- Live Racing
- Racing Information
- Press Box
- The Park
- Host an Event
- New Fans
- Get Tickets
STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• AVILA EYES ZENYATTA UPSET WITH VERSATILE GREAT HOT
• VICTOR ESPINOZA SURGES BACK INTO FIRST DIVISION
• MULTIMILLIONAIRE RICHARD’S KID RETIRES AT AGE EIGHT
• TOP FEMALE RIDER NAPRAVNIK RETURNS TO SANTA ANITA
• WHATEVER HAPPENED TO PACO GONZALEZ? HE’S STILL HERE
AVILA HAS GREAT BREEDERS’ CUP HOPES FOR GREAT HOT
Antonio Carlos Avila is one the best trainers nobody ever heard of. “A.C.” to friends and associates, Avila is referred to as “The Witch Doctor” by race track insiders, thanks to a history of longshot winners.
Avila hopes to continue that trend when he sends out Great Hot in the $250,000, Win and You’re In Zenyatta Stakes for fillies and mares, 3 and up, one of five Breeders’ Cup World Championship prep races to be decided at Santa Anita on Saturday. The Zenyatta is the final major prep for the Grade I, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 1.
A 5-year-old Brazilian-bred mare by 2002 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Orientate, Great Hot was eighth of 12 against males in the Grade II Pat O’Brien at seven furlongs on Del Mar’s Polytrack Aug. 25. You can draw a line through that race, according to Avila.
“There was no other place to run her, so we went in there,” said Avila, a native of Brazil who turns 60 on Nov. 30. “She’s a Breeders’ Cup nominee, so we’ll run in the Zenyatta and see what’s going on. After that, we’ll decide if she runs in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at a mile and an eighth or the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (against males).”
Great Hot has certainly paid her way since coming from her native country early in 2011. With five wins from 24 starts and earnings of $574,177, her most notable victories came in a pair of Grade II events, the seven furlong Raven Run on Keeneland’s Polytrack in October 2011 and the Santa Maria on Santa Anita’s traditional dirt on Feb. 16 of this year.
She has run in sprints, routes, turf, dirt and on synthetics, so it’s not like she has to carry her track around with her.
“When she makes up her mind to run, like she did in winning the Santa Maria, she’s tough,” Avila said. “She can run on any surface, and she’s training well.”
LIKE OLD TIMES, TO THE VICTOR (ESPINOZA) GOES THE SPOILS
Victor Espinoza is back. The leading rider at Santa Anita in 2003-04, Espinoza won the Kentucky Derby in 2002 and was continually among Southern California’s leaders from 2000 until recent years when the arrival of young lions helped thrust him from his place in the sun.
But that was then and this is now. Espinoza, a 41-year-old Mexico City native, caught the attention of horsemen and horse players alike at the recent Del Mar meet where he enjoyed a remarkably steady campaign, winning 27 races, finishing second 25 times and third 22 from 165 mounts.
Espinoza tied for third with Edwin Maldonado at Del Mar, missing second by one (Martin Garcia had 28, well behind leader Rafael Bejarano, who won 46).
“He’s a pretty consistent rider, day in and day out,” said Espinoza’s agent, Brian Beach. “People know what they’re going get. During Del Mar, Victor was out there working hard and it paid off in the afternoons.
“You’re only as good as the horses you get and (leading trainer) John Sadler was pretty loyal to him for the whole meet. He won a few stakes for John and rode some good horses for him, and that helps, because it brings you other business.”
Espinoza hopes to land in the winner’s circle Saturday when he rides impressive maiden winner Schoolofhardrocks for trainer David Hofmans and owners John and Jerry Amerman in the Grade I, “Win and You’re In” FrontRunner Stakes for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.
“He’s a very talented horse,” Espinoza said of the son of Rock Hard Ten bred by John’s wife, Jerry. “I liked him the first time I saw him. I was impressed with how he ran going a mile and winning from the one hole (at odds of 10-1 Aug. 31 at Del Mar). I feel he’ll get even better.”
Espinoza was aboard Schoolofhardrocks for a five furlong drill Wednesday in 1:00.80 on Santa Anita’s main track. “Very nice and easy,” Espinoza said of the move.
FULL HORSE RICHARD’S KID RETIRED AT THE AGE OF EIGHT
Richard’s Kid, a world traveler who earned $2,482,284 with 12 wins from 47 career starts, has been retired, trainer Doug O’Neill said Wednesday morning.
“He’s 100 percent sound but he had a little heat in a tendon and he’s retired,” O’Neill said of the 8-year-old Maryland-bred son of Lemon Drop Kid. “I don’t know where he’s going to go (as a stallion). We’re fielding inquiries and we’ll do whatever is in his best interest.
“What an amazing athlete he is . . . He’s going to be missed big-time.”
