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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• FLASHBACK DRILLS FOR SATURDAY’S GRADE II SAN FELIPE
• ABSENTEE OWNER TORRE EXCITED WITH DUDE’S ROMP
• GAME ON DUDE POSTS 116 SPEED FIGURE FOR BIG ’CAP WIN
• GOMEZ HONORED TO BE NOMINATED FOR HALL OF FAME
• FORMER TRAINER GREG MACDONALD PASSES AT AGE 63
FLASHBACK IN SHARP WORK FOR MEETING WITH GOLDENCENTS
Flashback moved a step closer to next Saturday’s much-anticipated pre-Triple Crown showdown with Goldencents in the San Felipe Stakes with a five furlong workout Sunday morning in a bullet 59 seconds flat under regular rider Julien Leparoux. It was the fastest of 63 drills at the distance, the average time of which was 1:01.72.`
Working in company with stablemate Den’s Legacy, who was clocked in 59.40 under Erick Lopez, Flashback “went nice” according to trainer Bob Baffert, who would be seeking his fifth San Felipe victory, including one with Horse of the Year Point Given in 2001.
“So far, so good,” Baffert said of the dappled gray son of Tapit, who won the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 2.
Goldencents, meanwhile, worked six furlongs Saturday, going in a bullet 1:11.60, breezing, for six furlongs.
With apologies to Jimmy Walker, private clocker Toby Turrell of Winners Card called the move by Goldencents “Dy-noh-mite!.”
Also Saturday, maiden winner Salutos Amigos went five furlongs in company with I’m Wide Awake in 1:02.20, while his stablemate was clocked in 1:03.40, both for trainer Eric Guillot.
Probable for the Grade II, $300,000 San Felipe at 1 1/16 miles: Flashback, Leparoux; Goldencents, Kevin Krigger; Hear the Ghost, Corey Nakatani; Kochees; Omega Star, Joe Talamo; Salutos Amigos; and Tiz A Minister.
Kentucky Derby qualifying points for the San Felipe are as follows: 50 for first, 20 for second, 10 for third and five for fourth.
JOE TORRE WATCHES GAME ON DUDE WIN FROM AFAR
Previously committed to manage Team USA in the World Baseball Classic competition that began yesterday, Joe Torre, part owner of Game On Dude, who rolled to a record 7 3/4-length victory in Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap, had to enjoy the race by watching a replay.
“Joe didn’t get to see it live,” trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday morning. “He saw it later on. Matter of fact, when (part owner) Bernie (Schiappa) called him, the first thing Joe said was, ‘How far did he win by?’
“Joe was really excited. He wished he could have been here. When I talked to him, he had just seen (the replay of) the race. He was amazed at what a horse Game On Dude is.”
Mike Smith took a moment Sunday morning to reflect on his front-running romp aboard Game On Dude in the Big ’Cap. The margin of victory was the largest in the classic race’s 76-year history, topping Bobby Brocato’s six-length win in 1956.
“His last two performances were incredible,” Smith said of the 6-year-old gelding. “For a horse at that age to stay as happy and sound as he is, they get really good, and that’s what he is right now.”
GAME ON DUDE POSTS HIGHEST BIG ’CAP SPEED FIGURE SINCE 2003Game On Dude, whose 7 3/4-length win in Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap broke the record for the biggest margin of victory in Big ’Cap history, was assigned a preliminary 116 Beyer Speed Figure. The 116 matched Game On Dude’s Beyer for his 6 1/2-length triumph in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 3.
Jon White, who makes Santa Anita’s morning line and provides pre-race commentary from the paddock for the track’s simulcast network, notes that Game On Dude’s 116 Big ’Cap Beyer Speed Figure is the highest in the race since 2003.
“Milwaukee Brew also recorded a 116 Beyer when he won his second Big ’Cap in 2003,” White pointed out.
The Beyer Speed Figures for the past 10 Big ’Cap winners: 113 Southern Image in 2004; 107 Rock Hard Ten in 2005; 113 Lava Man in 2006; 109 Lava Man in 2007; 110 Heatseeker in 2008; 103 Einstein in 2009; 104 Misremembered in 2010; 100 Game On Dude in 2011; 105 Ron the Greek in 2012; and 116 Game On Dude in 2013.
“The first published Beyer Speed Figure for the Santa Anita Handicap was in 1990,” White said. “Ruhlmann earned a 118 Beyer when he won the Big ’Cap that year. The biggest Big ’Cap Beyer since the figures were first published in 1990 was 123 by Best Pal in 1992.”
GOMEZ EXCITED TO BE AMONG HALL OF FAME FINALISTS
The sentiments expressed by Garrett Gomez on his nomination as a finalist on the National Museum of Racing’s 2013 Hall of fame ballot could be echoed by the other non-equines up for election.
They are jockeys Calvin Borel, Craig Perrett and Alex Solis, and retired trainer Gary Jones. The late Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Chris Antley also was nominated, as were Thoroughbreds Ashado, Housebuster, Invasor and Lure.
“I’m really excited,” said the 42-year-old Gomez, currently second-leading rider at Santa Anita. “It’s an honor just to be mentioned. Hopefully, we can go a little bit farther and get inducted, if not this time, in the near future.
“Meanwhile, I’ll continue to come out every day and do what I do and enjoy it. It would be better if the election came sooner rather than later. Why not get it over with?
