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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• AMAZOMBIE COMES TO HAND FOR BILL SPAWR
• KERWIN JOHNNY ON THE SPOT AS SANTA ANITA JOCKEYS WIN IN OT
• GOMEZ NAMED 2011 SANTA ANITA GEORGE WOOLF AWARD WINNER
• TALAMO A HIT ON-TRACK AND IN THE JUNGLE WITH JIM ROME
AMAZOMBIE AWAKENS IN TIME FOR SUNDAY’S SENSATIONAL STAR
In his last five starts, Amazombie has three wins, a second and a third, including a game head victory at 11-1 last out in the Sunshine Millions Sprint on Jan. 29. It was the first stakes start and thus the first stakes win for the California-bred son of Northern Afleet. Why the delay?
“He was getting better and better, and that was the spot to go,” said trainer Bill Spawr, who is winning at a 30 percent clip at Santa Anita this meet, with six wins from 20 starters, and has Amazombie at the ready for Sunday’s $100,000 Sensational Star Handicap scheduled for about 6 ½ furlongs on turf. “He’s training well for this race, too, so we’re excited about that. He‘s very consistent and he keeps improving.
“Ever since we gelded him (in January of 2010), he’s been a different horse." Spawr continued. “He just keeps improving, mentally and physically, things you can’t see on paper.”
Spawr is enjoying a solid meet. “We’re trying to run more horses, but the races don’t always go,” he said. Amazombie is owned by Spawr and his long-time “very close friend,” Tom Sanford.
Amazombie, a 5-year-old California-bred gelding, has a 6-3-2 record from 15 starts, with earnings of $308,708.
The field for the Sensational Star: J P Jammer, Martin Garcia, 114; Nikki’sgoldensteed, Martin Pedroza, 113; Quick Enough, Patrick Valenzuela, 121; Dancing in Silks, Garrett Gomez, 120; Hot Damon, Joel Rosario, 113; Korban, Victor Espinoza, 113; Colgan’s Chip, Brice Blanc, 117; Cayambe, Rafael Bejarano, 119; Amazombie, Mike Smith, 122; and Earnednevergiven, David Flores, 118.
JOHN’S 3-POINTER WINS THRILLER FOR SANTA ANITA JOCKEYS
When it comes to hitting big shots, Kobe Bryant has nothing on Kerwin John. The personable 35-year-old rider from St. Croix in the Virgin Islands tossed in a three-point shot that hit nothing but net to give Santa Anita’s jockeys an exciting 36-35 overtime win last night over Holy Angels School before a capacity crowd at La Salle High School in Pasadena.
“The game was tied at 33 at the end of regulation,” said HRTV’s Kurt Hoover, who coached the riders. “We played a two-minute overtime and Kerwin hit a three-pointer from the baseline that just swished with about six seconds left to win it. It hit nothing but the bottom of the net.
“The place was packed. People were lined up everywhere. It’s one time where you can say it was a standing room only crowd and be telling the truth. It was a great game. I’ve been coaching the jocks about 12 years and I can’t remember the last time we won.”
John recounted the winning play. “We were down by two points with 20-some seconds left and Corey (Nakatani) brought the ball up (court) and passed it to me. I drove in, then I backed up past the three-point line, shot the ball, and I made it. When it left my hand, I felt it right away (that) it was going in, and I hadn’t played in like two years, man.
“I played a little bit in the Virgin Islands, but not much, mostly in the streets, but not on any teams.”
Christian Santiago Reyes was high scorer with 12 points for the jockeys, who led at halftime, 23-21.
The 44th annual Holy Angels-Santa Anita Jockeys Charity Basketball Game benefited the Holy Angels athletic department and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF).
GOMEZ GRATEFUL FOR WINNING GEORGE WOOLF MEMORIAL JOCKEY AWARD
Garrett Gomez joined a list of legendary riders when he was named winner of Santa Anita’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award yesterday.
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, the 1996 Woolf winner, made the announcement on HRTV following Thursday’s fifth race.
Gomez was among five Woolf finalists who included Joe Bravo, Javier Castellano, Corey Lanerie and Gallyn Mitchell.
“It’s a great award, especially since it’s voted on by your peers,” said the 39-year-old Gomez during a break at Clockers’ Corner Friday, where it was business as usual working horses. “To know that your peers think enough of you to vote for you is very special.
