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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• AMERICAN ACT SET FOR SAN FELIPE ON SATURDAY; BLINKERS OFF LIAISON
• MILLIONAIRE CALIFORNIA-BRED THE USUAL Q.T. RETIRED
• GREAT HOT GETS NEW RIDER FOR SUNDAY’S LAS FLORES STAKES
CARAVA 3-YEAR-OLD ‘ACTS’ LIKE THE REAL DEAL FOR SAN FELIPE
Should Jack Carava win Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes with American Act, it would present a most appropriate storyline of “Hometown Boy Makes Good.”
Not that the 45-year-old Arcadia native hasn’t enjoyed a taste of success since he began his career in 1984, when he started working for Joe Griffin, then a trainer and now agent for high-riding apprentice Eswan Flores.
Carava has toiled long and hard since then, going on his own as a trainer in 1993 and making ends meet since mainly with blue collar runners, interspersed with the occasional stakes horse. Among them were former claimer First Intent, Pure As Gold, Epic Power, Beltene and Grade I winners Soul City Slew and Mr. Napper Candy. Jack learned the ropes early on from his father, Mike, who trained in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
American Act could put Carava on the national radar with a solid performance in the Grade II, $300,000 San Felipe, a major stepping stone to the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7.
“His last race was good and he showed that he’s got some quality,” said Carava, a Californian through and through. He now resides in Glendora with his wife, Cindy, and their two daughters, Brittany, 18, a pre-Med student at the University of San Diego, and Megan, 16, a student at Glendora High School.
That “last race” for American Act was a game second by a nose to the Bob Baffert-trained Drill in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs on Feb. 19. Prior to that, American Act broke his maiden on Jan. 16, defeating future smashing maiden winner Bodemeister, a member of Baffert’s seemingly infinite number of Triple Crown hopefuls, who is entered in the San Felipe.
“We’re just trying to map out the best plan for American Act to get to the Santa Anita Derby,” Carava said of the gelded son of Quiet American, owned by Howard and Janet Siegel (Mr. and Mrs.) of Hidden Hills, near Calabasas. “The San Felipe is one of the preps along the way. He’s run with some nice colts and has always acted and trained like a nice horse.
“He’s trained right here all along and he seems to like the track. He’s run well on it his last couple starts, but he’ll face a much bigger field on Saturday.”
Despite the late defections of Out of Bounds and Fed Biz, the San Felipe drew a field of 10: Blingo, Mike Smith, 8-1; Bodemeister, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; American Act, Martin Pedroza, 8-1; Midnight Transfer, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; Groovin Solo, Alonso Quinonez, 20-1; Liaison, Martin Garcia, 6-1; Creative Cause, Joel Rosario, 5-2; Rousing Sermon, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Tiz Point, Garrett Gomez, 20-1; and Empire Way, Brice Blanc, 6-1.
Should fate allow following the San Felipe, American Act would go on to the Santa Anita Derby, marking another first for Carava. He has never run a horse in the West Coast’s major forerunner to the Kentucky Derby, this year on May 5 at Churchill Downs.
“We’ve had some nice older horses through the years and won some stakes with them, but not so much with 3-year-olds,” Carava said, “so it’s nice to have one like American Act and it’s a good position to be in.”
In other San Felipe news:
For the first time in his career of five races, Liaison will run without blinkers in the San Felipe.
“He got a little rank early (in the Robert Lewis Stakes, in which he clipped heels and lost rider Rafael Bejarano),” Bob Baffert explained. “I want him to relax and finish. He wants to come from behind.” In his four previous starts before the Lewis, Liaison closed from off the pace, recording three straight victories after a third despite a slow start in his first start last Sept. 3 at Del Mar.
Fed Biz, who will miss the San Felipe because he “tied up” a few days ago, “was back to the track this morning,” Baffert said. “He’ll have one start and it better be a good one,” alluding to the colt’s dearth of graded earnings. (Daily Racing Form has projected his “next likely race” to be the Sunland Derby on March 25).
DEEP SAN FELIPE FIELD MADE CREATING MORNING LINE DIFFICULT
The field of 10 for Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes field is so deep in terms of quality that it certainly was not an easy chore for Santa Anita oddsmaker Jon White to come up with the morning line.
