STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN

• CALIFORNIA FLAG DRAWS WELL FOR MONDAY’S GRADE III MORVICH

• AMAZOMBIE 5-2 AGAINST ODDS-ON THE FACTOR IN GRADE I ANCIENT TITLE

• GRASS IS GREENER FOR MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE, SET FOR II OAK TREE DERBY

• COMBAT WOUNDED MARINE HAS ROOTING INTEREST IN SUNDAY’S 6TH RACE

CALIFORNIA FLAG ON FAVORITE COURSE IN GRADE III MORVICH

California Flag drew the number six post position for Monday’s Grade III, $100,000 guaranteed Morvich Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on the turf. Brian Koriner is happy with his spot in the field of eight.

“I don’t think the race came up too tough,” said the trainer, who is seeking his third Morvich win with California Flag. “If he runs his race, he’ll be tough. He loves the downhill course. He’s four-for-seven down the hill. Everything’s right. We’ve got no excuse.”

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. Monday, Columbus Day, is Dollar Day at Santa Anita. Beer, hot dogs and sodas will be $1.

AMAZOMBIE MUST CATCH THE FACTOR IN ANCIENT TITLE STAKES

Trainer Bill Spawr knows Amazombie faces a daunting task in today’s Grade I Ancient Title Stakes, a ‘Win and You’re In’ event that could lead to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. Amazombie must catch and beat The Factor, the 3-5 favorite on Jon White’s morning line in the six furlong test.

“He’s doing great,” Spawr said of Amazombie, who has run in seven straight stakes, winning four, after toiling in lesser races in his first 14 starts.

“He’s doing very well. I missed a little time with him coming out of Del Mar. I got behind about a week or 10 days with a bruised foot but he got over it real quick and he’s been fine since.”

Amazombie, a 5-year-old California-bred gelding by Northern Afleet-Wilshe Amaze, was third to Euroears in the Grade I Bing Crosby at Del Mar on July 31. Euroears, like The Factor, is another speedster trained by Bob Baffert. That’s a major concern for Spawr in the Ancient Title.

“There’s no speed in the race besides The Factor,” Spawr said. “He’s the one we have to run down and there’s nobody to go with him.”

The field for the Ancient Title: 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.

MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE SET FOR OAK TREE DERBY NEXT SATURDAY

Midnight Interlude, who found a home on turf after finishing well back in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness last year, is on course for next Saturday’s Grade II Oak Tree Derby at 1 1/8 miles on grass, Bob Baffert said Saturday. Rafael Bejarano has the mount.

“He worked yesterday,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. The 3-year-old son of War Chant went six furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track in 1:13.80.

The bay colt owned by Arnold Zetcher made his first six starts on synthetic or dirt, but won a minor stakes at Hollywood Park in his first turf start on June 17, was fourth despite encountering traffic problems in the Grade II La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 13, then missed by a nose in the Grade II Del Mar Derby on turf Sept. 4.

Other probables for the $150,000 guaranteed Oak Tree Derby include Surrey Star for trainer Jim Cassidy and Thirtyfirststreet for trainer Doug O’Neill.

MARINE CORPS HERO ROOTS FOR HIS HORSE AT SANTA ANITA SUNDAY

There are some special races at Santa Anita over the three-day Columbus Day weekend. Today’s races include the Grade I Ancient Titles Stakes and the Grade II Oak Tree Mile. The Grade III, $100,000 Morvich Stakes is Monday.

Another special race is Sunday’s sixth, a $40,000 allowance race. It is special because of a part-owner of one of the horses. Under Protest, who is scheduled to start from the No. 6 post under Joe Talamo, is owned by a partnership that includes Bob Bone, Ron Brewer, Jim Robinson, Josh Hotaling, his twin brother, Troy, and their friend, Dustin Lydon.

Hotaling is a young Marine who returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan four months ago after losing both his legs.

Although Josh had been stationed on the East Coast, he was sent to the Naval Medical Center of San Diego, where Bone, organizer of the annual Military Appreciation Day at Del Mar, got to know him and learned of his love for racing. Although confined to a wheelchair, Josh visited Del Mar several times with Troy and Dustin during the summer meet there. Troy told Bone that Josh would love to someday own a horse or at least be a part-owner.

After Under Protest won a $32,000 maiden claiming race at Fairplex Park Sept. 14 and was claimed by Bone and his partners, Bone offered Josh, at no cost, a piece of the horse. Josh accepted the offer on one condition--that his brother and friend be included.

For Sunday’s sixth race, Talamo will wear special USMC silks designed by Stephanie Searle of Classic Silks USA in Burlingame, CA.

Josh has recently been learning to walk on prosthetics and has just received clearance to leave the hospital. Bone told the Paulick Report, a national internet horse racing newsletter, that if Under Protest wins, Josh is going to walk down to the Winner’s Circle at Santa Anita.

“He said it may take a while and he may fall a few times, but he’s going to do it,” Bone said.

FINISH LINES: Octavio Vergara, the oldest active rider in the jocks’ room save for 10 months seniority held by Goncalino Almeida, according to assistant Clerk of Scales Charles McCaul, will retire from riding on Oct. 20. “I’ll ride Powerofvoodoo that day for Barry Abrams and that will be my last ride,” said the sometimes-effusive native of Chile, who has ridden for 40 years. “I’ll be 55 on Dec.3 . . . I was seventh in the Kentucky Derby on Fight Over in 1984 (beaten eight lengths by Swale, ridden by Laffit Pincay Jr.). I’ll continue to work for Barry after my retirement.” Added Abrams: “Even though he’s probably the oldest rider on the circuit, Octavio is a hard worker." . . . Trainer Simon Callaghan said Dubawi Heights came out of her Yellow Ribbon victory on Oct. 1 “great and I couldn’t be happier with her since the win. We’ll probably do her last work here and then ship her a week before (the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4).” . . . Agent Brad Pegram reports that Victor Espinoza will ride Star Billing for John Shirreffs in Keeneland’s Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge next Saturday . . . ShowVivor started with 1,187 contestants Friday but was down to 1,023 going into Saturday’s races.

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