CAL-BRED CARACORTADO STAMPS SELF DERBY PROSPECT IN LEWIS; ST TRINIANS OUT RUNS LIFE IS SWEET; BLIND LUCK WINS BY NOSE; JERANIMO FINDS HOLE, UPSETS IN STRUB

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 13, 2010) – Maybe it was the relatively modest California breeding or the obscure jockey that dimmed the perfect record going into Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 Robert. B. Lewis Stakes for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita, but Caracortado emerged as a bona fide Kentucky Derby prospect after knocking off such consensus top 10 designees as 11-10 favorite Tiz Chrome and 5-2 second choice American Lion.

The unbeaten gelded son of Cat Dreams, trained, bred and co-owned by Mike Machowsky and ridden by Paul Atkinson, let Tiz Chrome and American Lion knock heads early in the 1 1/16-mile event before sweeping home on the outside to score his fifth victory under Atkinson by a definitive 1 ¾ lengths. He crossed the wire in 1:41.75.

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 13, 2010) – Maybe it was the relatively modest California breeding or the obscure jockey that dimmed the perfect record going into Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 Robert. B. Lewis Stakes for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita, but Caracortado emerged as a bona fide Kentucky Derby prospect after knocking off such consensus top 10 designees as 11-10 favorite Tiz Chrome and 5-2 second choice American Lion.

The unbeaten gelded son of Cat Dreams, trained, bred and co-owned by Mike Machowsky and ridden by Paul Atkinson, let Tiz Chrome and American Lion knock heads early in the 1 1/16-mile event before sweeping home on the outside to score his fifth victory under Atkinson by a definitive 1 ¾ lengths. He crossed the wire in 1:41.75.

Dave in Dixie, with Joel Rosario aboard, rallied for second, one-half length ahead of American Lion and Julien Leparoux, the 2009 Eclipse Award winning rider. Tiz Chrome, a major player in trainer Bob Baffert’s potent arsenal of 3-year-olds, faded to fourth under Garrett Gomez.

As the fourth choice in an important stakes race that leads to the April 3 Santa Anita Derby, Caracortado extended his winning streak to five -- all with Atkinson aboard and each by winning margins of between 1 ½ and 1 ¾ lengths – to become a serious player on the national scene.

“This horse is very mature, he acts like an older horse,” said the 40-year-old Atkinson after alighting from but his 19th mount on the 33rd day of Santa Anita’s winter/spring meet. “You can do anything with him. You can put him on the lead or he’ll relax off the pace like he did today.

“Going down the backside, I was sitting behind the frontrunners, and I really wanted to wait a little longer with him today. But those two horses (Tiz Chrome and American Lion) that were on the lead are good horses. I didn’t want to let them get away from me. Leaving the quarter pole, I asked my horse to go, and he went. He finished up like a really nice horse.”

“I read what everybody writes about him,” Machowsky said, “that he’s kind of off-bred, not a blueblood, but he’s honest. You can’t knock that. I think using a low-profile rider probably has kept him flying under the radar, but if he’s under the radar now, he shouldn’t be.

“Paul rode him flawlessly. He’s given this horse flawless rides every time. It shows that jocks need stock under them, and trainers need stock. It doesn’t matter if Bob Baffert, Charlie Whittingham or Richard Mandella has Caracortado, or Mike Machowsky. It’s 80 percent the horse, maybe 10 percent the trainer, and 10 percent the jock. We all need the horses.”

Caracortado, whose name means “Scarface” in Spanish, paid $11, $4.60 and $2.60. The prices on Dave in Dixie were $4.40 and $3. American Lion paid $2.80. When Machowsky originally received the horse from the farm, he arrived with blue stitches and a cut across his face. His name derived from that original appearance. The Jockeys’ Club wouldn’t accept “Scarface” as a name, but the Spanish translation proved acceptable.

Owned by Mr. and Mrs. Don Blahut’s Blahut Racing and Mike Machowsky’s Lo Hi Racing, Caracortado earned $90,000 on Saturday to bring his career total to $199,200.

“We had an advantage in recency, and already having gone two turns successfully,” Machowsky said in reviewing the Lewis. “Some of the others were coming off a longer layoff than he was. We’ll look at the (Grade II, $150,000) San Felipe next (March 13) and see if (Baffert’s top ranked 3-year-old) Lookin At Lucky comes at us.”

Like Caracortado, St Trinians took a perfect record, of sorts, into the Grade II, $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. The 5-year-old British-bred import had won three starts in the United States by a combined 14 ¾ lengths. She had not been flying under the radar for trainer Mike Mitchell. The public made her the 13-10 favorite over 3-2 Life Is Sweet, the comebacking Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic champion.

St Trinians justified the public endorsement by rallying on the outside to gain command in midstretch and comfortably withstand the closing bid of Life Is Sweet and Gomez by 1 ¾ lengths while running the distance in 1:41.73. My Baby Baby, a 19-1 shot in the field of six, got up for third with Alex Solis up.

“I wanted to keep her outside because when those other horses stopped, I didn’t want to have to slow her down,” said Rosario. “Once she gets rolling, I didn’t want to get her stopped. She’s a real nice little filly, and she always tries hard. She ran huge last time, and she did again today.”

“You just want your horse to be sharp and she was razor sharp,” Mitchell said. “She’s just training so well. I knew I had a good mare to beat, and maybe I beat her with the pace.” The early fractions of 23.98, 48.03 and 1:12.47 did not flatter deep closers. Life Is Sweet raced 2 ½ lengths behind the winner turning into the stretch.

