Mike Smith has never ridden Ultrasonic in a race, but all that will change Sunday. That’s when the Hall of Fame jockey pilots the 5-year-old mare owned and bred by Juddmonte Farms and trained by fellow Hall of Fame member Bob Baffert in the Grade II Monrovia Stakes for fillies and mares at about 6 ½ furlongs on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course, which features a right-hand turn before hitting a patch of dirt that leads into the homestretch. Ultrasonic, a bay daughter of Mizzen Mast, will be making her United States debut, having raced at England’s premier tracks, Ascot, Epsom and Newmarket, winning at Newmarket in July of 2012 under 133 pounds. Her last race was Aug. 10, but she shows two bullet works at Santa Anita among her most recent drills.

“She’s a little bit high-strung,” Baffert said. “When she first got here, she didn’t want to train. I had trouble with her, so we had to sort of trick her . . . she’s quirky. I had to figure her out. She’s extremely fast, and Martin (Garcia) has been working her and doing a really good job with her, but I like Mike Smith on her down the hill on the grass.”

With back-to-back Shoemaker Awards as the Outstanding Jockey in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships the past two years, and with eight wins from 20 starts this meet through the first eight days, Smith is enjoying a banner start to the New Year.

“I had a great year in 2013 riding for Juddmonte, and I hope it carries over,” Smith said. “Ultrasonic’s form shows she belongs in this type of race. Who knows? She might even step up a bit. Sometimes they’ll do that.

“It will be interesting to see how she does. I’ve seen European horses run well down the hill first time out. Overseas, they’re used to going this way, that way, over dirt and different things, so it should be no problem for her as far as coming down the hill. It should just be a matter of if she’s good enough.”

For sure, her rider is good enough. Smith enjoyed a spectacular year in 2013, finishing seventh nationally with more than $13.7 million in purse money won while riding in peak form at age 48.

“Hopefully, in 2014, we’ll continue to be happy and healthy, and all that good stuff,” Smith said.

The field for the Monrovia: Kindle, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; Purim’s Dancer, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Golden Production, Edwin Maldonado, 15-1; Ciao Bella

Luna, Martin Pedroza, 15-1; Sky High Gal, Corey Nakatani, 12-1; Ultrasonic, Mike Smith, 4-1; Pontchatrain, Gary Stevens, 2-1; Camyrn Kate, Tyler Baze, 20-1; and Winding Way, Victor Espinoza, 6-1.

Judy In Disguise was scratched.


In a racing first, Santa Anita Park has designated a popular four-footed staffer as Employee of the Week, and will honor 2,000 pound “Homestead Sally,” a Nebraska-born Clydesdale who stands a giant 17.2 hands, in a winner’s circle ceremony following Sunday’s fifth race.

“Paige Rickerd, who works in Operations, found Sally on Craig’s List last summer and she has been an absolutely wonderful acquisition for us,” said Santa Anita President George Haines. “Sally works in the afternoons pulling one of our carriages for racing officials and she’s thriving in her new job. Our fans love her and so do all of us here at the track.

“She’s kind, gentle and you can see that she takes great pride in her work. In addition to being seen in the afternoons, Sally is now an integral part of our free Seabiscuit Tram Tours on the weekends. Full credit goes to Paige for bringing her here and for doing such a great job in getting her acclimated to her new surroundings and job. We’re happy to be able to acknowledge both Sally and Paige and the great work they do for us here at Santa Anita.”

Santa Anita’s Employee of the Week typically receives a designated parking spot and a complimentary dinner at the nearby Derby Restaurant in Arcadia. Haines allowed that dining accommodations are proving problematic.

“We’ve been in negotiations with the Derby staff and we’re having a tough time with the menu at this point,” said Haines. “We have agreed upon an outdoor option in their valet lot, but they’ve told us they’d be out of Derby Cobb Salad for two months if Sally has her way.

“We’ve suggested bringing over our own hay, oats and water, but that apparently would be a violation of the Health Code, and we certainly don’t want to break any laws. At this point, it’s looking like Sally might have to settle for a home-cooked meal.”

Born and raised on a farm near Lincoln, Nebraska, “Sally,” age six, arrived at Santa Anita in early August and resides in the small stable area that adjoins the Racing Office near the Kingsbury Fountain.

According to Rickerd, she’s still on the lookout for a Midwestern winter—so far, none in sight!

FINISH LINES: Teddy’s Promise, prepping for defense of her Grade II Santa Monica Stakes victory a year ago, worked five furlongs on the main track Saturday in a minute flat for Ron Ellis, who trains the multiple stakes-winning California-bred mare for owners/breeders Ted and Judy Nichols . . . Also working on a picturesque Saturday morning were Willard Proctor Memorial winner Kobe’s Back (four furlongs in 48.60 for John Sadler); Matriarch winner Egg Drop (four furlongs in 48.40, breezing, for Mike Mitchell); Citation winner Silentio (four furlongs in 51 flat for Gary Mandella); and Californian winner Clubhouse Ride (four furlongs in 48.80 for Craig Lewis) . . . Mindless trivia department: Of the 46 jockeys who have ridden here this meet, 28 have last names that end in a vowel.