“I was surprised. Nobody told me (in advance of the announcement). Mike Willman (Santa Anita Publicity Director) had me in the winner’s circle but asked me questions about other things and was kind of holding me there, and all of a sudden he asked me to walk with him, and it was right towards Stevens.
“That’s when I felt like I was a deer looking in the headlights. It was funny, because I came to work yesterday thinking it was kind of time that the Woolf Award winner was announced, because I’ve been excited about it for the last couple years.
“I was hoping I’d get a chance to get back on the ballot again this year, and I got lucky enough to win it.”
TALAMO WINS ONE FOR ROME, THEN VISITS HIS RADIO JUNGLE
Joe Talamo was a featured guest on sports talk radio superstar Jim Rome’s show Friday morning after winning Thursday’s feature race on Diamond Geezah, co-owned by Rome. Diamond Geezah prevailed by a scant nose for trainer Mike Mitchell in the $63,000 Down the Hill Purse at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.
“It feels great,” said Rome, whose Jungle Racing owns the winner in partnership with Dr. Dan Capen. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the winner’s circle and now that I’m here it feels good.”
When asked how he felt when Diamond Geezah was declared the winner via photo finish, Rome responded, “That was one of the greatest things that’s happened to me in this business. I’m very glad we got that bob.”
Added Talamo, who has 18 wins on Santa Anita’s turf course through Thursday to lead runner-up Garrett Gomez by seven: “I try to be optimistic in photos, but I really couldn’t tell who won. The blinkers made a big difference. When we crossed the dirt he just took off.”
Rome led his show Friday morning with Trevor Denman’s stretch call of yesterday’s feature and Denman was again center stage later in the broadcast, as Rome re-aired the winning call to lead in to his interview with Talamo.
ANTARES WORLD SEEKS TO REBOUND IN VALENTINE DANCER
Antares World faces a daunting challenge in Saturday’s Valentine Dancer Handicap, despite receiving seven pounds from co-highweights Evening Jewel and Unzip Me, who are assigned 125 each in the race for older California-bred fillies and mares scheduled for one mile on turf.
The consistent 4-year-old filly owned by Mr. and Mrs. Larry Williams and trained by Steve Specht has a 6-3-2 record from 16 starts, with earnings of $302,708, but was disappointing when eighth last out in the Sunshine Millions Distaff behind Evening Jewel on Santa Anita’s dirt track. Antares World has two wins from six starts on turf.
“If it comes off the grass, I’m coming out,” Specht said. “She didn’t run at all in the Distaff; she had a perfect trip and backed up, and this filly never gives up. Her other disappointing race was in the Providencia (Grade II at 1 1/8 miles on grass last April). She was in the one hole that day and ran the first half a mile with her head in the air until she got shuffled back to last.
“She actually came back on, because she was a good 10, 12 lengths off of them and closed ground.”
The field for the Valentine Dancer, which goes as the seventh of nine races: Evening Jewel, Victor Espinoza, 125, 8-5; Camille C, Alonso Quinonez, 115, 15-1; Warren’s Got Game, Patrick Valenzuela, 113, 15-1; Bran Jammas, Garrett Gomez, 116, 8-1; Antares World, Martin Garcia, 118, 8-1; Catsalot, Brice Blanc, 115, 15-1; La Nez, Martin Pedroza, 118, 4-1; and Ultra Blend, Joel Rosari, 123, 5-2. Party with Brando, Unzip Me and Saanneen were scratched.
NOBLE AND BERYL THREEWITT TRIBUTE AT SANTA ANITA TONIGHT
Following tonight’s last race, friends and family of Noble and Beryl Threewitt are invited to gather in the Chandelier Room at Santa Anita in appreciation of their many contributions to racing.
Threewitt, who trained more than 2,000 winners including 1954 Preakness winner Correlation, retired as one of the most highly respected horsemen in California racing history on Feb. 24, 2007. Threewitt was on hand when Santa Anita opened on Christmas Day 1934 and was a popular and welcome fixture at The Great Race Place spanning eight decades.
He died at the age of 99 last Sept. 16. His wife died last July 12 at the age of 98. They were married 77 years. Threewitt would have been 100 years old yesterday.
MACBETH FUND MOURNS PASSING OF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR TONY DEFRANCO
Tony DeFranco, the executive director of the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, died last Friday in Woodland Hills, California, after a long illness. He was 70 years old.
