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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
SHIRREFFS WEIGHS SANTA MARGARITA RETURN FOR ZENYATTA
Undefeated Horse of the Year finalist Zenyatta could make her eagerly anticipated return to the races in the Grade I $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on March 13.
“It’s a possibility,” trainer John Shirreffs said by phone from his Hollywood Park headquarters Wednesday morning after the 6-year-old mare worked five furlongs in 1:01.60, breezing. “We’ll see what the weights are. That’s going to be the deal.”
Zenyatta, whose retirement was announced after she made history by defeating males in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in a race for the ages at Santa Anita last Nov. 7, was “unretired” by owners Jerry and Ann Moss on Jan. 16. Zenyatta lost out in Horse of the Year voting to victorious Rachel Alexandra.
Shirreffs added that Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic winner Life Is Sweet is on course for the Grade I $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 13.
BLIND LUCK AGAINST THE FIELD GRADE I LAS VIRGENES
It’s Blind Luck against the field in Saturday’s Grade I $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile.
One of those in the field against the Eclipse Award finalist for outstanding 2-year-old filly of 2009 is Summer Games, fresh off a maiden win at Santa Anita on Jan. 1.
“When you break your maiden, the non-winners never fill,” said Caesar Dominguez, who trains Summer Games. “Your choice is to run in a stakes, or go out of town. But even if you go out of town, up North, those races don’t fill, so you’ve got to take a chance and see what you’ve got. Outside of Blind Luck, I think it’s a wide open race.”
The field for the Las Virgenes, which goes as race No. 4 on a 10-race program: Summer Games, Michael Baze, 116; Blind Luck, Rafael Bejarano, 122; La Nez, Mike Smith, 118; Switch, Tyler Baze, 116; Evening Jewel, Victor Espinoza, 118; and Crisp, Joel Rosario, 118.
STIFF TEST FOR UNBEATEN CARACORTADO IN GRADE II LEWIS STAKES
Caracortado faces his stiffest test yet in Saturday’s Grade II $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes. The California-bred gelding puts his unbeaten record on the line in the 1 1/16-mile race, a major prep for the Grade I $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 3.
“He has been a surprise,” trainer Mike Machowsky said of the son of Cat Dream, who began his career winning a $40,000 maiden claiming race at four furlongs at Fairplex Park. He has won four straight, his latest in the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 26. Paul Atkinson has ridden him each time.
“When you start off running a horse a half-mile, you’re not sure what to expect down the line,” Machowsky continued. “But every time I’ve asked the horse to do something, he’s done it.”
The field for the Lewis: Macias, Victor Espinoza, 117; Dave in Dixie, Joel Rosario, 115; Tiz Chrome, Garrett Gomez, 117; Caracortado, Atkinson, 117; Tango Tango, Rafael Bejarano, 115; American Lion, Julien Leparoux, 117; and Domonation, Joe Talamo, 115.
GOMEZ EYES MORE PACE FOR VISCOUNT IN SATURDAY’S STRUB STAKES
Viscount tries for his first stakes victory in Saturday’s Grade II $200,000 Strub Stakes. Garrett Gomez is optimistic that the 4-year-old son of Orientate can give a good account of himself in the nine-furlong prep for the Grade I $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap at 1 1/4 miles on March 6.
Viscount rallied mildly to finish fourth in the Grade II San Fernando Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 16 under Gomez, who has ridden the chestnut colt in his last six races.
“I was stuck down inside, and he’s a big horse, so he doesn’t quicken real well,” Gomez said in recounting the San Fernando. “He was trapped inside most of the way and I didn’t get out until the eighth pole, but he still kept trying and coming. Hopefully, we can catch a little more pace on Saturday.”
The field for the Strub: Eagle Poise, Julien Leparoux, 117; Rendezvous, Rafael Bejarano, 121; Square Eddie, Joe Talamo, 117; Viscount, Gomez, 117; Gallant Son, Alex Solis, 117; Diferentkindagreat, Jose Valdivia Jr., 117; Heavenly Wind, Brice Blanc, 117; Smart Bid, Mike Smith, 119; Misremembered, Victor Espinoza, 121; and Massone, Joel Rosario, 117.
