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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• FLASHBACK MAKES STAKES, 3-YEAR-OLD DEBUT IN LEWIS
• GUILT TRIP SEEKS TO TURN THE TABLES IN STRUB STAKES
• OUTSIDE POST NOT CALLAGHAN’S STRONG SUIT IN ARCADIA
• SMITH WILL LET GAME ON DUDE RUN IN SUNDAY’S SAN ANTONIO
PROMISING FLASHBACK FACES THREE IN LEWIS ‘SCRIMMAGE’
Bob Baffert has been down the Kentucky Derby trail long enough to know the first Saturday in May is light years away from Feb. 2, when one of his most promising Triple Crown prospects, Flashback, goes postward in an important steppingstone to the Run for the Roses on May 4, the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday.
Baffert, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner, understandably is taking a cautious approach with Flashback, even though the Lewis drew its smallest field—four--than in its 74 previous runnings. There have been several five-horse fields, the most recent being in 2010 when Caracortado won under Paul Atkinson.
Flashback, a gray son of Tapit, will be making his 3-year-old debut and only his second start in the Lewis. He broke his maiden last Dec. 8 as the even-money favorite against eight rivals in a seven furlong race at Betfair Hollywood Park for owners Gary and Mary West.
For Baffert, the Lewis is not necessarily about Flashback getting battle-tested in a field similar in size to the Kentucky Derby, which in recent years has drawn a capacity field of 20.
“Right now, you’re not shooting for the first Saturday in May,” said Baffert, who won the Derby in 1997 with Silver Charm, in 1998 with Real Quiet and in 2002 with War Emblem. “It’s my horse’s second out, he’s going long, and I want it to be a good experience for him.
“I want him to run well and come out of it healthy. This race is just like a scrimmage. That’s the way I look at it.”
The field for the Lewis, the fourth of 10 races Saturday: Little Jerry, Tyler Baze, 8-1; Flashback, Julien Leparoux, 3-5; Den’s Legacy, Garrett Gomez, 5-2; and He’s Had Enough, Mario Gutierrez, 3-1.
GUILT TRIP ‘REAL TOUGH’ IN STRUB STAKES, TALAMO SAYS
Good luck can mean the difference between winning and losing. Joe Talamo hopes a better journey will turn the tables on Fed Biz and Tritap when he rides Guilt Trip in Saturday’s Grade II, 1 1/8-mile Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds.
Fed Biz, Tritap and Guilt Trip were 1-2-3 in the 1 1/16-mile San Fernando Stakes on Jan. 12, a half-length separating the trio at the finish.
“Guilt Trip really had a good trip (in the San Fernando),” Talamo recounted. “Around the turn, I wish I’d have gotten him out a little sooner. He was in a good spot but I didn’t want to go five-wide around the whole turn, but I’d actually have been better off.
“He might have got up and won. He ran a good race. He’s going to be real tough in the Strub, I would think.”
The field for the Strub: Shadow Runner, Garrett Gomez, 20-1; Fed Biz, Mike Smith, 2-1; Guilt Trip, Joe Talamo, 5-2; Tritap, Corey Nakatani, 5-2; Groovin’ Solo, Alonso Quinonez, 30-1; Handsome Mike, Mario Gutierrez, 6-1; and Stephanoatsee, Julien Leparoux, 4-1.
OUTSIDE POST A ‘DISASTER’ FOR STRONG SUIT IN ARCADIA
Simon Callaghan summed up the extreme outside 14 post position for Strong Suit in Saturday’s Grade II Acadia Stakes at one mile on turf in succinct fashion: “Fourteen’s a disaster.”
But, added the native of England who turns 28 on March 7, “That’s life. It’s tough from there but we’ll probably take back, drop in and hope to get some luck.”
Strong Suit, a 5-year-old Rahy horse bred in Arkansas, will be making his U.S. debut in the Arcadia, which drew its largest field since 1991, when 11 were entered.
Strong Suit will be ridden by 32-year-old Jamie Spencer, a champion jockey in England and Ireland who rode at Santa Anita in last year’s Breeders’ Cup.
“I spent the winter here back in 2000,” Spencer said. “Santa Anita is beautiful as always. You never get tired of it.”
