Joe Talamo hopes hard work pays off when he rides Omega Star in Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes. The 23-year-old jockey will be aboard the California-bred son of Candy Ride for the first time in a race when he tackles heavyweights Flashback and Goldencents in the Grade II test for 3-year-olds at a mile and a sixteenth, Santa Anita’s last major stepping stone to the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby at nine furlongs on April 6.

“I’ve been working him and he’s been working good,” Talamo said of the gelding trained by John Shirreffs for owners Herman Sarkowsky and Marty Wygod. “I really didn’t know too much about him before I worked him, but John’s been putting him two or three lengths behind another horse.

“He said he could get rank in some of his races, like in his last two, but he’s been very relaxed behind horses when I’ve worked him. When I ask him, he really explodes and has a nice turn of foot.”

Omega Star was second to another Cal-bred entered in the San Felipe, Tiz A Star, who rallied from 10th and last under Garrett Gomez to overtake stretch leader Omega Star and win the California Breeders’ Championship at one mile on Santa Anita’s wet/fast track Jan. 26.

Talamo knows the task won’t be any easier on Saturday.

“It’s a pretty tough race, obviously, with Goldencents and Flashback, but this race should definitely give us a good read on Omega Star,” he said. “I’ve watched all his replays and he’s a real nice horse with a bright future. He’ll get tested Saturday, that’s for sure.”

The San Felipe marks the first time in three career starts that Omega Star has broken from a post position other than No. 1. He drew the extreme outside in a field of eight, which Talamo feels is an advantage, even going long.

“It gives me more options,” he said, “because who knows what horse is going to go (for the lead)? I think (trainer) Eric Guillot’s horse (Salutos Amigos) is probably the speed of the race, coming off (three) sprints, but who knows with Goldencents and Flashback?

“Those two are horses that have been pretty forwardly placed, so I’m excited. It’s going to be a good race.”

The field for the Grade II, $300,000 San Felipe: Carving, 118, Rafael Bejarano, 15-1; Flashback, 123, Julien Leparoux, 8-5; Goldencents, 120, Kevin Krigger, 9-5; Kochees, Jose Valdivia Jr., 118,15-1; Hear the Ghost, Corey Nakatani, 6-1, 118; Tiz A Minister, Garrett Gomez, 12-1, 118; Salutos Amigos, 118, Martin Garcia, 6-1; and Omega Star, 118, Joe Talamo, 8-1.


Belle of the Hall doesn’t have to carry her race track around with her. In 24 career starts, the 6-year-old Florida-bred mare has run at 10 different tracks, including Santa Anita, where she runs again Sunday in the Grade III Las Flores Stakes for older fillies and mares at 6 ½ furlongs on the main track.

“She’s pretty laid back and doesn’t show a lot of emotion,” said Scott Blasi, assistant to Steve Asmussen, who leads the nation in wins through March 5 with 66. “I imagine they never have any trouble shipping her.

“I’ve only run her once (finishing fifth in the Grade II Santa Monica Stakes on a wet/fast track at seven furlongs Jan. 26). Things didn’t exactly go like we wanted, what with the weather affecting her works up to the race.

“But it was a decent enough race back and hopefully she runs better Saturday.” Victor Espinoza, who rides 8-5 morning line favorite Teddy’s Promise in the Las Flores: “She’s good now and when she gets good, she’s easy to ride. The last couple times, she was unbelievable. “She’s on her game now. I think she’s better than before, believe it or not. With time, she’s matured.”

The field for the Las Flores: Belle of the Hall, Corey Nakatani, 6-1; Rumor, Mike Smith, 5-1; Shumoos, Garrett Gomez, 3-1; Distracting, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; Teddy’s Promise, Victor Espinoza, 8-5; Sugarinthemorning, Martin Garcia, 6-1; Pink Lollipops, David Flores, 15-1; and Quizzical, Gary Stevens, 12-1.


Sarach seeks her third straight win when she runs in Saturday’s China Doll Stakes, one of the saltiest events ever for an unrestricted stakes offering just $70,000 in purse money.

“I’m pretty happy with her,” is how Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella summed up her condition coming into her first stakes, a one mile turf race which drew a full field of 12.

Mandella, meanwhile, is enjoying a sensational meet, with 11 wins from 34 starters through Thursday, a winning average of 32 percent.

The China Doll, which goes as the eighth of nine races: Magnificent Shirl, Tyler Baze; Seolan, David Flores; Akiss Forarose, Orlando Mojica; Awe Golly Molly, Martin Pedroza; Wittgenstein, Mario Gutierrez; Ciao Bella Luna, Corey Nakatani; Sarach, Rafael Bejarano; Birdlover, Edwin Maldonado; Flashy Ways, Joe Talamo; Secret Motive, Martin Garcia; Sky High Gal, Julien Leparoux; and Pussycat Lips, Garrett Gomez.

FINISH LINES: Prominent owner B.J. Wright, whose major stakes winners include Jeranimo and Ultimate Eagle trained by Mike Pender, is recovering from open heart surgery performed a couple weeks ago at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena. He is out of the hospital and recuperating at a skilled nursing facility in Pasadena. Wright hopes to be going home in three or four days . . . Three of the five members of the 6,000 Club—trainers with at least 6,000 career victories—are active at Santa Anita this meet: Steve Asmussen, Jack Van Berg and Jerry Hollendorfer. The exclusive quintet, with total wins according to Equibase statistics: Dale Baird, 9,445; Van Berg, 6,417; Asmussen, 6,395; King Leatherbury, 6,370; and Hollendorfer, 6,356 . . . With two wins at Santa Anita Thursday, Hollendorfer moved past John Sadler into second place in the Santa Anita standings with 22 wins, three behind leader Bob Baffert. Hollendorfer’s 22 wins have come from 80 starts, for a win percentage of 28 . . . Mike Smith rides at Oaklawn Park this Saturday and next, piloting Oxbow for D. Wayne Lukas March 16 in the Rebel Stakes . . . Lava Man in miniature: Including the $25,000 claiming price paid by new trainer Peter Miller for Unusual Jazz from Sunday’s first race, previous trainer Steve Knapp grossed more than $200,000 from the 6-year-old Unusual Heat horse since claiming him for $8,000 at Fairplex Park in September of 2011, winning six races during his run, including the March Madness Handicap a year ago . . . Congratulations to Santa Anita’s 2010 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award winner Calvin Borel on posting career victory No. 5,000 Thursday at Oaklawn Park . . . With 88 players selecting victorious Church Avenue in Thursday’s sixth race, 296 remain alive in ShowVivor II going into Friday’s races . . . This from low-key trainer Tom Proctor, asked how ambitious he might want to be with Examen after the 3-year-old gelding won Thursday’s $58,000 Shasta Lake Purse: “I’m not very ambitious in life, or with horses. I let them do what they do and I don’t try to expect too much.”