Steve Asmussen, who is wintering for the second consecutive year at Santa Anita with 40 horses, is anxiously awaiting opening day. America’s leading trainer by races won, Asmussen oversees a national stable that wins races by the thousands. For instance, on Dec. 6, 2009, he set a single-season mark of 623 wins, breaking his record of 622 set the previous year.

The 46-year-old native of South Dakota became one of only five trainers to win 6,000 races in his career when Basalt won the first race at Remington Park on Nov. 18.

Next Monday, when Santa Anita begins its 75th anniversary meet, Asmussen plans to have not one, not two, but three starters in the day’s marquee race, the Grade I, $300,000 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs. They are: Light Up the Score, Rothko and Wine Police.

Wine Police worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Monday in 1:01.40, while Rothko worked five furlongs Sunday in 59.80.

Rothko’s recent record is the most impressive of three. The bay colt by Arch owned and bred by Padua Stables has won his last three races by a combined margin of 15 lengths, all on dirt surfaces: at Saratoga, Monmouth Park and Churchill Downs.

“Rothko is a nice horse,” Asmussen said Tuesday morning from Santa Anita’s grandstand apron. “He’s got a big future. He’s worked really well here.”

Like Rothko, Light Up the Score will be making his stakes debut in the Malibu. The homebred son of Even the Score owned by Millenium Farms broke his maiden in the slop at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3, then came back to win on a fast track under the Twin Spires by nearly three lengths.

Wine Police was second in the Jimmy V at Churchill on Nov. 4. The son of Speightstown owned by Judy and Kirk Robison was third in the Grade I Hopeful as a 2-year-old and second in the Grade II Amsterdam at Saratoga last Aug. 1.

Probable for the Malibu, one of four stakes on opening day: Associate, no rider; Casper’s Touch, Joel Rosario; Centralinteligence, David Flores; Hoorayforhollywood, Garrett Gomez; Light Up the Score, no rider; Luckarack, no rider; Racing Aptitude, no rider; Rothko, Corey Nakatani; Smash, Rafael Bejarano; The Factor, Martin Garcia; and Wine Police, Joe Talamo.

Malibu nominee Indian Winter will pass the race for an allowance race down the road, according to Jerry Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward. “We’ll stretch him out after that,” Ward said of the San Pedro Stakes winner.

Associate, winner of his two starts by a combined margin of nearly 19 lengths since being claimed for $35,000 by Richard Dutrow Jr., has bedded down at Santa Anita with trainer Doug O’Neill at Barn 88.


Joe Talamo has been named to ride Comma to the Top in the Grade II, $150,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes at Santa Anita on opening day. It marks the return to turf for the Florida-bred son of Bwana Charlie, who won his only previous grass start in the Grade III Generous Stakes on Nov. 27 last year.

Comma to the Top, second in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby last year, also had been nominated to the Malibu Stakes by trainer Peter Miller. Talamo guided Comma to the Top to a 3 ¼-length victory in a seven furlong allowance race on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track on Dec. 11, his first ride aboard the bay gelding.

Probable for the Sir Beaufort: Comma to the Top, Talamo; Irish Art, Rafael Bejarano; Joes Blazing Aaron, no rider; Mr. Commons, Mike Smith; Northern Causeway, no rider; Pathfork, no rider; Thirtyfirststreet, no rider; and Venomous, no rider. Entries for Santa Anita’s opening day card will be taken on Wednesday.


Rail Trip’s back and Ron Ellis has him.

Winner of the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup in 2009 for the Jay Em Ess Stable and Ellis, the gelded son of Jump Star was transferred to trainer Rick Dutrow in late 2010, failing to win in five starts.

Ellis got the good news on Monday.

“He got here yesterday,” the 51-year-old trainer said Tuesday from his Hollywood Park headquarters. “It’s a nice Christmas present. He grabbed a quarter in his last race and required stitches. It was a pretty nasty gash.”

