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April 9, 2011

By BETH HARRIS

AP Racing Writer

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) _ A year ago, Bob Baffert was seething after favorite Lookin At Lucky ran a troubled third in the Santa Anita Derby. What a difference 12 months makes.

The Hall of Fame trainer was all smiles when Midnight Interlude scored a surprising victory in the Grade I, $1 million race Saturday, suddenly giving Baffert a third option for the Kentucky Derby.

"We weren't sure," he said about the unproven colt. "He'd been training well, but he hadn't had the class test, gut-check yet."

Midnight Interlude got it in the stretch, rallying under Victor Espinoza to overhaul Comma to the Top and win by a head in the West's biggest prep for the May 7 Kentucky Derby. Midnight Interlude ran 1 1-8 miles in 1:48.66 before an on-track crowd of 31,523.

April 8, 2011

ARCADIA, Calif. (April 8, 2011)—Owner/trainer Bob Bean paved the way for a Pick Six carryover on Friday, as his Ellie L., in a furious stretch drive, got up to win the fourth race under Kayla Stra, paying $119.00 to win and virtually assured what became a Pick Six carryover of $58,124 into Saturday. It is expected the total Pick Six pool on Saturday, Santa Anita Derby Day, will exceed $500,000.

Friday’s Pick Six got off to a formful start, as 4-5 favorite Star Dance M D paid $3.80 to win with leading rider Joel Rosario up.

ARCADIA, Calif. (April 8, 2011) – The longest shot in a field of six at odds of 16-1, First Settler stormed home on the far outside Friday to overtake 17-10 second choice Blue Maiden in Santa Anita’s $59,400 allowance race feature for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

With jockey Joe Talamo at the controls, First Settler defeated Blue Maiden by one-half length while 13-10 favorite Smart Striking settled for third, another 1 ¼ lengths back in the driving finish.

April 7, 2011

ARCADIA, Calif. (April 7, 2011) – After competitive efforts in four graded stakes races, either Grade I or Grade II events, Sebastian Flyte had little trouble in dispatching six opponents Thursday in Santa Anita’s $61,924 allowance feature at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Ridden by Garrett Gomez, the 4-year-old British-bred colt closed resolutely on the far outside to take control in midstretch and widen to a 1 ¾-length victory over Do It All.

ARCADIA, Cal. (April 7, 2011) – One day after the Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles, seven 3-year-olds lend their attention to turf racing in Sunday’s 31st running of the $100,000 La Puente Stakes at 1 1/8 miles.

Three of the entrants exit the Grade II San Felipe Stakes over Santa Anita’s main track, and Irish-bred Surrey Star would seem the one to beat with three placings in graded stakes on his turf resume.

None of the three made much impact behind runaway winner and Santa Anita Derby favorite Premier Pegasus in the San Felipe with Surrey Star having finished seventh.

ARCADIA, Calif. (April 7, 2011)—Premier Pegasus, the 8-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby, has been declared out of the race by his connections due to an unspecified injury.

“Rafael Martinez, who is Mr. Cho’s (trainer, Myong Kwon Cho) assistant, called me in the Racing Office at about 1:25 p.m.,” said Zachary Soto, Santa Anita Park Stakes Coordinator. “Rafael said ‘The horse (Premier Pegasus) is hurt and he can’t run. Please put in a scratch.’”

Soto noted that there was no further specificity as to the location or extent of the injury to the son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus.

April 6, 2011

ARCADIA, Calif. (April 6, 2011) – If Premier Pegasus is to make good on his 8-5 morning-line favoritism among 11 entrants in Saturday’s Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby, the show would truly belong to 68-year-old Myung Kwon Cho.

The Korean immigrant, who races a small stable of six horses, would become the first person to solely own, train and have bred the winner in 74 runnings of this major stepping stone to the May 7 Kentucky Derby.

Cho -- best known to date for a horse that never won -- would burst upon the national scene much like Premier Pegasus did with his stunning 7 ¾-length victory in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 12, his final prep for the mile-and-one-eighth Santa Anita Derby.

April 5, 2011

ARCADIA, Calif. (April 5, 2011)—Top jockeys David Flores and Chantal Sutherland, who recently became the first female jockey to ever win the prestigious Santa Anita Handicap, will lend their talents to Santa Anita Park’s traditional Derby Day 5K Walk and Run this Saturday.

A total of three different races will be offered on Saturday, with the Masters (for those over the age of 40) heat scheduled to start at 7:45 a.m., the Open (all others), at 8:15 a.m., and the Walk (for those who choose to walk only) at 8:20 a.m. Flores and Sutherland, who frequently work horses in the early morning hours, have chosen to run in the Open race, which gets underway at 8:15 a.m.

Pre registration will be offered Tuesday through Friday at several locations, including the Westfield Shopping Mall, which adjoins Santa Anita.

April 3, 2011

ARCADIA, Calif. (April 3, 2011) – In a field adorned by several classy comebackers, Sunday’s Grade II, $150,000 Potrero Grande Stakes came down to a battle between the event’s two sharpest runners as Amazombie outdueled Captain Cherokee by a desperate head while covering 6 ½ furlongs in 1:14.26.

After returnee M One Rifle, winner of the Grade I Malibu Stakes in 2009, took the bunched first flight through some brisk fractions moving toward the far turn, Amazombie and Captain Cherokee began their moves in tandem on the far outside.

Amazombie, with jockey Mike Smith working feverishly, and Captain Cherokee, just inside under a flailing Joe Talamo, battled side-by-side through the stretch before Amazombie inched clear in the closing stages.

April 2, 2011

ARCADIA, Calif. (April 2, 2011) – The three entrants saddled by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert thoroughly impacted Santa Anita’s 59th running of the Grade III, $100,000 Las Flores Stakes for fillies and mares on Saturday as 5-2 second choice Gilded Gem defeated 9-2 stablemate Subsidized by 1 ¼ lengths.

Ridden by Joel Rosario, Gilded Gem, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred mare by Smarty Jones and a half sister to 2010 Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer, made a sweeping move around the far turn when rallying from last to score decisively while racing the 6 ½-furlong distance in 1:15.22. The field size was reduced to five when Candy’s Pleasure was scratched by veterinarians after acting up in the starting gate.