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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• MIKE SMITH, EIGHT SHY OF 5,000 WINS, EYES BIG ’CAP VICTORY ON UH OH BANGO
• SIZZLING-HOT BAFFERT WEIGHS BIG ‘CAP OR DUBAI FOR GAME ON DUDE
• ROSARIO RIDES WILLYCONKER IN GRADE I KILROE MILE SATURDAY
• RENEESGOTZIP WORKS WELL FOR GRADE I LAS VIRGENES STAKES
SMITH GIVES UH OH BANGO STAYER’S CHANCE IN GRADE I BIG ’CAP
Mike Smith is eight away from career victory No. 5,000. “If they were all as easy as this one, I’d have been there already,” the Hall of Fame jockey said flashing his signature smile after guiding Mizdirection to a 2 ½ length triumph over four outclassed rivals in Saturday’s Clockers’ Corner Handicap.
The win brought his figure to 4,991 (he would reach 4,992 with a come-from-behind win on Tigah in the eighth race).
A more daunting task awaits the 41-year-old New Mexico native next Saturday, when he rides Uh Oh Bango in the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino at 1 ¼ miles.
Among his potential rivals is Game On Dude, last year’s Big ‘Cap winner and this year’s pre-race favorite, should he run. Smith already owns an upset over the Bob Baffert-trainee, posting a 1 ½-length victory aboard Drosselmeyer in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last Nov. 5.
“He’s certainly a stayer,” Smith said of Uh Oh Bango, a 5-year-old Top Hit horse, who was bred in Arizona by his owners, Triple AAA Ranch. “He’s the kind of horse that can get the distance and he’s doing really well.”
Uh Oh Bango won the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 7, then finished a game second to 3-10 favorite Game On Dude in the San Antonio Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 5.
“His last race was good,” Smith allowed. “Game On Dude ran terrific that day. If we get lucky and get a little pace up front, who knows what can happen? If Ultimate Eagle is in there with Game On Dude, there should be plenty of pace. We just got to hope that we can run ‘em down.”
Don’t put it past him. Smith has won with bigger longshots. Giacomo, at 50-1 in the 2005 Kentucky Derby, comes readily to mind.
Uh Oh Bango worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Sunday in 1:02.40
Probable for the Big ‘Cap: Boxeur des Rues, Mario Gutierrez, 112; Game On Dude, Chantal Sutherland, 123; Gladding, Joel Rosario, 116; Fiddlers Afleet, no rider, 110; Holladay Road, no rider, 114; Prayer for Relief, no rider, 117; Ron the Greek, Jose Lezcano, 116; Setsuko, Victor Espinoza, 116; Thirtyfirststreet, Eswan Flores, 114; Twice the Appeal, Christian Santiago Reyes, 114; Uh Oh Bango, Mike Smith, 117; and Ultimate Eagle, Martin Pedroza, 120.
In other Big ‘Cap news:
Kiaran McLaughlin said by phone Sunday morning he would decide tomorrow whether Hawthorne Gold Cup winner Redding Colliery would ship from the East Coast for the race.
Two-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Lava Man will escort Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner I’ll Have Another for a six furlong workout between races on Saturday. I’ll Have Another is pointing to the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7.
Doug O’Neill, who trained Lava Man and who conditions I’ll Have Another for owner J. Paul Reddam, said Sunday that in addition to Boxeur des Rues, he plans to run California-bred Lone Star Derby winner Thirtyfirststreet in the Big ‘Cap.
‘HERE OR DUBAI’ BAFFERT SAYS AFTER GAME ON DUDE GETS 123 FOR BIG ‘CAP
Game On Dude was assigned top weight of 123 pounds for Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, and as of Sunday morning, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was undecided on running.
“Here or Dubai,” Baffert said succinctly, alluding to running in either the Big ‘Cap or the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 31.
If Baffert were to opt for Dubai, Game On Dude, who is 4-4 over Santa Anita’s main track, would run on an artificial Tapeta surface.
Game On Dude would spot Setsuko seven pounds in the Big ‘Cap Saturday. They finished a nose apart in last year’s controversial running, in which Game On Dude carried 115 pounds to Setsuko’s 114.
Game On Dude carried 123 pounds to a 5 ¼-length romp in the San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 5, the gelding’s first start since finishing second at equal weights of 126 pounds in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last Nov. 5.
Baffert has won the last 12 races in which he has entered horses, from Feb. 11 through yesterday, Feb. 25. He had horses entered at Santa Anita in three races on Sunday.
