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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• BIG ’CAP BUCKS GIVE BIRTHDAY BOY STEVENS ADDED INCENTIVE
• FED BIZ MAKES TURF DEBUT IN GRADE I KILROE MILE SATURDAY
• TALAMO BACK ON CLASSY SPEEDINTHRUTHECITY IN LAS VIRGENES
FIVE DAYS FROM 50, STEVENS MOTIVATED IN RICH SANTA ANITA HANDICAP
Don’t try to convince Gary Stevens that money doesn’t make the mare go. In a race-riding career spanning more than three decades, including seven years off for retirement, if there’s one thing he’s learned, it’s that when big money’s on the line, it’s a whole new ball game. Such is the case Saturday, when Stevens, who turns 50 in five days, rides Called to Serve in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Stevens, who hits the mid-century mark on March 6. “It’s those dollar signs with all the zeroes behind the prize money. Then, all the rules change. I figured that out when I came down here and I was riding with Shoe and all those guys.
“I said, ‘These guys don’t do anything different from what I do,’ and then I rode in my first big race with them. Everything got tighter and Delahoussaye forgot who his friends were.”
That’s life in the fast lane, and it doesn’t change whether you’re 15 or 50. On the race track, there are no perks for senior citizens.
“Did I give any thought when I started out that I’d still be doing this?” Stevens asked rhetorically when queried about joining the likes of fellow superstars Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley at 50 this year.
“Heck, no. They used to laugh at me. I was 28 years old and in the shower after a bad day and I told Shoemaker, 'Three more years. I’m retiring.’ He laughed at me. But I’m happy right now.
“I was talking to my brother (52-year-old jockey Scott, currently second-leading rider at Turf Paradise) yesterday and he said, ‘These guys keep asking me when I’m going to retire.’ He said, ‘I am retired. I just go horse back riding instead of fishing and I get paid for it.’”
Not much of a stretch to say that’s how Gary feels these days. Must be in the genes.
In other Big ’Cap news:
For a trainer who seems to “live on the rail” in post position draws, Bob Baffert was delighted to have his two runners, favored Game On Dude and 6-1 morning line chance Guilt Trip, draw outside posts.
Game On Dude, the morning line choice at 6-5, has post position nine in a field of 10, while Guilt Trip, winner of the Strub Stakes at 1 1/8 miles, drew No. 10.
“I really, really like that,” Baffert said of the two outside stalls. “That was a good draw for me. Perfect. I didn’t want to be stuck in the one hole.
“It’s good for Game On Dude, but you know what? There are some good horses in there. Guilt Trip is going to have to step way up.”
Mike Smith had a more ambivalent attitude when it came to the No. 9 post for Game On Dude, on whom he is unbeaten in two rides.
“It all depends,” the Hall of Fame rider said. “Sometimes good posts are bad and bad posts turn out to be good ones. But being outside gives you an option . . . He’s a forwardly placed horse anyway. He’s going to go quick out of there whether somebody’s going quick with him or not.
“That’s kind of him. I’m just glad we’re in the race and he’s doing well.”
Among the “good” horses Baffert referred to is Ron the Greek, winner of last year’s Big ’Cap who seeks to become only the fourth back-to-back winner of the race in its storied 76-year history. He would join Lava Man, Milwaukee Brew and John Henry.
Saturday’s race also marks the first time two former Santa Anita Handicap winners will meet each other in the race, Game On Dude having won it in 2011.
Julien Leparoux says the bobble at the break by Stephanoatsee in the Strub Stakes in which he finished an onrushing second wasn’t that big of a deal. “The stumble didn’t hurt him too much,” Leparoux said. “The pace was pretty good that day. Stumbling didn’t help him, obviously, but it didn’t bother him too much.
“He went four wide because he’s a big horse with a long stride, and when he gets going, you don’t want to get him stopped, because it would take a lot of time to get him going again.
“That’s why I decided to go around horses. I think the extra eighth of a mile will be great for him. He’s not going to get tired, that’s for sure.”
The field for the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap at 1 ¼ miles presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, the 10th of 11 races: Ron the Greek, Jose Lezcano, 5-2; Handsome Mike, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1; Deacon Speakin’, Martin Pedroza, 50-1; Called to Serve, Gary Stevens, 6-1; Clubhouse Ride, Rafael Bejarano, 30-1; Richard’s Kid, Tyler Baze, 12-1; John Scott, Martin Garcia, 20-1; Stephanoatsee, Julien Leparoux, 8-1; Game On Dude, Mike Smith, 6-5; and Guilt Trip, Joe Talamo, 6-1.
Santa Anita presents three Grade I races Saturday. Fans on track will receive free an attractive Santa Anita tote bag with paid admission while supplies last.
Festivities include popular premium Food Trucks, a KROQ concert featuring Youngblood Hawke, a microbrew and craft beer presentation and a $400,000 guaranteed late Pick 4 presented by Daily Racing Form.
First post time is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.
BIG ’CAP WINS FROM RON THE GREEK’S POST POSITION A RARITY
Ron the Greek will break from post position No. 1 in Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap. But Jon White, who makes Santa Anita’s morning line and provides television commentary from the paddock for the track’s simulcast network, has made the observation that Big ’Cap victories from that post position have been few and far between.
