LAKERS KOBE & GASOL, SANTA ANITA’S VERGE, TEAM WITH KENTUCKY DERBY WINNING TRAINER O’NEILL, SIEMPRE MIO, IN SUNDAY’S FIRST RACE AT HOLLYWOOD PARK

ARCADIA, Calif. (June 15, 2012)—In what could be the most highly anticipated $12,500 claiming race in recent memory, Siempre Mio, owned in-part by Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, teammate Pau Gasol and Santa Anita C.E.O. Mark Verge, will take on five other older horses at six furlongs in Hollywood Park’s first race on Sunday.

Conditioned by Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes-winning trainer Doug O’Neill, Siempre Mio, a handy 2 ¼ length winner of a $25,000 claiming event at Santa Anita on March 31, appears to be the horse to beat with Joy Scott again engaged to ride the 4-year-old California-bred gelding by Dixie Union.

The legendary Bryant and Gasol were brought into the ownership fold by Verge at a charity fundraiser held at Riviera Country Club on April 24.

“I offered a 25 percent ownership stake in the horse as a live auction item,” said Verge. “As it ended up, Kobe and Pau hooked up in a pretty spirited bidding war and Kobe won-out at $8,000. I got to thinking about it and since Pau really seemed genuinely interested in the horse, I told him he could have 25 percent as long as he made a separate donation to the Lakers Foundation.

“He accepted right away and he’s been a regular visitor at Doug’s barn ever since their season ended. Ownership in this game is all about having fun with people you have something in common with and we’re having a blast with this horse. ‘Siempre Mio’ means ‘Always Mine’ in Spanish and Pau is really into this.

“Doug has been incredible as well. He’s training the horse, free of charge and we’re looking forward to bringing a big crew out to Hollywood Park on Sunday to root him on,” Verge added.

For his part, O’Neill acknowledged that Siempre Mio is in an “action” spot on Sunday.

“We’re trying to win a race and the horse has a big shot,” he said. Pau’s been coming by the barn and he couldn’t be a nicer guy. He’s had his picture taken with our entire crew and he’s in love with all the horses. He’s had our guys take various horses out of their stalls so he could look at them and he’s excited about this. He’s definitely a horse lover.”

Sunday’s first race at Hollywood Park has a purse of $23,000 and post time is 1 p.m.

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