The mutuels on St Trinians were $4.60, $2.60 and $2.60. Life Is Sweet returned $2.40 and $2.40 while the show price on My Baby Baby was $4.20.

When Mitchell acquired the bay mare for Dan Capen and Laura Chavers, the mare came to the U.S. with three wins from seven starts. Her run on perfection in this country has earned $247,420 for her new connections including the Santa Maria’s winner’s share of $150,000.

The Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes was supposed to be little more than an exercise for Blind Luck, the 1-5 favorite in the one-mile event for 3-year-old fillies. But the Pollard’s Vision filly, who is nominated to the Santa Anita Derby, was fully extended to eke out a desperate nose decision over 18-1 shot Evening Jewel. The winning time was 1:35.98.

A winner of the Grade I Oak Leaf Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths and the Grade I Hollywood Starlet by seven, Blind Luck broke alertly in the field of five, but jockey Rafael Bejarano allowed her to settle into last, five lengths behind the leaders during the early going.

Turning into the stretch, Blind Luck rounded the corner widest of all as the field began to compact. She began to cut into the lead maintained by front-runner Switch, but Blind Luck still required a dramatic final surge to emerge victorious in the very last jump.

“There wasn’t much speed, so it was hard to come from off the pace,” said Bejarano. “She’s got a big turn of foot though, and as soon as we crossed the wire, I knew we had won it.”

Others weren’t so convinced. “The first time (watching the replay), I wasn’t sure,” said Jerry Hollendorfer, the trainer and co-owner of Blind Luck. “But the second time, I thought we won.” Jim Cassidy, who trains Evening Jewel, thought his horse had won prior to the official announcement. “That’s as tough as it gets,” Cassidy said afterward.

Evening Jewel, ridden by Victor Espinoza, gained the lead from Switch in deep stretch while racing between horses. Switch, with Tyler Baze in the saddle, wound up another half-length back in third.

The winner paid $2.40, $2.10 and $2.10. It equaled the shortest win payoff in the Las Virgenes’ 28-year-old history. Surfside paid the same in 2000. Other notable winners who have returned more generous payoffs were Sharp Cat, 1997; Serena’s Song, 1995, and Lite Light, 1991. The mutuels on Evening Jewel were $5.60 and $3. Switch paid $2.40 to show.

Hollendorfer, who owns Blind Luck in partnership with Mark DeDomenico and John Carver, said he had been concerned about the distance of the Las Virgenes. “In the back of my mind once I looked at this race, I was worried about the distance,” he said. “I think the speed sets up better when there are more horses. I think she showed herself a pretty good filly today.”

The winning purse of $150,000 elevated Blind Luck’s earnings to $859,050 from an overall record of 5-1-1 in seven starts. Hollendorfer said the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on March 6 was being considered for the next start by the chestnut filly his group had privately purchased following a 13 ¼ length victory in her maiden debut at Calder Race Course last June 21.

The 63rd running of the Grade II, $200,000 Strub Stakes produced the biggest upset of the afternoon’s graded stakes races when 11-1 shot Jeranimo upset 7-10 choice Misremembered. Excepting the Santa Maria, three of the graded events had been rescheduled after being washed out by a storm the previous Saturday.

Following a ground saving ride by Martin Garcia in the Strub’s field of nine, Jeranimo burst between Misremembered and Acclamation in the stretch to defeat the former by 1 ¼ lengths and gain his first stakes victory for trainer Michael Pender and owner B. J. Wright.

Misremembered, with Espinoza in the saddle, outfinished Acclamation, a 21-1 shot handled by David Flores, by another 1 ¼ lengths for the place. Jeranimo paid $24.80, $7 and $5.20. The mutuels on Misremembered were $2.80 and $2.40. The show price on Acclamation was $6.20.

Had the Strub been run as scheduled, Jeranimo would not have participated. “We skipped this race last Saturday because it meant coming back on seven days rest,” said Pender, “so we decided to take a shot today when it was rained out. The weather man was our best friend.”

Riding the victorious Florida-bred son of Congaree for the first time, Garcia required an eleventh hour primer. “I didn’t know a thing about this horse until this morning,” said the 25-year-old jockey. “I went by the barn, and Mike (Pender) said he had a little trouble last time, but he’s got a lot of heart. He told me just to ride him with confidence. I got him covered up early, and he relaxed real well. At the top of the stretch a hole opened up, and he kicked on really strong.”

“The horse just found a perfect little spot down on the trail,” said Pender. “He was saving ground, and I thought to myself, ‘Oh, no, here we go again,’ because he has been victimized countless times by poor racing luck. Today, the seam opened. He just followed Misremembered right through the turn and cut on the inside of him. The race just fell into his lap for a change on his biggest day.”

With a winning purse of $120,000, Jeranimo nearly doubled what he had earned in 10 previous races. His bankroll ascended to $264,500 from an overall record of 3-3-2 in 11 starts.

In the $61,150 Baffle Stakes for 3-year-olds that preceded the four graded stakes, Baffert saddled the winner and third-place finisher as odds-on choice Macias defeated Ace of Aces by 2 ½ lengths while running 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course in 1:12.58. Stablemate Marcello finished third. The winner, ridden by Espinoza, paid $3.80. It was the fourth win in six starts for the son of Purge owned by Zayat Stables.

The Grade II, $150,000 La Canada Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles heads Sunday’s nine-race program with Stardom Bound, the champion juvenile filly of 2008, listed as the 3-1 morning line favorite in a field of 14. First post is at 12:30 p.m.

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