A gala farewell for the great Zenyatta unfolds at Santa Anita on opening day, Saturday, when the historic track celebrates its 75th anniversary season.

Zenyatta was retired following her dramatic last-to-first victory in the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 7. The 5-year-old daughter of Street Cry was undefeated in 14 starts after becoming the first female to defeat males in 26 runnings of the mile and a quarter Classic.

All fans in attendance at Santa Anita will receive an attractive full-color poster of Zenyatta, courtesy of HRTV, and will be treated to a winner’s circle ceremony honoring the great mare following the sixth race. HRTV’s Kurt Hoover will host. The poster includes all 14 of Zenyatta’s career wins.

Along with owners Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta will be accompanied by trainer John Shirreffs and his wife and racing manager, Dorothy; Zenyatta’s regular rider, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith; exercise rider Steve Willard, and Zenyatta’s husband and wife groom and hotwalking team of Mario Espinoza and Carmen Zamora.

In addition to the Zenyatta poster, fans will also receive Santa Anita’s traditional wall calendar, which this year features dramatic photos chronicling the greatest moments of the past 75 years.

The Grade I Malibu Stakes and the Grade I La Brea Stakes highlight the opening-day program of 10 races.

First post time opening day is 11:30 a.m.


Lava Man, whose tale of the turf reads more like fiction than fact, returns from retirement Sunday at Santa Anita when he runs in the Grade II $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Racing’s greatest claim, Lava Man was retired from racing in the fall of 2008 after finishing sixth in the Grade I Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar on July 20, 2008, but thanks to state-of-the-art stem cell therapy that rejuvenated the 8-year-old gelding, 16 months later, he is back to race again.

“He’s a happy horse,” trainer Doug O’Neill said from his Hollywood Park headquarters Wednesday morning. “He loves to compete and he shows that grittiness in the mornings. I expect him to show it in the afternoons.”

Initially, Lava Man was scheduled to return in the Native Diver Handicap at nine furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Dec. 12, but inclement weather forced O’Neill to shift gears. “It was a little different track prior to the rain, and we didn’t want to take a chance,” O’Neill said.

Lava Man’s recovery treatment was supervised by Dr. Doug Herthel at the Alamo Pintado Equine Clinic in Los Olivos. It consisted of arthroscopic surgery to remove fragments in his ankles; five separate stem cell treatments that started about a year ago and ended in September; arthroscopic evaluation of both fetlock joints; chip fracture removal of the left front ankle, and cartilage scoring evaluation. He also was treated with bone marrow and autologous stem cells.

Taken for $50,000 on Aug. 13, 2004, Lava Man went on to earn $5,170,103 since, the most ever for any horse that was claimed. Overall, the California-bred of Slew City Slew has earned $5,268,706 from 17 wins, eight seconds and five thirds in 46 starts.

His rags-to-riches career has generated a wealth of fans, who continue to show their support. “He still gets fan mail,” O’Neill said. “People request photos of him and want to have their picture taken with him. He still has a lot of followers.”

The field for the San Gabriel: Acclamation, David Flores; Cherokee Artist, Jeremy Rose; Proudinsky, Rafael Bejarano; Lava Man, Tyler Baze; Great Siege, Victor Espinoza; Sir Dave, Joel Rosario; and Loup Breton, Garrett Gomez.


Adhering to the credo, “You can’t win if you’re not in,” Richard Mandella is tackling heavyweights in Saturday’s Grade I $300,000 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs. Mandella is familiar with the Malibu winner’s circle, having won the race four times, with Oraibi in 1988, Afternoon Deelites in 1995, Dixie Union in 2000, and Rock Hard Ten in 2004.

This year, the Hall of Fame trainer has entered New Bay, a promising Kentucky-bred son of Cuvee who has yet to hit the board in two previous stakes attempts, finishing sixth in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes last March, and fifth in the Grade II La Jolla Stakes on Del Mar’s turf course on Aug. 15.

“He won a two-other-than condition race at Oak Tree (Oct. 10) real nice,” Mandella said. “I was going to run him in the Damascus Stakes on Breeders’ Cup day (Nov. 7), but he got sick, so I’ve just trained him up to this race.

“He hasn’t shown he’s a stakes horse so far, but he’s shown us enough to give him another chance. We’ll find out.” New Bay, a $310,000 Ocala purchase owned by Spendthrift Farm, shows a bullet six furlong workout of 1:11 3/5 on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride Dec. 6.

