It’s crunch time for Bob Baffert. With the Kentucky Derby less than two months away, the Hall of Fame trainer will have a clearer picture after Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes as to whether his two Triple Crown hopefuls in the race, Jaycito and Awesome Patriot, will continue on the path to the $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 9 and ultimately the Run for the Roses May 7 at Churchill Downs.

Jaycito, owned by Zayat Stables and formerly trained by Mike Mitchell, has not raced since Nov. 6, when he finished seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after an eventful trip. Awesome Patriot, owned by the Lanni Family Trust, will be making his first start since winning an allowance race at Santa Anita Dec. 29.

“The San Felipe is a really tough race,” Baffert said on a summer-like Thursday morning at Clockers’ Corner. “I was looking at some of the PP’s (past performances) and there are some fast horses in the race. But if you’re going to start (on the road to the Derby), you’ve got to run.”

Baffert expects to learn whether his highest-profile 3-year-old, The Factor, deserves to be on the Derby trail after the son of War Front runs in the $300,000 Rebel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn Park on March 19. The Factor set a six-furlong track record of 1:06.98 winning at Santa Anita Dec. 26 before capturing the Grade II San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 20.

“I want to give him a chance to see if he can handle two turns,” said Baffert, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner. “If he doesn’t win the Rebel, he doesn’t belong on the Derby trail. We’ll let him tell us.”

The field for the Grade II, $250,000 San Felipe, which goes as race eight on a 10-race program: Albergatti, Garrett Gomez; Runflatout, Joel Rosario; Surrey Star, Joe Talamo; Awesome Patriot, Rafael Bejarano; Comma to the Top, Corey Nakatani; Premier Pegasus, Alonso Quinonez; Bench Points, David Flores; Jakesam, Patrick Valenzuela; Jaycito, Martin Garcia; and Quail Hill, Martin Pedroza.

Jakesam blew out three furlongs Wednesday at Santa Anita in :35 flat for Jerry Hollendorfer, while Quail Hill went four furlongs in :50.20 for David Hofmans.


Always a Princess seeks her third stakes win this meet in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles. Bob Baffert recognizes that it will be the stiffest challenge yet for the 4-year-old daughter of Leroidesanimaux, who has won five of nine starts and earned $516,048 for owner Arnold Zetcher.

Always a Princess won the El Encino Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 16, coming from just off the pace to score by 3 ½ lengths. She led throughout on Feb. 13 to defeat three rivals in the La Caňada Stakes at 1 1/8 miles by 3 ¼ lengths.

“She just keeps improving,” Baffert said. “A mile and an eighth was a good test for her, so this race is probably the toughest one she’s ever been in. There are some really good fillies in there. It will be a good test. It’s a solid race.”

That said, Baffert doesn’t expect the lightning-quick filly to be anywhere but on the lead as far as she goes. “She’ll be in front,” Baffert confirmed. “That’s her style and it’s worked so far this meet, but she got a pretty easy pace in her last two races. She had everything her own way last time, and with Switch in there Saturday, she’ll stay right on her.”

The field for the Santa Margarita: Party with Brando, Brice Blanc; Always a Princess, Martin Garcia; St Trinians, Joe Talamo; Switch, Joel Rosario; Vision in Gold, Rafael Bejarano; Miss Match, Garrett Gomez; and Hemera, Corey Nakatani.


Peter Eurton has nothing but fond memories of Frank Alesia, who died Feb. 27 at the age of 65. Sunday’s sixth race was won by Hard to Resist, who is owned in part by the estate of Alesia.

“I started training for Frank in1989 and I knew him since I was 18 years old, before I started riding,” said the 53-year-old Eurton, now a trainer who still has some 15 head at Santa Anita for Alesia and his partners, and “quite a few more” on the farm.

Alesia, a character actor in the beach party movies of the 1960s and a director of “Captain Kangaroo,” died of natural causes at his home in Carlsbad. He came to Hollywood from Chicago in 1964 and was one of the last character actors to work under the studio system. His film appearances included “Riot on Sunset Strip” (1967) and some of the beach films that starred Frankie Avalon and/or Annette Funicello, including “Bikini Beach” (1964), “Pajama Party” (1964) and “Beach Blanket Bingo” (1965).

He also appeared in such TV series as That Girl, Gomer Pyle, USMC, The Odd Couple, Room 222, The Flying Nun and Laverne and Shirley.

After show business, Alesia bred and raced Thoroughbreds. “He was with my stepfather, (trainer) Steve Ippolito, before I trained for him,” Eurton said. “Frank was like an older brother to me.”