Viscount and Swaps Stakes winner Misremembered are both trained by Bob Baffert, who is seeking his fourth Strub victory. He won with Silver Charm (1998), General Challenge (2000) and Wooden Phone (2001). Viscount has a 2-1-2 record from eight starts, with earnings of $76,855 for owner John Fort of Camden, S.C., who races as Peachtree Stable.
MEMORIAL SERVICES PENDING FOR VETERAN TURF WRITER BORTSTEIN
A memorial service for veteran turf writer Larry Bortstein will be held late this month at a place and date to be determined. Bortstein passed away at the age of 67 early Sunday morning at Arcadia Methodist Hospital after sustaining a pulmonary embolism Jan. 23. He never regained consciousness and had been on life support since being transported to Methodist following the embolism.
A native of New York, Bortstein was a versatile writer who covered horse racing for the Orange County Register for the past 17 years and had covered all major sports at various times over the past 40-plus years. In addition to his work at the Register, he was also a current contributor to the “California Thoroughbred” magazine, which is published by the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association.
“He was a consummate pro,” said former Los Angeles Herald Examiner sports writer and current Santa Anita publicity staffer Jack Disney. “Larry was very passionate about racing and the people in it. He was always for the underdog and he had a broad network of sources.
“Larry overcame a lot. He was sight-impaired and had to depend on other people to transport him to the track, or to whatever sports venue he may be covering, be it a high school game or a major league baseball game. He was good-hearted and he was extremely conscientious. He’ll be missed.”
In addition to sports, Bortstein also had a passion for music, and in particular singing. He was a member of a barbershop harmony group and had sung professionally to help support his family since he was a small boy.
Added John Barr, a member of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association and the Oak Tree Racing Association Board of Directors: “What a shame. Larry truly was a neat little guy who loved horse racing and the people in it. He had to work hard at his profession the last few years after the Orange County Register cut back on his job on a full time basis. He never lost his vigor or outlook for the sport.
“I am so pleased to have been able to give him a couple of Dodger tickets last year and he took his grandson and he said they had a wonderful time together. His grandson was a big part of his life. I'll miss him coming up to me at Del Mar or Santa Anita with his notebook and a couple questions about some aspect of the game.” Bortstein’s body was cremated. He is survived by his wife, Pat, a son, Steven, daughter Christy and grandson, Jeff.
FINISH LINES: Probable for Sunday’s Grade II $250,000 San Antonio Handicap at 1 1/8 miles: Furthest Land, Julien Leparoux, 119; Giganticus, Eddie Ahern, 114; Marsh Side, Joel Rosario, 119; Mast Track, Mike Smith, 118; Nownownow, Joe Talamo, 116; Philatelist, Rafael Bejarano, 113; Pick Six, no rider, 114; Quasicobra, Michael Baze, 113; and Richard’s Kid, Garrett Gomez, 120. Nownownow and Quasicobra each worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride Wednesday for Patrick Biancone, going :59.60 and 1:00.40, respectively. Mast Track worked six furlongs at Hollywood Park Monday in 1:13.20 for John Shirreffs . . . Trainer Mike Mitchell reports that streaking Pasadena Stakes winner St Trinians is on course for the Grade I Santa Maria Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 13, while 2008 Frank E. Kilroe Mile winner Ever A Friend continues to train up to this year’s renewal on March 6. Monzante also is being pointed to the Grade I $250,000 race on turf . . . Friday marks another ‘Free Friday’ at Santa Anita. Patrons will receive free General Admission and box seats, while supplies last, as well as being offered $1 hot dogs, beers, sodas, popcorn and coffee . . . Tom Quigley had his best week handicapping in his state-of-the-art Twitter mode with $158.60 in mutuel winnings for the four days he tweeted, showing a blind flat bet profit for the 51 total tweets last week. Quigley tweets from the East Paddock Gardens . . . Bob Mieszerski of The Today’s Racing Digest website will be Jerry Antonucci’s guest at Saturday’s The Today’s Racing Digest seminar, 11 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens.