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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• ROUSING SERMON GETS WEIGHT EDGE FROM LIAISON IN LEWIS
• GAME ON DUDE SET FOR 2012 DEBUT SUNDAY IN SAN ANTONIO
• NO ‘POST’ MORTEMS FOR ULTIMATE EAGLE IN STRUB STAKES
• CALIMONCO SEEKS UPSET OF MR. COMMONS IN ARCADIA
• PICTURE-PERFECT AMAZOMBIE IN BULLET DRILL FOR FEB. 25 SAN CARLOS
ROUSING SERMON HOPES TO TURN THE TABLES ON LIAISON IN GRADE II LEWIS
Rousing Sermon, a California-bred colt by Lucky Pulpit, was beaten a diminishing neck by Liaison in the Grade I CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on Dec. 17. Each carried 121 pounds in the mile and one-sixteenth race that drew a field of 13 on Cushion Track.
Tomorrow, the two Triple Crown prospects renew their rivalry in the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes with one difference: Rousing Sermon gets a break in the weights.
“We’re getting five pounds,” said Dan Ward, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “Plus, our horse has run good every time he’s run, and it looks like there’s enough speed in the race to help his closing style.
“And in the race before the CashCall—the Real Quiet—we gave Liaison six pounds (123 to 117) when he beat us by a half-length. We expect Rousing Sermon to run good again on Saturday.”
In six career starts for owner/breeder Mr. and Mrs. Larry Williams, Rousing Sermon has never been out of the money, winning the California Cup Juvenile and to date earning $274,000.
The field for the Lewis, which goes as the sixth race: Isn’t He Clever, Corey Nakatani, 6-1; Liaison, Rafael Bejarano, 9-5; Groovin’ Solo, Victor Espinoza, 12-1; I’ll Have Another, Mario Gutierrez, 12-1; Sky Kingdom, Martin Garcia, 6-1; Rousing Sermon, Joe Talamo, 5-2; Empire Way, Joel Rosario, 6-1; and Chips All In, Alonso Quinonez, 6-1.
TEAMWORK CRUCIAL TO GAME ON DUDE’S SUCCESS
Chantal Sutherland has a symbiotic relationship going on with Martin Garcia. She rides Game On Dude; he works the horse.
“I know the horse very well,” said Sutherland, who has ridden Game On Dude in five of his 14 career starts, the last four in a row, including a game second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last out on Nov. 5.
Sutherland will ride last year’s Santa Anita Handicap winner again Sunday when the 5-year-old Awesome Again gelding trained by Bob Baffert makes his 2012 debut in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes, a major steppingstone to the Grade I, $750,000 Big ‘Cap that will be run this year on March 3.
“It’s kind of a touchy situation,” Sutherland said. “Martin is doing his job for Bob, but I’m sure he would prefer to be actually riding the horse, so there’s a bit of competition there and I try not to rub it in. I appreciate what Martin’s done and I’d love to work the horse myself, but you know Bob.”
Game On Dude’s forte is speed, but when the gates open, the rider might have to make a split-second decision, depending on fate.
“With Bob,” Sutherland continued, “it’s kind of like, ‘You’re the pilot, but he’s in the control tower.’ It’s up to him. He could change his mind 10 times between now and Sunday.”
The field for the San Antonio: Tres Borrachos, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Uh Oh Bango, Mike Smith, 7-2; Game On Dude, Chantal Sutherland, 4-5; El Gato Malo, Corey Nakatani, 12-1; Ashtar, Kevin Krigger, 20-1; Victory Pete, Martin Garcia, 6-1; and Skipshot, Joe Talamo, 8-1.
ULTIMATE EAGLE SHARP FOR STRUB MEETING ON DIRT WITH TAPIZAR
Ultimate Eagle, who has made his last five starts on turf, winning the Grade I Hollywood Derby in the process, makes his first start on natural dirt in Saturday’s Grade II Strub Stakes at 1 1/8 miles.
The front-running son of Mizzen Mast trained by Mike Pender for B.J. Wright will square off against seven rivals including Tapizar, who won the San Fernando Stakes impressively in front-running fashion on Jan. 14.
Ultimate Eagle worked six furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Sunday in a bullet 1:12.80, fastest of 14 drills at the distance. The average time was 1:14.98.
“Off his workout Sunday, he hasn’t missed a step since his last race (third to Mr. Commons in the Sir Beaufort at one mile on grass Dec. 26),” Pender said. “We’re looking forward to running on dirt.
“Although we don’t like to see Tapizar, who’s a freak here at Santa Anita, we’ve got no other spot to run.” Ultimate Eagle drew post position No. 4, which makes little difference, according to Pender. “I don’t place much emphasis on the draw,” he said. “I never have. I always wondered why they made such a big deal about the Kentucky Derby draw. If you’ve seen Big Brown breaking from post 20 (and winning in 2008), you realize if your horse is good enough, you’re going to win.
“I don’t care if we drew the rail or the four hole or the eight hole. I’m just happy he’s in the gate and doing as well as he’s doing. I’ll let Martin (Pedroza) handle the strategy when the gates open. If this horse handles the dirt, he could break from post 30 and it doesn’t matter.”
The field for the Strub: Jaycito, Martin Garcia, 4-1; Prayer for Relief, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2; Beer Meister, Glenn Corbett, 20-1; Ultimate Eagle, Martin Pedroza, 9-2; Clubhouse Ride, Victor Espinoza, 12-1; Indian Winter, Joel Rosario, 15-1; Tapizar, Nakatani, 6-5; and Balladry, Joe Talamo, 8-1.