“I was nominated a couple years ago and again last year. It’s one of those things we have no control over. I do what I love to do and that’s ride horses and win races.”
Gomez won a record 76 stakes in 2007 and has 13 Breeders’ Cup wins, including the 2010 Classic with champion Blame, who handed Zenyatta her only defeat in a 20-race career.
Solis, a leading jockey on the Southern California circuit many times before permanently moving his tack East several years ago, has won nearly 5,000 races with purse earnings approaching $231 million in a career that began in 1982.
Jones, a fixture in Southern California until his retirement in 1996, won 1,465 races and had purse earnings of $52,672,611 in a career that started in 1975. He won 102 graded stakes and 233 stakes overall. Jones trained 104 stakes-winning horses, including Turkoman, the 1986 champion Older Male. Jones conditioned Hall of Fame California-bred Best Pal to wins in the Santa Anita Handicap, Oaklawn Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Strub Stakes.
This year’s finalists were selected by the Hall of Fame’s 16-member nominating committee from 86 candidates suggested throughout the year by turf journalists. Results of voting on contemporary candidates will be announced April 26.
The induction ceremony will be at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Friday, Aug. 9 at 7:30 a.m. PDT. The ceremony is free and open to the public.
VETERAN TURF SCRIBE ART WILSON ON MEND
Art Wilson, longtime Assistant Sports Editor for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and weekly horse racing columnist, was a visitor in the Santa Anita press box on Big ’Cap Day.
“This is the first time I’ve been to the press box since the fall meet here in 2011,” said Wilson, 60, who has been battling a form of blood cancer for a year and a half. “I covered the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs that fall and that’s when I really knew there was something wrong. It’s been a long process, but my goal now is to be back to cover the Breeders’ Cup here at Santa Anita in November.
“I can’t wait to get back to work and get back to covering racing on a regular basis. I love the game and the people in it. I want to thank everyone at all the tracks for being so thoughtful. When you get sick, you can’t believe how much it means to hear from people.”
Who did he like in the Santa Anita Handicap?
“I just can’t see Game On Dude getting beat. He’s got Baffert and Smith and I just can’t imagine Ron the Greek getting the same kind of crazy pace to run at that he did last year.”
Here’s hoping it’s a “sure thing” that Art Wilson is back in action at The Great Race Place this fall.
RACING COMMUNITY MOURNS THE PASSING OF GREG MACDONALD
Greg MacDonald, a former trainer who became a noted equine artist, passed away at the age of 63 on Feb. 21 near Vancouver, B.C.
The son of a trainer, Norman MacDonald, and a brother to two trainers, Mark and Brad, MacDonald began training in Vancouver and moved his stable full-time to Southern California in the early 1980s.
Following his training career, MacDonald worked for a time in Publicity at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar in the late ’80s through the mid 1990s.
“Greg had a great eye for a horse and he was intensely passionate about two things—his family and Thoroughbred horse racing,” said Santa Anita Publicity Director Mike Willman. “As a trainer, he was super competitive and as an artist he was incredibly gifted. His sketches and water-color work are absolutely world-class.”
MacDonald is survived by his wife, Janis, daughter, Kristen, sons Travis and Andrew and his father, Norm, as well as brothers Mark and Brad.
Services are scheduled to be held at the MacDonald home in Port Coquitlam, B.C., on March 9, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
FINISH LINES: Richard Mandella reports that champion Beholder was in good shape Sunday morning following her impressive front-running romp in the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes yesterday and it’s on to the Santa Anita Oaks on April 6 . . . .Bob Baffert-trained horses earned $551,000 in Saturday’s three Grade I stakes . . . Doug O’Neill said Richard’s Kid “came back beautiful” from his sixth-place finish in the Santa Anita Handicap. “Synthetics, here we come,” the trainer said . . . Trainer Mike Puype plans to run Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mizdirection in the Grade III Las Cienegas Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs turf on April 13 prior to the Grade I Just A Game at a flat mile on grass on Belmont Stakes Day June 1 . . . Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Calidoscopio worked five furlongs for Puype with Aaron Gryder up in 1:01.20 . . . Real Quiet winner Carving worked six furlongs in company with Norfolk winner Power Broker for Baffert in 1:13.60 and 1:12.60, respectively. Rafael Bejarano was up on Power Broker . . . On Santa Anita’s training track Saturday morning, 2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Amazombie worked four furlongs in 49.80. Trainer and co-owner Bill Spawr is considering the Potrero Grande Stakes on April 6 for the California-bred son of Northern Afleet . . . Probable for next Sunday’s Grade III Las Flores Stakes for older fillies and mares at 6 ½ furlongs: Rumor, Mike Smith; Shumoos, Garrett Gomez; Sugarinthemorning, Martin Garcia; and Teddy’s Promise, Victor Espinoza . . . Gomez, who won three races Saturday to move into second place in Santa Anita’s standings with 34 victories, rides Delhomme for Todd Pletcher in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 16, agent Tony Matos reports. A Triple Crown hopeful, Belhomme was third by three-quarters of a length for the WinStar Farm LLC to Overanalyze in the Grade II Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct last Nov. 24 . . . Of the six horses entered in today’s first race, three were sired by Skimming and two by Unusual Heat, who also sired five horses entered in today’s sixth race . . . Overheard from a poor loser who bet on a 3-year-old filly named Wednesday, 5-2 favorite who ran fifth in Saturday’s second race. “Just my luck. I bet on Wednesday and that’s when she finished.”