The field for the Arcadia: Klisz, Mike Smith, 15-1; Forest Mouse, Edwin Maldonado, 20-1; Vagabond Shoes, Julien Leparoux, 8-1; Tribal Tribute, Gary Stevens, 30-1; Sebastian Flyte, Agapito Delgadillo, 30-1; Akkadian, Garrett Gomez, 8-1; Silentio, Rafael Bejarano, 6-1; Willyconker, Kevin Krigger, 12-1; Key Decision, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; Clubhouse Ride, Aaron Gryder, 20-1; Wilkinson, Martin Pedroza, 9-2; Chosen Miracle, Tyler Baze, 6-1; Suggestive Boy, Joe Talamo, 9-2; and Strong Suit, Spencer, 4-1.
SMITH WILL LET GAME ON DUDE DO HIS THING IN SAN ANTONIO
Mike Smith plans to keep it simple when he rides favored Game On Dude in Sunday’s Grade II San Antonio Stakes, a forerunner to the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 2, a race the classy gelding won in 2011.
“Stay out of his way,” the Hall of Fame rider smiled when asked about strategy in what is expected to be a short field.
In a more serious vein, Smith knows competing riders can alter their routines in an attempt to throw a heavy favorite off kilter in quest of an upset, especially in a small field.
“Things can happen in short fields, as we all know,” Smith said. “Everyone knows where everyone’s at. Each rider can kind of sit there and make it a sprint for home, but Game On Dude’s a naturally quick horse and has a great cruising speed.
“I’m just going to let him do his thing, and I’d do that even if it was a bigger field. We’ve just got to get away well and get him in a place where he can do what he does best, and that’s run. That’s my job, anyway. Hopefully, he does the rest.”
VENERABLE WIN MACHINE PAYS QUICK DIVIDEND FOR BELVOIR
Vann Belvoir had Lord Vronsky for a cup of coffee, but the 39-year-old trainer, a recent convert to Southern California racing from the Northwest, had nothing but praise for the 5-year-old gelding that won Sunday’s second race by a half-length in his first start for Belvoir.
“You could see that he was going up the ladder,” Belvoir said of the California-bred chestnut, who was winning for the eighth time in 19 career starts. “He raced for $5,000 (last July) so you knew there were issues, to start him that low in his first race in seven months, after he had run against better. But they were confident, they kept jumping him up.”
Eventually, Lord Vronsky ran for $12,500 on Jan. 13 at Golden Gate, where Belvoir claimed him. He ran him back for the same price Sunday.
“You could see on his replays he gets his nose in front and you can’t get by him. We loved the horse. He’s a cool horse.”
It was a short-lived love affair. Lord Vronsky was claimed Friday by Art Sherman, whose son, Steve, had the horse for nine races until Belvoir took him for $12,500 on Jan. 13.
FINISH LINES: Garrett Gomez, a bit under the weather according to agent Tony Matos, took off his scheduled three mounts today. . Ismene suffered superficial cuts on her hind legs when she finished fifth, beaten just over eight lengths at 4-5, in Friday’s sixth race. “It shouldn’t cost her much time,” said Bill Spawr, who trains the two-time stakes-winning filly. Spawr added that 2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Amazombie is scheduled to have his first breeze this weekend since returning to the track following a break after the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last Nov. 3 . . . Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mizdirection worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s firm turf course on a picturesque Thursday morning in 1:00.40 for trainer Mike Puype . . . Malibu winner Jimmy Creed worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Wednesday in a bullet 59.20, while 2012 Kalookan Queen winner Rumor went six furlongs in 1:16. “Rumor will run in the $75,000 Wishing Well Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf Feb. 10,” trainer Richard Mandella said. “Jimmy Creed runs in the San Carlos on Feb. 23.” As for 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies champ Beholder, Mandella said she’s on course for the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile March 2 . . . Triple Crown hopeful Demonic worked four furlongs Tuesday in 46.80. “He’ll work again next Tuesday,” trainer John Sadler said. “We’re going to look at possibly the San Felipe (March 9).” . . . Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Calidoscopio was not entered in Sunday’s San Antonio Stakes. “He came up with a wrenched ankle,” trainer Mike Puype said of 10-year-old Argentine-bred horse. “We need a little time to fix it up.” . . . Tom Quigley’s guest Saturday morning at Daily Racing Form’s seminar in the East Paddock Gardens will be Eric Weinsheink, 2012 champion of the $40 weekly Santa Anita handicapping contest . . . One of Sunday’s Pick 6 winners worth $36,467 each was long-time racing fan Hal Crecy, who purchased his ticket for $32 in Las Vegas. Crecy also is an artist whose specialty, clowns, has been exhibited at the Las Vegas Hilton. One of Crecy’s students was the late comic legend Red Skelton . . . Through 22 racing days, 18 players remained alive in ShowVivor entering Thursday’s races.