The field for the Malibu: Misremembered, Victor Espinoza; Kinsella, Garrett Gomez; Square Eddie, Joe Talamo; Supreme Summit, Michael Baze; Mythical Power, Joel Rosario; Jeranimo, Brice Blanc; Papa Clem, Tyler Baze; Join in the Dance, Chantal Sutherland; Coronet of a Baron, Ahmed Ajtebi; New Bay, Alex Solis; Smart Bid, Jeremy Rose; Hunch, Rafael Bejarano; and M One Rifle, Mike Smith.


Starlarks is scheduled to make her first United States start on a surface other than turf in Saturday’s Grade I $300,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.

“We’re trying her on the synthetic and we think she can handle it,” trainer Paddy Gallagher said of the Irish-bred daughter of Mujahid, whose nine U.S. races have been on grass. She won the Grade II San Clemente Handicap at one mile on turf at Del Mar by a nose on Aug. 1.
“She’s coming out of route races, but she’s been acting good and training good,” Gallagher said.
In other La Brea news:

Bob Baffert sends out Mother Ruth and Gabby’s Golden Gal in an effort to win the La Brea for the fourth time in the last five years and the sixth time overall. The Hall of Fame trainer won last year with two-time Eclipse Award winner Indian Blessing.

Mother Ruth last raced at Aqueduct on Nov. 1, but has had two bullet works on Pro-Ride for Baffert. Gabby’s Golden Gal, winner of the Grade I Acorn on June 6, finished ninth in her most recent outing on July 4 in the Grade I Prioress after stumbling at the start.

“She pulled a shoe off and her foot was real sore for about a week,” Baffert said. “I couldn’t make the Test with her, so I put her on the shelf. She’s been training very well.”

Will O Way makes her first start since June 7, when she finished fifth in the Grade II Hollywood Oaks at 1 1/16 miles. “I just gave her a little break,” trainer Vladimir Cerin said of the daughter of Broken Vow. “She’s done well at seven-eighths. That’s probably her best distance. There’s a lot of speed in this race and she ought to be able to close a little bit.”
Will O Way was third to champion Stardom Bound in Grade I Del Mar Debutante at seven furlongs on Sept. 1, 2008.

The field for the La Brea: Kays and Jays, Rafael Bejarano; Alice’s Smart, David Flores; Dani Reese, Kent Desormeaux; Amazed by Grace, Garrett Gomez; Evita Argentina, Joel Rosario; Starlarks, Alex Solis; Will O Way, Victor Espinoza; Mother Ruth, Martin Garcia; Minute Limit, Alonso Quinonez; Gabby’s Golden Gal, Mike Smith; Rose Diamond, Joe Talamo; and Pinkarella, Tyler Baze.


Ron McAnally hopes to close a disappointing 2009 with a victory in Saturday’s Sir Beaufort Stakes. The Hall of Fame trainer, who has four wins from 86 starters this year, will saddle Massone in the one-mile turf race.

The consistent 3-year-old son of Menefee owned by the Frankfurt Stable has a 2-5-6 record from 17 starts, and reunites with Garrett Gomez, who has two wins in three starts aboard the chestnut colt.

“He’s had a little rest, but he’s training good,” said McAnally, who supervised a four-furlong blowout for Massone on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride Wednesday in :49.60.

Addressing a slow 2009, McAnally said, “We haven’t had any horses. It takes the horses to really make you.”

One horse that made him and vice-versa was the great John Henry, a two-time Horse of the Year whose statue sculpted by Nina Kaiser will be unveiled Saturday at the Kingsbury Fountain adjacent to Santa Anita’s walking ring following the fourth race.

“That will be special,” McAnally said. “John Henry brought the people to the track when he raced, and it will be nice to have a permanent memory of him here at Santa Anita, where he performed so well and so many fans enjoyed his victories.”


James Cassidy hopes The Usual Q.T. completes a rare graded triple in Saturday’s Sir Beaufort Stakes.

A 3-year-old California-bred son of Unusual Heat, The Usual Q.T. has won five straight grass races, starting with a maiden allowance win, followed by an optional claimer, the restricted California Cup Mile, the Grade II Oak Tree Derby and the Grade I Hollywood Derby on Nov. 29.

“He’s been a happy surprise,” Cassidy said of the bay gelding, whose stalking style and strong stretch kick should serve him well in the Sir Beaufort, a Grade III test at one mile on turf. “I knew he had talent. You just never know how far his talent will take him. He’s training fine for this race, and we’ll run him in the last 3-year-old stake of the year.”

