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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• BIG ‘CAP DISTANCE NO CONCERN FOR PEDROZA ON ULTIMATE EAGLE
• JERANIMO EYES TARGET AND MR. COMMONS IN GRADE I KILROE MILE
• WHITE SEES HOLLADAY ROAD AS VIABLE LONGSHOT IN BIG ’CAP
• McANALLY PAINTS ‘ROSARIO’ PICTURE FOR LAS VIRGENES STAKES
• SANTA ANITA AVAILABLE ON KVMD FROM 3 P.M. TO 6 P.M. ON BIG ’CAP DAY
FAVORED ULTIMATE EAGLE ONE TO CATCH IN GRADE I BIG ’CAP
Martin Pedroza can read past performances as well as anyone, and the 46-year-old jockey is a realist. So he is well aware that his mount in Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino is not only the 5-2 morning line favorite, but also the horse to catch in the field of 13 going a mile and a quarter in Santa Anita’s marquee race.
“I wasn’t concerned about who’s going, just with riding my horse,” Pedroza said after a typical morning of working horses before fulfilling his riding assignments Thursday afternoon. “I’ve said that he doesn’t have to be in front, but he probably will be, face it. He’s that fast. He’s probably going to the front. He’s faster than any horse in the race, I think.”
Ultimate Eagle has won at the Big ‘Cap distance, but that was on turf in the Grade I Hollywood Derby last November 27.
“I’m not concerned at all about the distance,” Pedroza said. “He proved he can do it on the grass course, and although the grass course is different from the dirt, I don’t think it should be any problem.”
Mike Pender trains Ultimate Eagle and also Jeranimo, who runs in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on Saturday. Both horses are owned by B.J. Wright. Should they pull a Big ‘Cap/Kilroe double, it would not be a first. The late Bobby Frankel achieved the feat in 2002 when he saddled Juddmonte Farms’ Decarchy to win the Kilroe and Stronach Stables’ Milwaukee Brew to take the Big ‘Cap.
And this gem from award-winning sports writer Bill Dwyre on a Santa Anita Handicap column in Thursday’s Los Angeles Times, commenting on trainer Julio Canani, who sends out Holladay Road in the race and who also is portrayed by actor John Ortiz in the HBO hit series, LUCK:
“Then there is the 8-1 choice Holladay Road, trained by the quirky, semi-lovable, untranslatable Julio Canani. Canani, from Peru by way of Mars, is the model for the trainer Turo Escalante in the HBO series LUCK. Escalante is played by actor John Ortiz, who was on hand for Wednesday’s Big ‘Cap draw party at Santa Anita.”
Also on Big ’Cap Day, Santa Anita offers a $500,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 presented by DRF TicketMaker, and in honor of the classic, 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 in the infield. First post time is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.
WHITE SEES CANANI CHARGE AS BIG DANGER IN THE BIG ’CAP
Santa Anita’s oddsmaker, Jon White, had to do some tap dancing, so to speak, before he ultimately installed Ultimate Eagle as the 5-2 morning line favorite for Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap.
“I kept tinkering around with various Big ’Cap morning lines because the field kept changing all the way up until entries closed,” White said. “And then, when entries did close, there was no Game On Dude, who certainly would have been the morning line favorite. If Game On Dude had been entered to make it a field of 14, I would have made him 9-5.
“Without Game On Dude, I don’t think there is any doubt Ultimate Eagle will be the favorite in the wake of his scintillating dirt debut in the Strub. He might even be a lot heavier favorite than 5-2. But if I had made him a lot shorter morning line favorite than 5-2 that would have meant having to really raise the prices on the other contenders. And in this particular case, I just didn’t feel that was the way to go. By the way, just think, as recently as October, Ultimate Eagle was 34-1 in the Oak Tree Derby. Now here he is, the morning line favorite for the Santa Anita Handicap. And keep in mind his rider (Martin Pedroza) is no stranger to posing in the winner’s circle after a Big ’Cap. Pedroza won it in 1989 aboard 50-1 Martial Law.”
White noted that the morning line for this year’s Santa Anita Handicap pretty much matches up with the weight assignments, with the exceptions of Setsuko and Holladay Road.
“While it’s true that Setsuko is coming off only an allowance win, he just missed winning this race last year,” said White, who also provides TV commentary for Santa Anita’s simulcast network.
