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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• SQUARE EDDIE SET FOR GRADE I ANCIENT TITLE
• MANDELLA HOPES GRASS IS GREENER IN OAK TREE MILE
• LEROY’S DYNAMEAUX RETURNS TO SPRINT IN MONDAY’S GRADE III MORVICH
• VERGARA LONGSHOTS TRIGGER PICK 6 CARRYOVER
SQUARE EDDIE TACKLES THE FACTOR IN ANCIENT TITLE STAKES
The Factor will be an odds-on favorite to win Saturday’s Grade I Ancient Title Stakes and earn a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5, but that’s not deterring Doug O’Neill from testing Santa Anita’s track record holder for six furlongs.
O’Neill sends out Square Eddie in the six-furlong Ancient Title, which has been won in the past by stalwarts such as Groovy, Cardmania, Elmhurst, Kona Gold, and last year, Smiling Tiger.
“I think he needed his last race,” the trainer said, referring to the Pirates Bounty on Sept. 7, Square Eddie’s first race since March 5. The 5-year-old Smart Strike horse had spent a tour at stud between those two races. “He came out of it in great shape,” O’Neill continued. “He worked (Saturday morning) in 1:11 and one and galloped out great. We’re excited.”
Owned by J. Paul Reddam, Square Eddie won the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity as a 2-year-old in 2008 and won a comeback allowance race at 6 1/2 furlongs on Jan. 11 this year in a blistering 1:13.
“It was the right time,” said Dennis O’Neill, Doug’s brother and associate, explaining the trip to stud. “He got laid up when the breeding season started, and Paul had mares that he was going to breed to Momentum, but decided to swing them over to Square Eddie. It was always the intention for Square Eddie to come back (to the races). He has, and he’s training unbelievable. We’ll see if he’s still got the heart to compete like he did last year at this meet.”
Meanwhile, veteran horseman Ted West and his son, trainer Ted H. West, are optimistic that Mensa Heat will make his presence felt in the Ancient Title.
“He’s won three in a row, but this will be a test for him,” the elder West said of the 5-year-old son of Unusual Heat who will be making his 39th career start. “He’s at the top of his game right now and should be sitting on as good a race as he can run.
“I’d like to run him a little farther than six furlongs,” continued West, who soon turns 75 but plays golf five days a week at a course near his home in Monrovia. “I don’t think that’s his best distance, but he’s pretty sharp right now. I think he’s going to run pretty good.”
The field for the Ancient Title, which goes as the fourth of 10 races: The Factor, Martin Garcia, 3-5; Sirocco Strike, Victor Espinoza, 30-1; Square Eddie, Patrick Valenzuela, 15-1; Irrefutable, Rafael Bejarano, 6-1; Amazombie, Mike Smith, 5-2; and Mensa Heat, Joe Talamo, 6-1.
CROWN OF THORNS MAKES TURF DEBUT IN GRADE II OAK TREE MILE
Crown of Thorn makes his turf debut in Saturday’s Grade II Oak Tree Mile. The 6-year-old Repent horse that missed winning the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Sprint by a nose at 15-1 has a 3-4-2 record from 12 starts, but none on turf.
“I’ve thought about running him on grass for a long time,” said Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. “He’s only worked once on turf, and that was at Del Mar. But he grew up on it for a year and a half.”
Owned by the Spendthrift Farm of B. Wayne Hughes, Crown of Thorns is coming off two Grade I races, a fifth in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 11, and a third in the Pat O’Brien at Del Mar on Aug. 28. He was second in four straight Grade I races--the Ancient Title and the Breeders’ Cup in 2009--and the Pat O’Brien and the Goodwood in 2010.
The field for the Oak Tree Mile: Victory Pete, Jose Valdivia Jr.; El Gato Malo, David Flores, 12-1; John Johny Jak, Rafael Bejarano, 5-1; Blue Chagall, Hector Berrios,12-1; Jeranimo, Martin Garcia, 3-1; Mr. Commons, Mike Smith, 5-2; Crown of Thorns, Alonso Quinonez, 4-1; Calimonco, Victor Espinoza, 9-2; and Monterey Jazz, Joe Talamo, 15-1.
GLATT HOPES TO MAKE HIS MARK MONDAY IN MORVICH WITH LEROY DYNAMEAUX
After running fifth in two straight route stakes, including the Grade I Eddie Read on July 23, Leroy Dynameaux shortens up in Monday’s Columbus Day holiday feature, the Grade III, $100,000 guaranteed Morvich Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.
“He’s doing well,” trainer Mark Glatt said of the gelded son of Leroidesanimaux, who numbers the Grade III Will Rogers Handicap among his three career victories.