“This was one of the most difficult races I’ve dealt with since I made the morning lines for some of those very deep, ultra-tough Breeders’ Cup races here in 2009,” said White, who also provides television commentary for Santa Anita’s simulcast network. “Right off the bat, it was a very difficult decision whether to make Creative Cause or Bodemeister the favorite. I think it could go either way. But I opted for Creative Cause based to some extent on the Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool that closed last Sunday. Creative Cause was 17-1, Bodemeister 29-1, Empire Way 37-1, Liaison 39-1, Rousing Sermon 68-1 and Midnight Transfer 73-1.
“Another reason I made Creative Cause the favorite is he is a Grade I winner at Santa Anita, while Bodemeister has never even run in a stakes race. Also, Creative Cause finished a respectable third behind Hansen and Union Rags in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. And that third looks even better now after Union Rags won the Fountain of Youth and Hansen won the Gotham. Not only that, Alpha has won two stakes races this year at Aqueduct, including the Withers, after finishing behind Creative Cause in the Breeders’ Cup.
“On the other hand, Bodemeister was extremely impressive in his maiden win. Off the big 101 Beyer he earned in that race, it would not be surprising if he ends up being the favorite when they break from the gate Saturday. But there also is the possibility that Bodemeister could ‘bounce,’ or regress, off such a huge effort. Some of the bigger bettors may shy away from him because of that possibility, whereas Creative Cause has every right to move forward off his third in the San Vicente. Creative Cause galloped out great following the finish of the San Vicente, too.”
While Creative Cause and Bodemeister no doubt will get considerable support from bettors, White stressed that the San Felipe is far from just a two-horse race.
“There are a bunch of horses that might get a fair amount of support besides Creative Cause and Bodemeister,” White said. “I made Midnight Transfer, Liaison and Empire Way each 6-1. Even though Midnight Transfer was 73-1 in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, I think he will get a lot more respect than that in the betting for the San Felipe. Liaison is a Grade I winner for Baffert. Empire Way ran second in a fast race (the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, which I’ll Have Another won in 1:40 4/5).
“Blingo is kind of the wild card. It’s really hard to try and figure out just how much he will get bet. Blingo was only 6-1 in the CashCall Futurity off a maiden win on the turf in his debut. Reports are he’s been training super. And he has a great trainer (John Sherriffs). I made Blingo, American Act and Rousing Sermon 8-1. But the betting in this race could go so many different ways that it sure wouldn’t surprise me if Blingo, American Act or Rousing Sermon go off lower than 8-1, especially Blingo.”
SAN FELIPE FIELD WITH ODDS & COMMENTS BY JON WHITE
1. Blingo 8-1 Dangerous in dirt debut
2. Bodemeister 3-1 Scintillating maiden score
3. American Act 8-1 Pedigree to like distance
4. Midnight Transfer 6-1 Looks ready to stretch out
5. Groovin’ Solo 20-1 DQ’d from 3rd in Lewis
6. Liaison 6-1 Grade I winner for Baffert
7. Creative Cause 5-2 Grade I winner on this track
8. Rousing Sermon 8-1 Lacked late kick in Lewis
9. Tiz Point 20-1 Added blinkers for turf win
10. Empire Way 6-1 Runner-up in fast race
MULTIPLE STAKES WINNER THE USUAL Q.T. RETIRED
The Usual Q.T., winner of five stakes races, two of them Grade I’s, and earner of more than $1.5 million in his career, has been retired.
“There were too many issues this time,” trainer Jim Cassidy said of the 6-year-old Unusual Heat gelding, who was bred by Carlee Van Kempen, daughter of part-owner Don Van Kempen. “He’s been a great horse. He’s right up there with the best I’ve ever trained along with any other horse I had, including Evening Jewel, Ticker Tape, Diamond Diva, Singhalese—all of them.”
Among The Usual Q.T.’s five stakes wins were the Grade I Hollywood Derby in 2009 and the Grade I Eddie Read in 2010. That was his last victory, incurring a losing string of eight straight through his final race, the Grade II San Gabriel Stakes in which he finished third on Jan. 16.