The field for the Sir Beaufort, which goes as race seven on a 10-race card: Gallant Son, Mike Smith; Tamborim, Joel Rosario; Mr. Rod, Chantal Sutherland; Quoted, Alonso Quinonez; Massone, Garrett Gomez; The Usual Q.T., Victor Espinoza; Riviera Cocktail, Joe Talamo; Pleasure to Ride, Alex Solis; and Brenthurst, Martin Pedroza.


Admission gates at Santa Anita on Saturday will open at 9:30 a.m. and Gate 8, which adjoins the Westfield Santa Anita Shopping Mall on Santa Anita’s southwest end, will be restricted to racetrack traffic only, with mall access available via Baldwin Ave. through mall gates south of Santa Anita Park.
Although the Arcadia Police Department will help facilitate traffic flow into and around Santa Anita, it is expected that vehicular traffic will be very heavy Saturday morning on Baldwin Ave. from the 210 Freeway, south to Huntington Dr. Those wishing to shop at the Westfield Mall are strongly encouraged to avoid Gate 8.

Santa Anita’s parking lots will open at 9 a.m. Fans are encouraged to arrive early at Santa Anita and use Gate 3, at Holly Ave., or Gates 5 and 6, which are accessible by taking Huntington Dr. west from Santa Anita Ave., to the racetrack.


HRTV will present a special retrospective on Santa Anita's rich 75-year history, as well as previewing the upcoming meet, on Christmas Eve at 6 a.m.

The one-hour show, titled, "The Santa Anita 75th Anniversary Special," will re-air on numerous occasions throughout the day, in addition to Christmas Day.

The special will provide a look back at a spectacular litany of unforgettable moments and memories from the "Great Race Place." It will also touch on the upcoming opening of Gulfstream Park in Florida and stakes racing from the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

HRTV will continue its comprehensive coverage throughout the Santa Anita meet, featuring live post parades, in-depth race analysis, late-breaking news, and interviews with prominent racing personalities.

"HRTV Rewind" offers a fast-paced, one-hour recap of the 2009 racing season, debuting Thursday at 5 a.m. Additionally, HRTV will broadcast re-airs of its two recent half-hour shows -- "Pursuit of the Eclipse Awards" and "Pursuit of the Horse of the Year."


Zoe Bragg, a 15-year-old girl from San Antonio with Cystic Fibrosis, is enjoying a dream-come-true at Santa Anita, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Her interest in horses led her to volunteer her services at a show-jumping facility in San Antonio where she exercises one of the breeding mares and is learning to mix feed/supplements. The trusting owner provides Zoe with free riding lessons in exchange for her volunteer work.

Zoe has her heart set on attending college at the University of Louisville, which has an accredited program in the horse training/racing industry. Her ultimate dream is to be an Olympic dressage rider. Mike Smith is her favorite jockey, and she is anxious to meet the Hall of Fame rider.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Founded in 1980 when a group of caring volunteers helped a young boy fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer, the Foundation is now the largest wish-granting charity in the world, with 65 chapters in the United States and its territories. For more information about the Make-A-Wish Foundation, visit

FINISH LINES: There is special racing this Monday. The feature race is the fourth running of the $65,000 Eddie Logan Stakes, named for the Santa Anita icon who died last February at the age of 98. Logan had operated a shoe shine stand outside the racing office since the track opened on Christmas Day, 1934. The Logan is for 2-year-olds at one mile on turf. First post time is 1 p.m. . . . Martin Garcia has parted company with agent Nick Cosato and hired Vic Stauffer, who also represents Joel Rosario . . . Opening day’s fifth race has been dubbed “The Billy Kilmer Over-the-Hill Gang,” honoring the long-time college football Hall of Fame and All-Pro quarterback. Kilmer will be accompanied by former Redskins’ teammates Myron Pottios, Diron Talbert, Deacon Jones, Claude Crabb and others . . . The California Horse Racing Board has assigned Scott Chaney, Kim Sawyer and Tom Ward as stewards this meet . . . Former trainer Nick Hines will be Jerry Antonucci’s guest at the Today’s Racing Digest seminar on Saturday, 10:15 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens . . . As part of a season-long sponsorship, Santa Anita employees, family and friends will receive a 15 percent discount from ProFlowers will provide winning owners of Santa Anita stakes races this meet with floral bouquets.