Following are weekend programming highlights featured on HRTV: * Uncle Mo's 2011 debut: Caton Bredar reports live from Gulfstream Park (full card coverage begins at 9:55 a.m.)

Caton Bredar will be reporting from Gulfstream as early Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo makes his 2011 debut in the $100,000 Timely Writer. The 2010 Eclipse Award winner, owned by Michael Repole, makes his first start since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in impressive fashion.

* "HRTV Encore: The 2011 Santa Anita Handicap" -- Saturday, 6 p.m.

Game on Dude's controversial Big 'Cap victory last Saturday will be re-broadcast with plenty of added elements. In addition to a race replay, HRTV will offer interviews from key participants in the memorable race, including the Santa Anita stewards, who allowed the on-track results to stand.

* "Classic Countdown: The Santa Margarita" -- Saturday, 5:30 p.m. The second installment of HRTV's "Classic Countdown" show will highlight the top 10 runnings of the Santa Margarita, Santa Anita's signature race for older fillies and mares. The show is hosted by Jon White.


Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN), the Eclipse Award-winning broadcast organization based in Lexington, Ky., has reached an agreement with all three Triple Crown racetracks to provide the national radio broadcast of the 2011 Triple Crown.

Having reached an agreement with Churchill Downs Incorporated, HRRN will provide the exclusive broadcast of the 137th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7, before moving on to Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore for the 136th Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 21, then traveling to New York for the final jewel in the crown, the 143rd Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 11.

Having broadcast the Preakness since 2008 and providing national coverage of the Belmont Stakes three of the past four years, HRRN will broadcast the Kentucky Derby for the first time in 2011.

“The Triple Crown is the most coveted title in our sport and the Kentucky Derby is the most prestigious event in thoroughbred racing,” said Mike Penna, President of HRRN. “As a life-long racing fan, the opportunity to broadcast the Triple Crown is a tremendous honor and privilege. We take great pride in making our listeners feel as if they are sitting next to us during our broadcasts and look forward to showcasing these days to racing fans around the world.”

HRRN’s Triple Crown broadcasts will air live from 5 to 7 p.m. Eastern Time for all three legs, and will be carried on HRRN affiliates throughout the country. HRRN’s coverage will also be broadcast to service men and women around the world on the American Forces Network, and streamed live on the HRRN website,

HRRN has scheduled 30 hours of Triple Crown coverage beginning Wednesday, May 4 with their popular Derby Countdown Show hosted live from Churchill Downs. In addition, HRRN will broadcast several major prep races starting with the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby this Saturday.

A complete broadcast schedule can be found on the HRRN site.

FINISH LINES: Richard Mandella is considering the $1 million Charlestown Classic or the Oaklawn Handicap for Setsuko, who finished a nose behind Game on Dude in one of most controversial runnings of the storied Santa Anita Handicap Saturday. “We’ll look at it,” the Hall of Fame trainer said of the West Virginia race on April 16. “The Oaklawn Handicap (April 9) also is a possibility.” Mandella said regular rider Victor Espinoza would have the mount in either case. Although he sustained a cut left foreleg in the Big ‘Cap stretch run, Mandella reported to Daily Racing Form that Setsuko’s leg has responded well to treatment and that he expected the Pleasantly Perfect colt to return to the track on Friday . . . Kilroe Mile runner-up Caracortado could make his next start in either the $300,000 Makers Mark at Keeneland April 15 or the $1.5 million BMW Champions Mile on turf at Sha Tin Race Course in Hong Kong April 25. “The horse came back really good from the Kilroe and he galloped today,” co-owner and trainer Mike Machowsky said. “The Hong Kong race might have more appeal because of the money and because they pay all expenses.” . . . Santa Anita Oaks winner Turbulent Descent is likely to shorten up and run in the Grade II Beaumont Stakes at seven furlongs at Keeneland April 17 after her victory over Zazu in the 1 1/16-mile Oaks on Saturday. “I’ll talk it over with the owners first,” said trainer Mike Puype, “and we’ll go from there.” . . . KNBC (Channel 4) reporter Robert Kovacik will interview Santa Anita Handicap winner Chantal Sutherland after today’s last race . . . Saturday’s Daily Racing Form handicapping seminar in the East Paddock Gardens at 11:15 a.m. hosted by Jay Privman features Paul Lambrakis, author of the "10-cent Superfecta Guide." Privman, national correspondent for Daily Racing Form, and Jon White, Santa Anita’s morning line maker and HRTV contributor, will be Jack Disney’s guests on Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:15 a.m., also in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday. Set your clocks ahead one hour Saturday night.