Richard’s Kid ran four times in the Grade I Pacific Classic, winning it in 2009 and 2010. He was fourth in the Pacific Classic on Aug. 25 in his final start. His last stakes win came in the Grade III Cougar Handicap at Del Mar July 26.
Third in last year’s running, Richard’s Kid was nominated to Saturday’s Grade I Awesome Again Stakes.
NAPRAVNIK BACK AT SANTA ANITA TO RIDE JOYFUL VICTORY SATURDAY
Female riding sensation Rosie Napravnik returns Saturday to Santa Anita, the scene of one of her greatest triumphs, where she rode Shanghai Bobby to victory in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for Todd Pletcher last November.
On Saturday, Napravnik rides Joyful Victory for trainer Larry Jones in the Zenyatta Stakes, one of five scheduled mounts that day.
Joyful Victory was second under Napravnik in the Grade I Zenyatta last September at Santa Anita. Napravnik returned March 16 to win the Grade I Santa Margarita Invitational on Joyful Victory by four lengths.
“Rosie is a special rider,” Jones said following the Santa Margarita win. “It’s a gift from God, what she’s got. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she’s been anointed with talent. She is one of the brightest stars in the game, I can assure you.”
PACO GONZALEZ: TO TRAIN OR NOT TO TRAIN, THAT IS THE QUESTION
Paco Gonzalez is in no hurry to retire, or un-retire, for that matter. The 67-year-old former force on the Southern California training circuit hasn’t saddled a horse in earnest in more than a year, since July 15, 2012, so it’s been written that he has retired, or not, ever since.
“I love horses and I’ve been around them all my life, but I’m not ready to come back,” Gonzalez said during a visit to Clockers’ Corner last Friday. “But I wouldn’t say that I’ve ‘officially’ retired, either. You never can tell.”
Meantime, Paco has been spending time with family and friends in his native Mexico.
He trained privately for John Toffan and the late Trudy McCaffery more than 10 years ago, winning the Santa Anita Derby and the Santa Anita Handicap with Free House and many other stakes with the likes of Bien Bien, Came Home, Del Mar Dennis and Pacific Squall.
FINISH LINES: Sahara Sky is enjoying some R&R at Tommy Town Thoroughbreds facility in Santa Ynez since his nose victory in the Grade I Met Mile on May 27. “They tried to sell him as a stallion,” said Dan Ward, assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who owns the 5-year-old Pleasant Tap horse along with Kim Lloyd. “If that doesn’t happen, he’ll come back in about a month and we’ll get him ready for Santa Anita’s winter meet.” The Florida-bred out of the Storm Cat mare Seeking the Sky won the Palos Verdes and the San Carlos, each a Grade II stake, earlier this year at Santa Anita before losing the Grade I Carter Handicap at Aqueduct by three-quarters of a length on April 6 . . . Breeders’ Cup Classic contender Game On Dude worked a half-mile on Santa Anita’s main track Wednesday in 48 seconds flat under Martin Garcia. Asked if he was happy with the work, Bob Baffert said, “No. I hated it.” On a serious note, private clocker Toby Turrell said, “It looked like a maintenance work. Garcia was just sitting still on him.” Baffert also sent out Breeders’ Cup candidates Executiveprivilege (five furlongs in 1:00.40) and Fed Biz (five furlongs in 59.60) . . . HRTV’s Karen Johnson reports from Belmont Park that Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Shug McGaughey has entered Man o’ War winner Boisterous in Saturday’s Joe Hirsch but likely will scratch and run in either the Knickerbocker on turf at Belmont Oct. 12 or the Fayette on Keenland’s Polytrack Oct. 26. McGaughey added that a big effort from Imagining would lead to a start in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, in which McGaughey also plans to run Point of Entry . . . Laffit Pincay Jr. was a visitor to Clockers’ Corner Wednesday. Showing little signs of aging save for some gray hair, Pincay, who turns 67 on Dec. 29, relaxes these days by playing golf, a game he took up in earnest some 18 months ago. “I don’t keep score,” he said, “but I’m doing pretty good.” . . . Jon White’s morning line for the wide open Eddie D. Stakes on opening day, Friday: Et Tu Walker, 8-1; Huntsville, 30-1; Caracortado, 6-1; Boat Trip, 8-1; defending champ Unbridled’s Note, 7-2; Handsome Mike, 15-1; Rock Me Baby, 10-1; Chips All In, 4-1; Koast, 30-1; Rosengold, 20-1; Sirocco Strike, 8-1; Snowday, 8-1; Majestic City, 15-1; and El Mirage King, 30-1. Trainers Doug O’Neill and John Sadler indicated Wednesday morning that their respective entrees in the race, Handsome Mike and Koast, would be scratched . . . .Three-time Santa Anita jockey king Rafael Bejarano is scheduled to ride in all nine races opening day.