Strub Stakes winner Ultimate Eagle was next in the weights at 120 pounds. A total of 18 horses were weighted, with Fiddlers Afleet drawing low weight of 110 pounds.
BIG ’CAP DRAW BREAKFAST SET FOR THIS WEDNESDAY
The 75th running of the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap will take place on Saturday and the Big ’Cap Draw Breakfast will be held by invitation only, beginning at 9:30 a.m. this Wednesday in the track’s FrontRunner Restaurant.
Also on Big ‘Cap Day, Santa Anita offers a $500,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 presented by DRF TicketMaker, and in honor of the marquee race, fans at Santa Anita will be given free Big ’Cap hats with paid admission while supplies last.
In addition, there will be another popular Food Truck Festival, featuring 50 trucks, in the infield. First post time is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.
RENEESGOTZIP IN SHARP GATE DRILL FOR GRADE I LAS VIRGENES STAKES
Unbeaten Santa Ynez Stakes winner Reneesgotzip worked five furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Sunday in a bullet 59.40, handily from the gate, for Saturday’s Grade I, $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile.
“Super,” is how Peter Miller described the filly’s demeanor as she comes up to the Las Virgenes. “I don’t think a mile will be any problem for her, not the way she trains and the way she’s been running.
“Going short, she’s been kicking away from them pretty good, so I don’t think the mile’s going to be a problem.”
Probable for the Las Virgenes: Charm the Maker, Joel Rosario; Killer Graces, Joe Talamo; Made to Love Her, Rafael Bejarano; Reneesgotzip, Corey Nakatani; Willa B Awesome, Martin Pedroza; and Your Special Day, Mike Smith.
Bob Baffert was non-committal on running either Eden’s Moon or Princess Arabella.
ROSARIO RIDES ARCADIA RUNNER-UP WILLYCONKER IN GRADE I KILROE MILE
With Rafael Bejarano on Sensational Star winner Compari in the Grade I, $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Saturday, Doug O’Neill has engaged Joel Rosario to ride Arcadia Stakes runner-up Willyconker in the Kilroe.
The Irish-bred gelding closed well to finish only a length behind victorious Mr. Commons in the Arcadia. Mr. Commons looms a strong favorite in the Kilroe, which will be decided on the turf.
Probable for the Kilroe: Compari, Rafael Bejarano; Jeranimo, Garrett Gomez; Make Music for Me, no rider; Massone, no rider; Mr. Commons, Mike Smith; The Usual Q.T., Victor Espinoza; and Willyconker, Joel Rosario.
GOMEZ JOINS STEVENS ON HRTV TODAY FOR WOOLF AWARD ANNOUNCEMENT
Eclipse Award-winning jockey Garrett Gomez will be on HRTV with Gary Stevens and Scott Hazelton Sunday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Gomez won Santa Anita’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award last year.
Stevens, a Hall of Fame rider who not only has won the Woolf Award but played “The Iceman” in the Oscar-nominated movie “Seabiscuit,” will announce the 2012 Woolf Award winner immediately following Santa Anita’s sixth race Sunday.
Though Gomez has been sidelined since breaking his left heel on Jan. 8, he is still Santa Anita’s leading rider by number of stakes wins this meet with six added-money victories.
FINISH LINES: Bob Baffert said The Factor came out of Saturday’s San Carlos victory in good shape but had no word Sunday morning on his next race. “I’m going to give him a few days,” Baffert said. “I sort of have something planned in my head but I don’t know yet.” . . . Impressive maiden winner Bodemeister worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Sunday for Baffert in 1:14, while San Felipe Stakes candidate Sabercat worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 for Steve Asmussen. San Pedro winner Midnight Transfer, also ticketed for the San Felipe, worked seven furlongs in company in 1:24.80 for Carla Gaines, who termed the drill “beautiful.” Midnight Transfer worked with stablemate Turn On the Pumps who was given a six furlong time of 1:13.80 . . . M One Rifle, winner of the Grade I Malibu Stakes in 2009, worked five furlongs in 1:01. “It was a nice minute,” trainer Bruce Headley said. “We have no plans (for a race). We’ve got to freshen him up a bit.” . . . California-bred Horse of the Year and Eclipse Award winner as outstanding Older Male Acclamation continues to progress towards his return to the races, but trainer Don Warren says the son of Unusual Heat is at least a month away from his first breeze . . . Peter Miller reports that the German-bred Sanagas, winner of the Grade I Hollywood Turf Cup before finishing last as the 4-5 favorite in the San Marcos Stakes on Feb. 11, likely will be returned to Australia by owner Andreas Jacobs with a long-range goal the Melbourne Cup in November.