Following his Eddie Read victory, The Usual Q.T. was second in the Grade I Woodbine Mile, and third in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile behind champions Goldikova and Gio Ponti.
The consistent bay failed to earn a check only once in his 23 career starts, when he finished ninth in the 2010 Sunshine Millions Classic, which was run on Santa Anita’s synthetic surface.
The Usual Q.T. retired with eight wins (all on turf), six seconds and five thirds, with earnings of $1,531,240 for owners Don Van Kempen, Michael Nentwig, George Saadeh and Jeffrey Byer.
SMITH REPLACES SUTHERLAND ON GREAT HOT IN LAS FLORES
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who needs seven wins to reach 5,000 in his career, will ride Great Hot in Sunday’s Grade III Las Flores Stakes for older fillies and mares at 6 ½ furlongs. He takes over for Chantal Sutherland, who had ridden the daughter of 2002 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Orientate in her last nine races, including a victory in the Grade II Raven Run at Keeneland last Oct. 22.
“The person paying the bills wanted to make a change,” trainer A.C. Avila said, referring to owner Jessica Coudelaria. “I don’t think Chantal did anything wrong.”
Great Hot is coming off a sixth-place finish in the Grade II Santa Maria Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.
“She had bad luck in that race,” Avila said. “The day after the race she popped a big abscess, but she’s recovered and it’s healed.”
The field for the Las Flores: She’s Cheeky, Joe Talamo; Izzy Rules, Edwin Maldonado; Veloce Canzone, Frederic Lenclud; Home Sweet Aspen, Joel Rosario; Great Hot, Mike Smith; and Spectacular Sky, Rafael Bejarano.
SANTA ANITA SOARS WITH $30 MILLION WEEKEND, INCLUDING $3.1 MILLION PICK SIX POOL
A myriad of factors contributed to Santa Anita’s Big ‘Cap weekend which topped $30 million in all sources wagering.
A total of 26,147 fans attended on track last Saturday. Total attendance was 36,020 and all sources wagering hit $17,946,129.80 Saturday and $12,414,637 Sunday for a grand total of $30,360,766.
Sunday’s figures were buoyed by a two-day Pick 6 carryover of $430,581, which enticed fans to wager an astounding $2,679,903, for a total Pick Six pool of $3,110,484.
Other encouraging numbers: A total of 9,236 THOROUGHBREDS attended, including existing members and new signups; 1,922 new TBREDS signups. This includes 1,771 applications filled out at giveaway locations; a total of $4,433.50 was wagered via mobile site, with 46 new signups boosted by a $5 voucher incentive.
Also, the total win, place and show pools on Saturday of $1,142,708 were the highest since 2009, when wagering was $1,346,117.
The total Pick 4 pool on Saturday was the highest in recent memory at $979,287, compared to 2011’s $905,279, while food and beverage on Saturday was up 12.5 percent from last year, at $255,040.40 up from 2011’s $223,250.21.
FINISH LINES: Agent Joe Griffin on the success of apprentice Eswan Flores this meet: “I always felt he had a lot of talent, but it’s all come together for him.” With 32 wins, Flores is third in the standings behind Joel Rosario and Rafael Bejarano . . . Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally says Sharp Cat winner Charm the Maker will make her next start on grass in the Grade II Providencia Stakes on April 7 . . . Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty worked seven furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Thursday in 1:24.80 for Bob Baffert, while at Hollywood Park, multiple stakes winner Rail Trip, reunited with trainer Ron Ellis, worked three furlongs in 38.80, breezing. Also at Hollywood, The Factor and Sway Away, one-two finishers in the San Carlos Stakes, went four furlongs in 48.60 and 47.40, respectively, for Baffert and Jeff Bonde . . . There were 1,443 players alive in ShowVivor2 going into Thursday’s card . . . Friday’s eighth race is named for N.F.L. icon Ernie Zampese, who gained his greatest acclaim as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers during the Air Coryell years . . . Happy 70th birthday to ESPN basketball analyst and ardent horse player, Bill Freider . . . Jack Carava, trainer of American Act, will be Steve Andersen’s guest at the Daily Racing Form seminar, 11:30 a.m. Saturday in the East Paddock Gardens.