Rail Trip’s last race was Nov. 17 at Aqueduct in the Sunny and Mild Stakes. He stumbled at the start and did not finish the nine furlong race as the 2-5 favorite in a field of five. The Equibase chart reads, “Rail Trip stumbled badly at the start, losing the rider (Ramon Dominguez) as a result . . .

Rail Trip won his first five starts under Ellis, then was second in both the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap and the Californian Stakes before winning the Gold Cup on July 11, 2009.

“He’ll walk at my barn until Jan. 1 and we’ll go from there, so at this point, I don’t really have any plans for him (race-wise),” Ellis said. “Needless to say, I’m pretty happy.”

FINISH LINES: World class agent Ron Anderson will be adding to his frequent flier mileage as he represent jockey Corey Nakatani at Santa Anita this meet and Alan Garcia back east. Anderson has resurrected Nakatani’s career since joining up with him earlier this year. “A week after I had him, he won six races (in one day) and should have won seven,” Anderson said. “He got bothered really bad in the last race. He’s light and he’s doing good. Things are good. Everybody knows he can ride. As for me, I’ll be traveling back and forth, working for both riders.” . . . Bob Baffert said he has no race in mind for Santa Anita Handicap winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Game on Dude, who worked four furlongs at Santa Anita Sunday in 49.40. The Hall of Fame trainer will see how Arnold Zetcher’s Liaison fares after his game win in the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park last Saturday before firming up his first start as a 3-year-old, but he mentioned the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 4 and the San Felipe Stakes on March 10 as being under consideration . . . Probable for Monday’s $100,000 California Breeders’ Champion Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at seven furlongs: Almost A Lady, Joel Rosario; Belloma, Martin Garcia; Caribaya Queen, no rider; Ismene, Mike Smith; Tangerine Tickle, Hector Berrios; and Willa B Awesome, no rider. Willa B Awesome worked five furlongs at Hollywood Tuesday in 59.60 for trainer Walther Solis . . . Probable for Monday’s $100,000 California Breeders’ Champion Stakes: Exotic Slew, no rider; Motown Men, Bejarano; Passing Game, no rider; and Stoney Fleece, Rosario . . . Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally plans to run Sugarinthemorning in the Grade I, $300,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs on Jan. 31. The daughter of Candy Ride is a four-time stakes winner. On the bad news side, McAnally said All Star Heart, winner of the Grade II Las Palmas at Santa Anita, “has a little splint injury. It’s nothing serious; very minor, but we’ll give her some time off.” . . . Interest in Santa Anita is increasing. A record 732 total packages and 2,126 tickets have been sold on the website,, which offers discount deals to subscribers. The Santa Anita bargain includes admission, program, box seats and a concession voucher for January and February this meet . . . Pasadena Magazine recently selected Pete Siberell, Santa Anita’s Director of Community Services and Special Projects, to the December issue of Pasadena’s Power Players. Siberell was joined by Senator Carol Liu, Jeff Michael, Anchor at Fox LA 11, Dr. Jean-Lu Chameau, President of Cal Tech and Cynthia Kurtz, President and CEO of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership . . . Mag Perez is a faceless member of racing’s backstretch, toiling at a game he loves despite infrequent success. The 63-year-old trainer has only five horses, but hope springs eternal, and Perez is optimistic about his best horse, a filly named Pic and Pray who turns five on Jan. 1. “I plan to run her on Jan. 2,” said Perez, who lost his wife, Candace, to cancer at the age of 62 on May 11 of this year. “Her father was Joe Bertolino, and they both were good friends of trainer Henry Moreno,” Perez recounted. “Henry and Joe raced quarter horses back in the 50’s. It would be nice if I could win a race for Candace.” . . . Jockey Alex Bisono plans to be a regular at Santa Anita this meet. Asked who would be his agent, the affable 27-year-old Long Island native said with a ready smile, “Me. And we’re gonna do good.”