“So he has proven that he’s capable of coming up with a strong performance in this race. And then there is the wrinkle that Setsuko’s first start of the year was the first time he has raced as a gelding. I think a lot of people are of the opinion he might be even better now as a gelding, which could very well translate into a fair amount of support for him in the betting. Also, his trainer (Richard Mandella) has won the Big ’Cap not once, not twice, but three times. So even though four horses in the field of 13 were assigned more weight than Setsuko’s 116, I think Setsuko deserves to be the second favorite on the morning line.
“I see Holladay Road as very, very dangerous. And I think there is a possibility quite a few others may feel likewise, hence his 8-1 morning line price when some might have expected him to be higher than that considering he was assigned only 114 pounds. It appears to me that Holladay Road is really improving, plus Julio (Canani) is a very good trainer who pulled off that big upset with Martial Law. How good did Julio have Martial Law for this race in ’89? Martial Law’s final time (1:58 4/5) still ranks as second-fastest in Big ’Cap history. Only Affirmed (1:58 3/5 in 1979) posted a faster final time in the Big ’Cap than Martial Law. And I’d say another plus for Holladay Road is his rider, Rafael Bejarano, who does already have a Big ’Cap win to his credit (Heatseeker in 2008).
“All in all, it’s a very interesting Big ’Cap, as usual.”
BIG ’CAP FIELD WITH ODDS & COMMENTS BY JON WHITE
1. Uh Oh Bango 6-1 Won the San Pasqual
2. Ultimate Eagle 5-2 Super dirt debut in Strub
3. Ron the Greek 6-1 2nd in Sun. Millions Classic
4. Boxeur des Rues 50-1 Making first start on dirt
5. Thirtyfirststreet 30-1 Thirty-to-one-firststreet
6. Twice the Appeal 30-1 Highest Beyer only 90
7. Fiddlers Afleet 50-1 Assigned feathery 110 lbs.
8. Gladding 12-1 Makes first start of 2012
9. Setsuko 4-1 Lost 2011 Big ’Cap by nose
10. Norvsky 6-1 Recorded a 97 Beyer on dirt
11. Prayer for Relief 8-1 Snaps 4-race losing streak?
12. Holladay Road 8-1 Sharp and very dangerous
13. Victory Pete 50-1 Last win ’09, no stakes wins
SANTA ANITA HANDICAP TO BE INCLUDED IN LIVE KVMD COVERAGE ON SATURDAY
Live racing from Santa Anita will be available via Los Angeles-based over-the-air KVMD this Saturday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., which will enable viewers to watch the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap live. The Big ’Cap, for the first time ever, will be run as the day’s 11th and final race.
HRTV is regularly broadcast on KVMD on Fridays from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., and on weekends from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. KVMD is available on most cable systems in L.A., Ventura and Orange Counties. In addition to the Big ’Cap running as the final race, the Grade I Las Virgenes has been carded as race nine and the Grade I Kilroe Mile will go as the 10th race.
HRTV AIRS TWO SPECIAL SHOWS ON BIG ’CAP TONIGHT
With the 75th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap Saturday, HRTV will present two special programs today, highlighting a pair of memorable runnings of the Big ‘Cap.
The first hour show, set for 6 p.m., will be a re-broadcast of the 1982 running of the Big ‘Cap, which featured the much-talked-about disqualification of Perrault, resulting in the legendary John Henry being placed first. The On-TV broadcast, which included training great D. Wayne Lukas providing commentary, will be shown in its entirety.
Following that show, at 7 p.m., HRTV will offer an "encore" presentation of its Big 'Cap coverage from last March that featured another extraordinary finish. With jockey Chantal Sutherland aboard, Game On Dude survived a stretch battle, and lengthy inquiry, to defeat Setsuko by a nose. (Sutherland became the first female jockey to win the Big 'Cap).
TARGET SHOULD HELP JERANIMO AGAINST MR. COMMONS IN GRADE I KILROE
Jeranimo inherited the lead by default when he finished second in the Grade II San Gabriel Stakes on Jan. 16. Trainer Mike Pender anticipates a more favorable scenario for the 6-year-old Congaree horse owned by B.J. Wright when he tackles 4-5 morning line choice Mr. Commons and others in Saturday’s Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile.
