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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• SMART ELLIS SET FOR MARATHON SAN JUAN ON CLOSING DAY
• VIVA CARINA SEEKS FIRST STAKES WIN IN SANTA BARBARA
• DRILL MAKES TURF DEBUT FOR BAFFERT IN SAN SIMEON
• SMITH EYES DERBY WIN, BUT IT’S GOT TO BE IN THE CARDS
• VETERAN TRAINER ROBERT WINGFIELD PASSES
SMART ELLIS SEEKS FIRST STAKES WIN IN SUNDAY’S SAN JUAN
Be advised that Smart Ellis is running in Santa Anita’s traditional closing day feature on Sunday, and the name is not a pseudonym for trainer Ron Ellis.
Smart Ellis is a 4-year-old colt by 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones trained by Richard Mandella. The Kentucky-bred chestnut owned by Alain and Gerard Wertheimer and Charles Heilbronn will be seeking his first stakes win in the marathon San Juan Capistrano Stakes at about a mile and three-quarters on turf in this, his 12th career start, six of them in added money races.
Smart Ellis is coming off an efficient one-length victory at a mile and an eighth on turf March 3, and has been working smartly since. He has never raced beyond a mile and a quarter.
“I’ve always thought he might appreciate more distance,” said Mandella, who, with 15 wins from 55 starters through the meet’s first 67 days, is batting at a 27 percent clip. “This is a pretty good way to find out.”
SANTA BARBARA DISTANCE SUITS VIVA CARINA, AVILA SAYS
Viva Carina has already won at the mile and the quarter distance of Saturday’s Santa Barbara Stakes. That encouraged trainer A.C. Avila to enter the Argentine-bred filly in the Grade II race for older fillies and mares at 10 furlongs on turf.
“We’re giving it a try because she’s a long distance horse,” Avila said. “She should appreciate the mile and a quarter. She’s training well and she’s got the breeding (sired by Giant’s Causeway).”
Viva Carina has performed well in each of her eight starts, and had excuses in her two disappointing efforts. She won at a mile and a quarter on Santa Anita’s turf course Feb. 13.
She will be seeking her first stakes win in the Santa Barbara. She placed in the Torrey Pines at Del Mar and was third in the Grade III Autumn Miss at one mile on Santa Anita’s grass last October.
All seven horses nominated to the Santa Barbara were entered in the race.
The field for the Santa Barbara, race four of nine: The Only Key, Kevin Krigger, 8-1; Caelis, Corey Nakatani, 6-1; Long Face, David Flores, 12-1; Lady of Shamrock, Rafael Bejarano, 6-5; Double Ante, Tyler Baze, 6-1; Viva Carina, Victor Espinoza, 6-1: and Moone’s My Name, Joe Talamo, 3-1.
BAFFERT HOPES THE ‘DRILL’ WORKS WHEN COLT MAKES TURF DEBUT
Drill will make his first start on grass when he runs in Saturday’s Grade III San Simeon Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside course. In 14 career starts, the son of Lawyer Ron trained by Bob Baffert has won multiple graded stakes, including the Grade I Del Mar Futurity in 2011, but has never raced on turf.
“He worked well on turf, so this seemed to be a good spot for him,” Baffert reasoned.
The field for the San Simeon: Sirocco Strike, Edwin Maldonado, 20-1; Chips All In, Tyler Baze, 5-2 Obviously, Joe Talamo, 9-5; Chosen Miracle, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2; Ain’t No Other, Corey Nakatani, 8-2; Drill, Martin Garcia, 5-1; and Koast, Victor Espinoza, 5-1.
BEST HORSE DOESN’T ALWAYS WIN DERBY, SMITH SAYS
Soon after Mike Smith rode War Academy in last Saturday’s Arkansas Derby in which the 3-year-old broke stride and was pulled up, the Hall of Fame jockey was able to land a contending Kentucky Derby mount on Palice Malice, who finished second by a neck in the Blue Grass Stakes moments after the Arkansas Derby.
Garrett Gomez was aboard Palice Malice, but had a previous commitment on Vyjack for the Derby, so a door was opened for Smith, who is optimistic that fate might be in his corner for the Run for the Roses on May 4.
“I’ve seen a lot of guys pick up a horse at the last minute and win a Derby,” Smith said. “(Chris) McCarron picked up Go for Gin two days before (in 1994), so I mean, it happens.”
