two other Grade twos are on tap as older fillies and mares will hook up in the Santa Margarita on the main track led by Park Avenue and older runners will be on the turf in the Charlie Whittingham stakes featuring Beyond Brilliant for trainer John Shirreffs. The other graded stakes will be on the main track for older sprinters in the Grade 3 Kona Gold.

Both Taiba and Messier came out of their race in the Santa Anita Derby in fine fashion, so says trainer Tim Yakteen, when talking about his two stars that will be in the gate for the Kentucky Derby in three weeks. Both will work this week at Santa Anita and then get on a plane and head for Churchill Downs one week prior to the big race. Out of 20 runners for the Derby, only four have single digit odds for the race in the latest futures pool and both Messier and Taiba are two of the four.†† †If Taiba was to win the Derby, he would be the first horse since 1883 to win the race with just two races to his credit. Taiba is undefeated in two starts and both of his Beyer numbers have been above 100. He is a son of the much hyped up stallion Gun Runner, who was purchased for $1.7 million and is owned by Amr Zedan, who won the Derby last year with Medina Spirit, only to be disqualified for a medication violation. Messier has been to the post five times in his career, has been favored in all five races, but only has two wins.

The top apprentice rider on this circuit is 17 year old Diego Herrera, but effective this Sunday, he will lose his five pound apprentice break and will have to ride as a journeyman jockey. Although Santa Anita is closed this week, they are racing at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California, and he may try and ride there for his final week with the bug. Herrera is a worker. He has been riding at Santa Anita in the daytime and at Los Alamitos in the evenings on both quarter horses and thoroughbreds. Not many riders continue their success after losing the bug, and I doubt that Diego will be the exception, but the jockey colony is quite weak right now, and Herrera has proven he can ride the turf almost as well as the main track, and not many apprentices in the past have been able to say that. Jockey Joe Bravo, who is a young 52 years of age, won three on Sunday here, all three with his signature move of coming from well off the pace, two of them in turf routes.

This will be our final News and Notes until Del Mar opens in July, as we have surgery this Thursday, and will be off with medical leave until then. Thank you for reading Turfdomís News and Notes for the week.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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