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March 25, 2009

‘BIG THREE’ DRILL FOR SANTA ANITA DERBY ON APRIL 4

The Pamplemousse, Pioneerof the Nile and Chocolate Candy, the three favorites for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 4, each worked on Pro-Ride Wednesday as the countdown began in earnest for the West Coast’s major prep for the Kentucky Derby on May 2.

Sham Stakes winner The Pamplemousse, expected to be a slight favorite over Pioneerof the Nile in the mile and an eighth Santa Anita Derby, worked six furlongs under regular rider Alex Solis in 1:13 flat.

March 22, 2009

BAFFERT SEEKS FIFTH SANTA ANITA DERBY WIN WITH PIONEEROF THE NILE

Bob Baffert is as familiar with winning the Santa Anita Derby as he is with winning training titles at the storied track. He has made his headquarters in Arcadia for nearly two decades, winning the Santa Anita Derby four times, and the training championship eight times, including a record seven years in a row from 1996-97 through 2002-03.

March 21, 2009

‘CANDY’ ARRIVING FOR SANTA ANITA DERBY; FEISTY SUANCES TO RUN

El Camino Real Derby winner Chocolate Candy was scheduled to arrive at Santa Anita this afternoon from the Bay Area to begin final preparations for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 4.

Expected to be the third choice behind Pioneerof the Nile and The Pamplemousse, Chocolate Candy has not raced since winning the Grade III El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 14. The Santa Anita Derby would be his first race in more than six weeks.

March 20, 2009

SANTA ANA GRASS IS GREENER FOR VISIT, FRANKEL SAYS

Bobby Frankel says there’s little doubt Visit is better on grass than she is on dirt or synthetic. Thus, the Hall of Fame trainer, Santa Anita’s career leader in victories with 913, expects considerable improvement from the English-bred daughter of Oasis Dream when she runs in Sunday’s Grade II, $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

March 19, 2009

TRAINERS EYE UPSET IN SATURDAY’S SAN LUIS REY HANDICAP

Spring House and Artiste Royal are the starting highweights at 118 pounds in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Rey Handicap, but trainers Barry Abrams and Steve Knapp feel they have longshot chances with their horses in the 42nd renewal of the mile and a half turf marathon.
Abrams trains the recently acquired On Fire, who was scratched from an earlier race at Santa Anita when it was moved from grass to Pro-Ride. Knapp conditions Bonjour, a 9-year-old New Zealand bred who has shown good form in his last three races.

March 18, 2009

MIKE SMITH ON ‘SHARP’ MARE FOR SUNDAY’S SANTA ANA HANDICAP

Mike Smith hasn’t ridden Sharp Susan competitively, but the Hall of Fame rider still has considerable respect for the 5-year-old mare based on his one workout aboard her prior to Sunday’s Grade II, $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

March 15, 2009

MITCHELL HAS BACHARACHS’ HORSE IN TUNE FOR SAN LUIS REY

Mike Mitchell has precedent going for him in next Saturday’s San Luis Rey Handicap. The 60-year-old trainer has more than one successful reclamation project on his lofty and lengthy resume, and he hopes to add to it with a 5-year-old gray gelding named You Got Me Rocking in the Grade II turf race at the marathon distance of a mile and one half.

March 13, 2009

BAFFERT HAS SAN FELIPE PRIORITIES IN ORDER; NEW BAY TO RUN

Odds and logic say Pioneerof the Nile will win Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes. At 2-5 on the morning line, the 3-year-old son of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker would appear to outclass his handful of rivals in the Grade II race at 1 1/16 miles, but aside from victory, Bob Baffert has other priorities. The 56-year-old trainer, a three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby who is eligible for the Hall of Fame this year, wants a safe trip.

March 12, 2009

GOMEZ FAVORED TO NEAR SANTA ANITA STAKES RECORD SATURDAY

Life is sweet for Garrett Gomez, and not just because he rides a filly by that name in Saturday’s Santa Margarita Handicap. The Eclipse Award winner the last two years as the nation’s outstanding jockey, Gomez also rides prohibitive favorite Pioneerof the Nile Saturday in the San Felipe Stakes.

March 11, 2009

PIONEEROF THE NILE HEAVY SAN FELIPE CHOICE; GOMEZ NEARS RECORD

Leading Triple Crown contender Pioneerof the Nile drew post position No. 2 in a field of seven for Saturday’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes, his final major prep for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 4. Pioneerof the Nile figures to be an odds-on favorite in the 1 1/16-mile test.

Trainer Bob Baffert pronounced “all systems are go” after the son of Empire Maker worked five furlongs last Sunday in a bullet :58.80 under regular rider Garrett Gomez.