ESPINOZA HAS CONFIDENCE IN CALIMONCO FOR ARCADIA STAKES
Victor Espinoza, who rode Calimonco to a nose victory in the Wickerr Stakes at Del Mar last July, is reunited with the 6-year-old Storm Cat horse trained by John Sadler in Saturday’s Grade II Arcadia Stakes at one mile on turf.
Espinoza is well aware that he, as well as six other entrants, will have to beat even-money morning line favorite Mr. Commons to win the Arcadia, but Espinoza and his mount were close before. They finished third to Mr. Commons, beaten only a half-length, in the Grade II Del Mar Mile on Aug. 27.
“That was an excellent race,” Espinoza said. “I have a lot of confidence going into the Arcadia. “His last race was excellent, too,” Espinoza added, referring to Calimonco’s third-place finish under Mike Smith in the Grade II Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park on Nov. 26.
“I know John has confidence in the horse,” Espinoza said. “That’s why he’s running.”
Another viable Arcadia contender is the John Sadler-trained Pathfork, who will be making his U.S. debut on Saturday. A Kentucky-bred colt by Distorted Humor, Pathfork was champion 2-year-old colt in Ireland in 2010. His most recent start was on April 30 of last year, at Newmarket, England.
The field for the Arcadia, which goes as the third race: Dewey’s Special, Jose Valdivia Jr., 8-1; Pathfork, Joel Rosario, 5-2; M One Rifle, Joe Talamo, 10-1; Calimonco, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; El Gato Malo, Martin Garcia, 12-1; Willyconker, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; Massone, Corey Nakatani, 20-1; and Mr. Commons, Mike Smith, 1-1.
ECLIPSE AWARD WINNER AMAZOMBIE ON SCHEDULE FOR FEB. 25 SAN CARLOS
Amazombie stood like a statue in his stall at Bill Spawr’s barn Friday morning, a picture of happiness and contentment. This was less than three hours after the Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion worked six furlongs under the cover of darkness on Santa Anita’s fast main track in a bullet 1:12, with jockey Alex Bisono aboard. It was the fastest of 22 drills at the distance. The average time was 1:14.06.
“Easy, easy, easy,” is how Spawr described the drill in tones bordering on ecstatic. “When he got back to the barn, he was already cooled out. Unbelievable. He’s right on schedule for the San Carlos.”
The San Carlos is a Grade II race at seven furlongs with a guaranteed purse of $200,000 on Feb. 25. Amazombie had been scheduled to make his 2012 debut in the Palos Verdes Stakes on Jan. 21 but an off track forced Spawr to scrap that plan.
“He’ll have two more works before the San Carlos,” Spawr said. “He’ll work three-quarters or seven-eighths next Friday and have one more after that. We’re right on schedule.”
Spawr said he employed Bisono for Friday’s work “because he’s light and he’s got a good clock (in his head). I told him to go 1:14, he went 1:12. The horse does that because he does it so easy.”
Bisono, who tacks 115 pounds, called the drill “awesome.”
Meanwhile, Amazombie, a 5-year-old California-bred gelding by Northern Afleet owned by Spawr and Tom Sanford, is gathering quite a fan base since his Breeders’ Cup victory at Churchill Downs last Nov. 5. “He gets cards from all over the world,” Spawr said. “We got one from London, and one woman requested a strand of hair from his mane.”
While not quite in the league of Zenyatta when it comes to popularity, Amazombie is becoming a box office draw. “Just in our circle, with friends who have friends who have friends, we probably bring 80 to 100 people to the track when he runs,” Spawr said.
FINISH LINES: Social media are buzzing over Santa Anita’s flashy new billboard-about-town, featuring smiling jockey Chantal Sutherland on horseback pictured on a massive sign that reads in part, “Follow Me To Santa Anita Park.” . . . Multiple graded stakes winner The Usual Q.T. worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Friday in 1:15.60 under regular rider Victor Espinoza for the Grade II San Marcos Stakes at 1 ¼ miles on turf on Feb. 11. “I got him in 1:14 2/5,” trainer Jim Cassidy said. “He came home really fast.” Added Espinoza: “He went nice and easy.” . . . San Gabriel winner Norvsky, who worked seven furlongs on Santa Anita’s firm turf course Thursday in 1:29.40, also is on course for the San Marcos, trainer Don Warren said . . . At Hollywood Park Friday, Malibu winner The Factor worked six furlongs for Bob Baffert in a bullet 1:11.80 . . . On Saturday, recent Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Assn. National Handicapping Championship million-dollar winner Michael Beychok and well-known Democratic Party strategist and political commentator James Carville will be guests of Dave Johnson and Bill Finley on their weekly radio show, “Down the Stretch.” The program can be heard on Sirius Channel 93 and XM Channel 209, starting at 7 a.m. . . . Santa Anita offers a “Day On Us” on Friday, Feb. 10. Free parking, program and Club House admission coupons were included in the mailing of Santa Anita’s February newsletter. Some 5,500 people are expected to respond favorably to the offers . . . On Saturday, Feb. 11, Elizabeth Letts, author of the best-selling book, “The Eighty Dollar Champion,” will sign copies of her compelling story at Champions Gift Shop from 10:45 a.m. to 12 noon. The book sells for $28, including tax . . . Survivors in ShowVivor were down to a lucky seven entering Friday’s races . . . Jay Privman, National Correspondent for Daily Racing Form, and Ed Golden of Santa Anita, will be Jack Disney’s guests on Sunday’s early bird Super Bowl Fans’ Forum at 9:45 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens. First post time on Santa Anita’s eight-race Sunday card is 11 a.m. Gates open at 9 a.m.