“There doesn’t seem to be a lot of good options out there for him and he has run well down the hill. If there’s early speed in the race it will help him. I don’t know if it will shake out that way or not, but we’ll see.”
Leroy’s Dynameaux broke his maiden on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course in March of last year and was second here in a minor stakes at Santa Anita in March of this year.
The field for the Morvich, race eight of nine: Al Insante, Hector Berrios; Ain’t No Other, Garrett Gomez; Excessive Passion, Joel Rosario; El Gato Malo, David Flores; Leroy’s Dynameaux, Rafael Bejarano; California Flag, Patrick Valenzuela; Camp Victory, Joe Talamo; and Posse Power, Leslie Mawing.
This Monday, Columbus Day, is Dollar Day at Santa Anita. Beer, hot dogs and sodas will be $1, with two stakes races highlighting the racing card, the $65,000 Jack Goodman Stakes and the Morvich.
AGENT GRIFFIN BIG LOSER, JOCKEY VERGARA BIG WINNER
Joe Griffin is half the man he used to be, but in this case it’s not an expression of insolence. The former trainer and current jockey agent once tipped the scales at 415 pounds, but now, thanks to gastro bypass surgery in February of 2006, is a relatively svelte 230 as he makes the rounds for apprentice Eswan Flores and veteran Daniel Vergara.
Vergara scored on two maiden longshots Thursday to trigger a Pick 6 carryover of $42,528 into Friday. A 35-year-old native of Mexico City, Vergara captured the sixth race on $138.20 winner Warrens Temptation, a 33-time maiden trained Jack Van Berg, and the eighth aboard 14-time maiden Bryan Daniel for trainer Hector Palma.
“He’s a really good rider,” said Griffin who counts Frank Alvarado, Steve Cauthen, Jack Kaenel , Terry Lipham and Alex Solis among his former clients. “I’ve had his book since the end of Del Mar.”
Griffin ventured west from New York in 1972 as an assistant to Bobby Frankel. Vergara—no relation to Octavio Vergara—has ridden at Turf Paradise, in Canada, New York and New Mexico before landing in California.
“I had ridden the Van Berg horse before, but I never look at the past performances,” Daniel said when asked if he might have been discouraged by the gelding’s lengthy losing streak. “Horses don’t know the numbers.”
SECOND PHOTOGRAPHY DAY AT SANTA ANITA HUGE SUCCESS
Santa Anita staged its second Photography Day on Friday, attracting 356 photographers who clicked away to their hearts content under blue skies and sunshine on a picturesque setting at Clockers’ Corner.
The photographers enjoyed a variety of activities including morning workouts, an “A List” speakers' panel and an afternoon of world-class racing that was deemed a tremendous success by management and participants alike.
“It is tremendous to see the enthusiasm and the passion these people have for our sport,” said Santa Anita Vice President of Sales and Marketing Chris Quinn. “In many cases, photography is a hobby for some of these people; others are professionals. All of them share a love and appreciation for the horse and the aesthetics that only Santa Anita can offer. This is our second such event and it’s grown 50 percent.”
Immediately following training at 10 a.m., HRTV’s Scott Hazelton moderated a speakers panel that included trainer John Shirreffs, jockey Chantal Sutherland, trainer Jeff Metz and Tom Abahazy of Benoit Photo.
FINISH LINES: Del Mar Mile winner Caracortado worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Friday in :49.40 under Zoe Cadman, and Mike Machowsky said he could alter plans and pass the California Cup Classic at 1 1/8 miles on turf on Oct. 29. “I’m not positive on the Cal Cup,” the trainer said, “because I missed a little time with him last week. We might go in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs). He won on the Hollywood turf sprinting (six furlongs in a near-record 1:07 3/5 on Nov, 11, 2010), so that’s kind of what I’m thinking right now. He’s so versatile, he can pretty much do anything. With him being fresh and me missing a little bit of time, I’ll know next Thursday what I’m going to do. I’m going to work him on the grass here Thursday.” . . . M One Rifle, winner of the Grade I Malibu in 2009, worked six furlongs Friday in 1:12 for Bruce Headley, who is preparing the 5-year-old gelding for the California Cup Sprint on Oct. 29 . . . Bob Black Jack, winner of the 2008 Malibu, worked four furlongs at Hollywood Park Friday in :50.20 for trainer James Kasparoff. The 6-year-old Stormy Jack horse is nominated to the Cal Cup Sprint. . . ShowVivor started with 1,688 contestants Thursday but was reduced to 1,187 going into Friday’s races . . . Aaron Hesz of Handicappers Report and syndicated handicapper Bob Ike will be Jack Disney’s guests at Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:45 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens. -30-