Not that winning the Derby is easy. When Smith captured his only victory in 2005, it was on 50-1 shot Giacomo. On the other hand, he still feels pangs of bewilderment over favored Holy Bull’s12th place finish in 1994, when he went on to be named Horse of the Year.
“It’s a tough race to win,” Smith said. “The best horse hardly wins the Derby. It’s a mile and quarter for the first time, there’s a lot of traffic and a lot of fans, things that the horses just aren’t used to.
“There’s a lot of energy in the air. Some horses pretty much run their race before it even starts. It’s got to be in the cards. Everything’s got to fall right, and you’ve got to have a talented horse on top of it.
“Holy Bull just wasn’t himself that day, for whatever reason. Giacomo was a horse that had a lot of talent just to get the mile and quarter and the race really set up for him. There was a lot of speed in there and they went extremely fast and they paid for it. It certainly helped us.
“This year’s crop seems to be real good. We’ll know more as it goes on. There seem to be some very talented horses in there.”
In other Triple Crown news:
Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents walked today after working four furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Wednesday in 48.40.
“He worked great,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “He walked today. He had a day off. He’ll work a week from today and if he comes out of it well, he’ll fly out a week from Saturday (to Kentucky).”
LONGTIME TRAINER BOBBY WINGFIELD PASSES AT AGE 84
Longtime trainer Robert (Bobby) Wingfield passed away this past Saturday, according to his son-in-law, Darrel McHargue, who is currently a racing steward at Golden Gate Fields. “He died of natural causes,” said McHargue, who is married to the former Robin Wingfield and was America’s Eclipse Award winning jockey in 1978. “He passed away at his daughter’s house in Livermore with his family and friends at his side.”
Mr. Wingfield was a fixture at Santa Anita’s Clockers’ Corner for many years and was a highly respected horseman. According to a post on twitter by Ray Paulick of the Paulick Report, “Among others, trainer Robert Wingfield trained stakes winners No No for Burt Bacharach and Bicker for Earl Scheib . . . ”
Quick with a smile and an encouraging word, Wingfield was in close contact with the racing scene in Southern California, despite having been retired for several years.
Robin Wingfield is currently Director of Group Sales at Golden Gate.
Funeral services for Bobby Wingfield will be private.
LOPEZ ON LIVE HORSE FOR BAFFERT IN SATURDAY’S THIRD RACE
Erick Lopez hopes his diligence for Bob Baffert pays off on Saturday. The 25-year-old jockey rides a “live” horse for the Hall of Fame trainer for the first time after working horses for him in the mornings this entire meet.
Lopez, from Marlboro, N.J., is named on Fly High owned by Baffert’s wife, Jill, in Saturday’s third race.
“I told him I would put him on kind of a live horse,” Baffert said. “He works really hard for me and I told him I’d throw him a bone with a little meat on it. He’s excited about it, so hopefully it works out.” Lopez, who is represented by agent Jerry (The Fisherman) Palermo, will be seeking his first win this meet. He has had only four mounts.
“We’re happy to ride for Baffert,” Palermo said. “Erick has worked hard and we’re hoping for a good result.”
FINISH LINES: When you’re hot you’re hot—leading rider Rafael Bejarano, atop the jockey standings entering the final week with 84 wins, has won with 23 of 36 horses he’s ridden for Jerry Hollendorfer, a 64 percent win clip . . . Congratulations to Gordon Sill, winner of $3,000 first prize in ShowVivor II. Sill won when his pick, Scat Daddy, finished first in Sunday’s sixth race. Paul Warfield had most wins of the four finalists with 20 to take second, worth $1,500. Tim Lin with 19 wins was third and won $500. Sill, 82, from Verdugo City north of Glendale, had “two or three days where I made a real good score,” but as an octogenarian, “got burned out” playing every day . . . While the jockeys’ race is a runaway with Bejarano holding an 84-60 bulge over runner-up Edwin Maldonado, the trainers’ race is tight with four racing days remaining.Bob Baffert leads runner-up Hollendorfer, 38-35, with Doug O’Neill third at 34 and John Sadler fourth with 33. Hollendorfer is winning at a 30 percent rate, 35 for 115 . . . Karen Headley reports that Storm Fighter, who finished sixth in the Santa Anita Derby, is “getting his confidence back” with designs on the Swap Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park on July 4 . . . Agent Mike Ciani has taken the book of seven-pound apprentice jockey Irving Orozco, winner of 37 races. He has been riding at Golden Gate.