“He definitely runs better with a target, if you just leave him alone and let him do his thing,” Pender said. “Just put him in cruise control behind other horses and let him drop his bit. He can out-gallop any miler in the country, I believe.
“But if you get to fighting and tussling with him, and the pace is such that it’s so slow that he’s up there on the front end, it tends to take away that turn of foot,” Pender added. “Hopefully he’ll find a nice little spot to relax and put it into cruise control and you’ll see that sizzling, scintillating three-sixteenths turn of foot that he’s got.
“Wouldn’t it?” Pender said when asked about a déjà vu-like possible stretch duel between Jeranimo and Mr. Common. “He couldn’t get to us in the Oak Tree Mile (second by three-quarters of a length last Oct. 8) but he did have a little trouble in that race and we had a perfectly clean trip.
“But if you watch the gallop out, Mr. Commons never got by us. When Jeranimo is in front at the top of the lane, he’s tough to get by.”
The field for the Kilroe: Mr. Commons, Mike Smith, 4-5; Jimmy Simms, Corey Nakatani, 12-1; Willyconker, Joel Rosario, 8-1; Compari, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Jeranimo, Martin Garcia, 3-1; Massone, Alonso Quinonez, 15-1; Make Music for Me, Chantal Sutherland, 20-1; and Mega Heat, Joe Talamo, 15-1.
ROSARIO HAPPY TO BE ABOARD CHARM THE MAKER IN GRADE I LAS VIRGENES
It was love at first sight for Joel Rosario when he worked Charm the Maker last Saturday for Saturday’s Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile. Santa Anita’s leading jockey will ride the daughter of Empire Maker in a race for the first time in the Las Virgenes.
“Rosario worked her and he loved her,” Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally said. “I just told him to let her run the last part, just chirp to her, don’t hit her; run the last quarter of a mile.
“His agent (Ron Ebanks) called me Sunday morning and said, ‘My rider loves that filly.’”
Charm the Maker broke in and bobbled slightly when she finished fourth in the Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes on Jan. 28, but that wasn’t her only issue.
“In the Santa Ysabel, she got mud in her trachea and on top of that, she was trying to get her air and bled,” McAnally said. “Saturday she wasn’t blowing when she came back. We scoped her and everything was clean.”
The field for the Las Virgenes: Your Special Day, Mike Smith, 30-1; Charm the Maker, Joel Rosario, 5-1; Willa B Awesome, Martin Pedroza, 6-1; Killer Graces, Joe Talamo, 5-1; Eden’s Moon, Martin Garcia, 9-5; Made to Love Her, Rafael Bejarano, 12-1; Reneesgotzip, Corey Nakatani, 8-5; and Open Water, Victor Espinoza, 20-1. .
Eden’s Moon worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Monday in 1:15.40.
DOMINGUEZ WINS SANTA ANITA’S PRESTIGIOUS GEORGE WOOLF AWARD
Two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez was selected by a vote of his fellow jockeys nationwide as the 63rd winner of the prestigious Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. It is expected Dominguez will fly west to Santa Anita from his base at Gulfstream Park in mid or late March to accept the award.
The Woolf Award honors riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing.
Retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who won the Woolf Award in 1996, made the announcement from Santa Anita’s winner’s circle on HRTV Sunday afternoon.
Dominguez, a 35-year-old native of Venezuela, outran fellow finalists Corey Lanerie, Martin Pedroza, DeShawn Parker and Scott Stevens (Gary’s older brother) to win one of racing’s most coveted awards.
America’s leading jockey by number of wins in 2001 and 2003, Dominguez has won back-to-back Eclipse Awards as North America’s champion jockey in 2010 and 2011. In addition, Dominguez won the Isaac Murphy Award in 2004 for having the highest win percentage among American-based riders.
Dominguez has two Breeders’ Cup victories, the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf with Better Talk Now and the 2011 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with Hansen last November at Churchill Downs with Hansen.
Born Nov. 24, 1976 in Caracas, Venezuela, Dominguez began riding at Hialeah Park in Florida in 1996. He has become a dominant force in New York, with 13 NYRA riding titles to his credit, dating back to 2007-08.