“In the 75-year history of the Santa Anita Handicap, there have been only two winners from the inside post,” White said. “That is a stat that is pretty surprising, I think. You sure would think there would have been a lot more winners than that from the inside post. The only two to do it were Mr. Right in 1968 and Malek in 1998. And keep in mind that when Malek won the Big ’Cap, it was only a four-horse field.”
Ron the Greek won the Big ’Cap last year after breaking from post position No. 3.
White has installed Game On Dude the 6-5 morning-line favorite for the Big ’Cap, with Ron the Greek second choice at 5-2. Game On Dude has drawn post position No. 9.
“And it’s been a long time since there’s been a Big ’Cap winner from post 9,” White said. “The last horse to win it from post 9 was Royal Glint in 1976.”
There have been three other Big ‘Cap winners to start from post position No. 9: Bay View in 1941, Round Table in 1958 and Quicken Tree in 1970.
Game On Dude began from post position No. 11 when he won the 2011 Big ’Cap.
BAFFERT ‘EXPERIMENTS’ WITH FED BIZ IN GRASSY KILROE SATURDAY
Fed Biz makes his first start on turf when the 4-year-old Giant’s Causeway colt runs in Saturday’s Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile.
“It’s sort of an experiment,” Bob Baffert said. “Mike Smith said that he likes it.”
Fed Biz worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s firm grass course in 48 2/5 last Saturday. Owned by Kaleem Shah, Inc., Fed Biz has four wins from nine career starts, among them the Grade II San Fernando Stakes with Smith up on Santa Anita’s conventional dirt track Jan. 12.
The field for the Kilroe: Silentio, Rafael Bejarano, 9-2; Fed Biz, Mike Smith, 9-2; Suggestive Boy, Joe Talamo, 5-2; Vagabond Shoes, Martin Garcia, 12-1; Akkadian, Garrett Gomez, 8-1; supplemental nominee Forest Mouse, Ry Eikleberry, 15-1; Wilkinson, Martin Pedroza, 9-2; and Mr. Commons, Corey Nakatani, 3-1.
TALAMO, SPEEDINTHRUTHECITY REUNITED IN GRADE I LAS VIRGENES
Joe Talamo is back on Speedinthruthecity in tomorrow’s Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile. Santa Anita’s fourth-leading rider was aboard the City Zip miss in her first four starts, winning first out, finishing second twice and third by a head at Del Mar last Sept. 3.
“She’s a real nice filly,’ Talamo said. “She ran second to Executiveprivilege, which is almost like winning. I know she hasn’t run in a long time but her works look good and I see they took the blinkers off.
“Obviously, Steve (trainer Steve Asmussen) knows what he’s doing. I know they must be pretty high on her to run her in this race, but she’s a real classy filly and real good to ride.”
Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC, Speedinthruthecity finished last by 57 ¼ lengths in the Grade I Alcibiades in her most recent race, last Oct. 5 on Keeneland’s Polytrack.
The field for the Las Virgenes: Ridingwiththedeveil, Gary Stevens, 30-1; Fiftyshadesofhay, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; Lady Asano, Jose Lezcano, 15-1; Speedinthruthecity, Joe Talamo, 12-1; Beholder, Garrett Gomez, 6-5; Scarlet Strike, Mike Smith, 6-1; Renee’s Titan, Tyler Baze, 6-1; and Heir Kitty, Julien Leparoux, 6-1.
RAFFETTO RESIGNS TOC POSITION
Lou Raffetto has resigned as President of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, expressing a desire to pursue other avenues in the Thoroughbred racing industry, according to a release issued Friday. “TOC wants to express its gratitude for Lou’s service, particularly during some trying times for the organization. We wish him all the best and success in his future endeavors.”
TOC is the official organization serving new, veteran and future Thoroughbred owners in the state. It represents, advances, and protects owners’ interests and rights in legislative, administrative and business matters.
FINISH LINES: Dennis O’Neill reports that Sham Stakes winner Goldencents is scheduled to work six furlongs Saturday morning in his final major breeze for the Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 9 . . . Richard Mandella said that Malibu Stakes winner Jimmy Creed, who worked four furlongs Monday in 48.20, is a candidate for the Grade II Potrero Grande Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs on Santa Anita Derby Day, April 6 . . . Agent Tony Matos reports that Santa Anita’s third-leading rider Garrett Gomez rides Hollywood Starlet winner Pure Fun for trainer Ken McPeek in the Grade III Bourbonette Oaks and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes runner-up Frac Daddy, also for McPeek, in the Grade III, $500,000 Spiral Stakes, both at Turfway Park, on March 23. Alonso Quinonez, also represented by Matos, rides Just Win Baby for trainer Oscar Garcia in the $800,000 Sunland Derby in New Mexico on March 24. A Florida-bred son of The Daddy owned by Greg Norman, Just Win Baby registered a $59.60 upset in Thursday’s second race at Santa Anita in his second start . . . With 576 players picking 1-2 favorite Ubelongtomemissy to finish at least third (she ran second) in yesterday’s third race, 1,081 advanced to Friday’s round in ShowVivor II.