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April 17, 2009

MITCHELL SEEKS THREE-PEAT AND TRAINING FIRST IN MARATHON SAN JUAN

In more than 30 years as a trainer, Mike Mitchell has never won the same stakes race three years in a row. That void on his resume could be fulfilled Sunday if the 60-year-old Bakersfield native wins Santa Anita’s traditional closing-day feature, the Grade II, $200,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at about 1 ¾ miles on turf.

Mitchell sends out last year’s winner, Big Booster, and Church Service, in a compact field of six. Mitchell won the 2007 San Juan with former claiming horse On the Acorn.

April 16, 2009

ESPINOZA COMFORTABLE WITH SPEEDY MIDSHIPS IN MARATHON SAN JUAN

Victor Espinoza is not concerned with potentially quick fractions in Sunday’s closing day feature, the Grade II, $200,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at about 1 ¾ miles on turf. Comfort is the key, says the 36-year-old jockey, who rides probable pacesetter Midships for Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel.

Frankel currently leads all trainers this meet in stakes wins with eight, and is second in career stakes wins with 145, behind Charlie Whittingham, who leads with 204.

April 15, 2009

PIONEEROF THE NILE IN ‘BEST WORK’ FOR DERBY; JOCKEY STILL OPEN

Santa Anita Derby winner Pioneerof the Nile had his final workout at Santa Anita Wednesday on a blustery but sun-drenched morning before departing for Churchill Downs Thursday where the son of Empire Maker will prepare for the 135th Kentucky Derby on May 2.

April 12, 2009

‘CANDY’ IN SWEET DRILL AS CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ FOR DERBY GROWS

Chocolate Candy, runner-up in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby and one of four major Kentucky Derby contenders based in Southern California, worked five furlongs under new rider Mike Smith on Pro-Ride Sunday in :59.20. The son of Candy Ride is scheduled to leave Tuesday for Louisville to prepare for the 135th Kentucky Derby on May 2.

“I was happy with the work,” said trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “Mike was able to familiarize himself with the horse, and he’s going to work the horse two times at Churchill Downs.”

April 10, 2009

SQUARE EDDIE TO USE LEXINGTON STAKES AS KENTUCKY DERBY PREP

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Square Eddie, who had been expected to train up to the Kentucky Derby on May 2, instead will first run in next Saturday’s Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, if all goes well following a scheduled six furlong workout at Hollywood Park tomorrow.
“That’s the tentative game plan,” trainer Doug O’Neill said Friday morning from his Hollywood headquarters, where Square Eddie has been training forwardly after recovering from shin problems that sidelined him since early February.

April 9, 2009

STEINER ‘WORKS’ HIS WAY TO KENTUCKY DERBY WITH PIONEEROF THE NILE

Joey Steiner never won the Kentucky Derby. Never rode in it, as a matter of fact. But on May 2 of this year, the former jockey could enjoy a vicarious victory, if Pioneerof the Nile wins the 135th classic at Churchill Downs.

April 8, 2009

TUSCAN EVENING EYES THIRD STRAIGHT IN SUNDAY’S LAS CIENEGAS

Tuscan Evening seeks her third straight win in the United States in Sunday’s Grade III, $100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap for older fillies and mares at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.
The Irish-bred daughter of Oasis Dream trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for owner William de Burgh broke her maiden by five lengths Jan. 22 in her U.S. debut on Santa Anita’s unique downhill course, then came back to win an allowance race on the same course by nearly four lengths on Feb. 28.

April 5, 2009

BAFFERT EYES ROSES FOR SANTA ANITA DERBY KING PIONEEROF THE NILE

Overcoming the challenge of another paceless race, Pioneerof the Nile Saturday enhanced his status as a leading contender for the Kentucky Derby on May 2 with a one-length victory in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby,

It’s on to Churchill Downs for the son of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker and Bob Baffert, who has won the Run for the Roses three times, but who has not had a participant in the mile and a quarter classic the past two years.

April 3, 2009

HORSEMEN FANCY ‘BIG THREE’ IN SANTA ANITA DERBY

The Pamplemousse, Pioneerof the Nile and Chocolate Candy—the three morning line choices—dominated selections made by local horsemen in an informal backstretch poll on Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, which drew a field of 10 going a mile and an eighth.

April 2, 2009

‘NILE’ SET FOR SANTA ANITA DERBY SHOWDOWN WITH PAMPLEMOUSSE

Despite victories in his last three races, all graded stakes, Pioneerof the Nile’s stock in some quarters has tumbled like a stone in a landslide. Understandably, Team Baffert isn’t buying.
Bob Baffert, who trains Pioneerof the Nile, and Garrett Gomez, who is unbeaten in three rides on the son of Empire Maker, shrug off criticism that Pioneerof the Nile did not win the Grade I CashCall Futurity, the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes and the Grade II San Felipe Stakes in eye-catching fashion.