The Woolf Award was created to honor and memorialize legendary jockey George “The Iceman” Woolf, who was regarded as one of the greatest big money riders of his era and who died following a spill on Santa Anita’s Club House turn Jan. 3, 1946. The Woolf trophy is a replica of the full-size statue of the late jockey which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area.
Dominguez resides in New York with his wife, Sharon, and son, Alexander. First presented by Santa Anita in 1950, the Woolf Award was won last year by Garrett Gomez.
SHOWVIVOR2 BEGINS AT SANTA ANITA TOMORROW
Santa Anita’s popular on-line handicapping contest, Showvivor, will again be available to all fans, free of charge, beginning tomorrow. Santa Anita’s original ShowVivor, which attracted 5,600 players earlier in the current winter/sprint meeting was captured on Feb. 11, enabling one lucky fan to win $3,000.
ShowVivor2, sponsored by Treasure Island in Las Vegas, will again require fans to select one horse each racing day, in any race, to finish first, second or third in order for the contestant to remain “alive.” The contest again offers $5,000 in prize money, with $3,000 going to the top finisher. The second-place finisher will win $1,500 and $500 will be awarded to the third-place contestant.
All selections must be registered on-line at www.santaanita.com no later than 10 minutes before first post time at Santa Anita. Santa Anita first launched ShowVivor in January, 2007.
“ShowVivor has proven to be a great way for us to stay in regular contact with some of our best customers,” said Nate Newby, Santa Anita Director of Marketing. “It’s fun and it’s also a lot tougher than most people realize. Additionally, it helps to attract attention to our websites, which we certainly welcome. As of this morning (Thursday), we have more than 6,150 people signed up.”
PICTURESQUE BOOK ON HILLSIDE COURSE ON SALE SATURDAYPhotographer Katey Barrett will autograph her book, "The Hill," at Champions Gift Shop on Saturday.
For 40 years, Katey has staked out the hillside turf course, waiting for the opportune moment when horses, colors, light and shadow converge to offer an ideal setting. The coffee table book contains a collection of the most spectacular images from a lifetime of spectacular images, a "must-have" for those who enjoy Santa Anita, especially the hillside turf course.
From great horses, great riders and great images, collectors will want a signed version of this book. The signing will take place from 10:30 a.m. until 11:45 a.m.
FINISH LINES: Agent Tony Matos reports that Garrett Gomez will resume riding on March 9, a day before he is scheduled to ride Sham Stakes winner Out of Bounds for trainer Eoin Harty in the San Felipe Stakes. Gomez has been sidelined with a broken left heel since a pre-post parade mishap prior to the Daytona Stakes on Jan. 8 . . . Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Amazombie jogged one mile Thursday morning as he prepares for his next race in either the Potrero Grande Stakes at Santa Anita on April 7 or the Count Fleet at Oaklawn Park. “It will be one of those two,” trainer Bill Spawr said Thursday morning. “We’d rather run in the Potrero Grande, although the purse is $50,000 less, we don’t have to ship . . .” The Potrero Grande is a Grade II race at 6 1/2 furlongs on April 7 with a purse of $150,000. The Count Fleet Sprint Handicap is a Grade II event at six furlongs with a purse of $200,000 on April 14 . . . Robert Lewis Stakes winner I’ll Have Another will be on display in a public workout after Saturday’s seventh race. Trained by Doug O’Neill for J. Paul Reddam, I’ll Have Another will be ridden by jockey Mario Gutierrez, who was aboard for the Lewis upset, and will be accompanied to the track by Lava Man, a two-time Santa Anita Handicap winner who was trained by O’Neill. I’ll Have Another is ticketed for the Santa Anita Derby on April 7 . . . Trainer Mike Mitchell’s daughter, Shea, will sing the National Anthem on Saturday, Santa Anita Handicap Day . . . Trainer Jack Carava said San Vicente Stakes runner-up American Act has been nominated to the San Felipe Stakes on March 10 and the Sunland Derby at Sunland Park on March 25. “We’ll see how he trains and make a decision,” Carava said . . . Trainer Jim Cassidy said The Usual Q.T. was not entered in the Kilroe Mile because “he wasn’t ready. I was ready, but the horse wasn’t. I’m always ready.” . . . Chantal Sutherland will be Steve Andersen’s guest on Saturday’s Daily Racing Form seminar, 11:30 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens.