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Santa Anita News and Notes Feb 26

•    The rain stayed away at Santa Anita in week nine of the long winter/spring meet, and there were spring like conditions at the Arcadia oval with temps in the high sixties and clear blue skies. The main track played fair with regards to pace but the outside lanes continue to be better on most days than the inside. The turf course continues to play fair for the most part regardless of the placement of the inner rails. Favorites continue to win at about 32% overall, very close to the national average. The 20 cent single ticket pick six pool continues to climb and has reached $438,679 when racing resumes on Thursday. It has not been hit since opening day and it may very well stay that way the entire meet. The 20 cent wager allows one to spread in many more races than ever before. Unfortunately the rain is back this week with both Saturday and Sunday looking wet.

•    They ran just two stakes over the weekend with the Grade 2 Buena Vista on Saturday being the top race. The amazing mare Vasilika, who Hollendorfer claimed for just $40K back in February of last year, won for the 10th time in 12 starts since the claim and got the money once again by a length and a half over a 50/1 shot. She got the fast pace she likes and under a typical strong ride from Prat, she came rolling home to make her bankroll a tidy $938,595. Prat has been her only rider since the claim. Streak of Luck ran huge to get second at 50/1 and is an improving horse for trainer Matt Chew. The winning time was fast at 1:33.35 for the flat mile on a firm turf course. All Pro NFL quarterback Billy Kilmer, a die- hard horse player, made the presentation of the trophy in the winner’s circle. On Sunday, older Cal breds in the filly/mare division lined up for the Spring Fever stakes at ¾ on the main track. The $100,000 purse lured only five runners and one of them was a maiden just to make the race go. Both Show It N Moe It and S Y Sky both went off at even money and once again the public had it right, as there was little to separate the top two runners in the race. When two runners are matched so evenly it often comes down to the riders on the outcome of the race, and the Spring Fever was no exception. “Show It” drew the rail under Bejarano and the filly looked up against it as she hates being down on the inside. She was forced to “send” from the rail and she dueled with Coco Kisses through an opening quarter in 22.25, but Bejarano drifted well off the fence leaving the rail wide open. Talamo had the perfect trip on S Y Sky tracking the pace from the outside, but at the 3/8 pole, he took the bait and dove to the inside and started to pull away slightly. But crafty Bejarano knew exactly what he was doing and now he had positioned “Show It” on the outside for the stretch run. He came back on and got the money by ¾ of a length at the wire. Bejarano took a bad post and worked to his advantage. Talamo took a good post and worked it to his disadvantage. That’s why Bejarano will always be considered a top rider and Talamo, well he’s just another rider in the jock’s room. The outside lanes had been better throughout the day and Bejarano is the type of rider that always does his homework.

•    Just two stakes this weekend with the ungraded Pasadena stakes for three year olds at a mile on the turf on Saturday, and then older Cal breds run in the Tiznow stakes at a mile on the main track Sunday, also an ungraded affair and both races have purses of $100,000. With rain in the forecast for Saturday, the Pasadena may be moved to the main track. Shining Through (Prat), Neptune’s Storm (Desormeaux), and Big Scott Daddy (Smith) are the principles for this race. Take a long look on anything Mike Smith rides these days, as he and his agent are being selective and only riding one or two mounts per day. But they continue to win at a high percentage and many of them at good mutuels.

•    And speaking of “hot” riders, Joel Rosario has now moved three ahead of Flavien Prat for the riding title and seems to be first in line for the best mounts in any given race. His agent, Ron Anderson, has long been regarded as one of the best in the business, and Rosario is doing his part by riding lights out, both on and off the pace, turf or dirt. Doug O’Neill continues to lead all trainers with 23 wins, 4 more than Peter Miller. But Richie Baltas is the hot trainer right now and he won two more on Sunday and has moved into third place with 18 victories. He has the type of barn to challenge both O’Neill and Miller for the title and often employs both Rosario and Prat.

•    The San Felipe stakes on March 9th may turn out to be one hell of a horse race. Trainer Bob Baffert is currently targeting the top two 3 year olds in the country for that race, i.e. Game Winner and Improbable. Meanwhile, the undefeated Instagrand, who has won both of his starts by 10 plus lengths for Hollendorfer, is also looking to run in that race to kick off his 2019 campaign. Baffert wants to separate his top two colts for the Santa Anita Derby and the Arkansas Derby, but because of the timing of those races in April, he doesn’t want to ship twice in back to back starts, so both will probably be in the San Felipe.

•     Santa Anita Park is going to start offering two year old maiden races starting as early as April 18-19 for the first time ever. This is being done in conjunction with Fasig-Tipton conducting their first ever juvenile sale right here at Santa Anita on June 5th. The track will also offer two stakes races for two year olds on closing day, June 23. Working with the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, this will enable Del Mar to offer a much better two year old product for their seven week summer meet. It’s nice to see Santa Anita, Del Mar, and Fasig-Tipton all working together to improve the two year old product for the benefit of horsemen, who want to run their juveniles early but have very few options.

•    The Santa Anita track had three break downs this past week and all three horses sustained injuries so bad that all three had to be euthanized. Therefore, the track was being closed for training on both Monday and Tuesday this week to see if there are any issues with the surface, as rainfall has been much more than normal. One of the horses that sustained a fatal injury was Battle of Midway, who was training for a trip to Dubai in March for the World Cup. He sustained the injury to a hind leg and could not be saved. He was a former Breeders Cup winner who had been turned out to stud but proved sub fertile and was returned to racing. Just 24 hours after his death, it was reported that he had a live foal born back in Virginia. He covered 61 mares while at stud but only had five actual live foals. It just goes to show, “every cloud has a silver lining”.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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