Since its formation in 1987, the MacBeth Fund has raised and distributed over $3 million to more than 2,500 injured jockeys and exercise riders. The organization was created by comedian Tim Conway and Judy McCarron.
“Tony was the guy who fielded all the requests for assistance and he was also the guy who organized all our fund-raisers such as the Jockeys Across America event, the jockey dinner at the Pamplemousse Grille and the team penning competitions,” said Chris McCarron, vice president of the MacBeth Fund.
“He worked closely with thousands of jockeys and racetrack personnel through the years and he will be greatly missed. The sport of racing and more specifically jockeys, were much better off because of the work Tony did.”
DeFranco, a native of Patterson, New Jersey, spent most of his career as a Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) administrator but had also dabbled in the acting profession with his good friend Conway before he was hired by the MacBeth Fund in 1987.
DeFranco is survived by his wife Phyllis, son Anthony, Jr. and daughter Dana, as well as two grandchildren.
A memorial Mass is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday, March 5, at St. Bernardine’s Catholic Church in Woodland Hills. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to: The Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, P.O. Box 18470, Encino, CA 91416.
MOSSES, ZENYATTA HONORED AGAIN BY TOC
For the third consecutive year, Jerry and Ann Moss were named Owners of the Year and their mare Zenyatta Horse of the Year by the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC). They also will receive the award for “Most California Purse Money Won.”
The awards for “Most California Stakes Races Won” and “Most California Wins” went to the Craig Family Trust and La Caňada Stables, respectively. New California owners Anthony Ramsden and William Warren were chosen in a tie as Rookies of the Year. “Story of the Year” went to Zenyatta’s 2010 California campaign.
The Mosses led all owners in California by purse money won with $1,497,593. They campaigned Zenyatta, who would also be named 2010 Horse of the Year nationally, as well as stakes winners Neko Bay and Cozi Rosie. Jenny Craig, who races as the Craig Family Trust, won eight stakes races with her two standouts Sydney’s Candy and Twirling Candy. La Caňada Stables won a remarkable 59 races in California in 2010. Among their winners was Royal F J, who ran third in the Grade II Del Mar Derby.
Ramsden won two races and over $80,500 in earnings, and his Locksley Hall ran second in the Harry Henson Stakes at Hollywood Park. Mr. Warren also won two races with his horses finishing on the board in 75% of their starts and with earnings of $80,000.
The selection process included a media selection committee comprised of representatives from northern and southern California track publicity, print media, television, and local handicappers. The winners were chosen by a combined vote of the media committee and members of the TOC board of directors. The Mosses were selected to receive this year’s Ed Friendly Industry Service Award. The award is presented annually to recognize outstanding contributions and service in the Thoroughbred racing industry. The Mosses became Thoroughbred owners in 1970, had their first stakes win in 1981, and won the Kentucky Derby in 2005 with 50-1 shot Giacomo.
Jerry Moss has served on the California Horse Racing Board since 2004. The Mosses generously donated a portion of Zenyatta’s 2010 earnings to racing charities but they are best known for their unmatched generosity in sharing their great mare with her many fans, making her available to delight the racing public on numerous occasions.
FINISH LINES: Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Anthony’s Cross worked four furlongs at Hollywood Park Friday in :48.80 for Eoin Harty. The son of Indian Charlie is pointing to the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 9 . . . Santa Maria Stakes winner Vision in Gold, prepping for the March 12 Santa Margarita Stakes, went four furlongs at Hollywood for Ron Ellis in :47.80, breezing, while Thunder Road Handicap winner Fluke went five furlongs at the Inglewood track in 1:00.40 for Humberto Ascanio, who had three horses entered in today’s first race at Santa Anita . . . Today’s sixth race is named for the California Tech basketball team and its coach, Jamayne Potts, who ended a 26-year, 310-game losing streak Tuesday with a 46-45 win over Occidental . . . Chantal Sutherland will be Steve Andersen’s guest at Saturday’s Daily Racing Form seminar, 11:15 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens, weather permitting . . . HRTV’s Kurt Hoover and Jason Levin of “Inside Racing” on XTRA (570 AM), Los Angeles, 7 a.m. Saturdays, will be Jack Disney’s guests on Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:15 a.m., also in the East Paddock Gardens.