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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• SADLER TACKLES BAFFERT IN GRADE III SHAM STAKES
• PEDROZA, BLUESKIESNRAINBOWS SET FOR SAN PASQUAL
• FAMILY, FUTURE BRING DESORMEAUX TO SANTA ANITA
• MUCHO MACHO MAN CEREMONY TAKES PLACE SATURDAY
BAFFERT, SADLER SQUARE OFF IN SHAM STAKES SATURDAY
Bob Baffert has won the Sham Stakes twice and the Kentucky Derby three times, so the Hall of Fame trainer is no stranger when it comes to getting 3-year-olds ready for a run at the Triple Crown classics.
He begins pursuit of his fourth win in the May 3 Run for Roses Saturday when he sends out promising maiden winner Midnight Hawk in the Grade III Sham Stakes at one mile. On paper, his major rival appears to be Kristo, himself a smashing maiden winner.
Midnight Hawk is a gray son of 2007 and 2008 Breeders’ Cup Sprint king Midnight Lute owned by John Sikura of Lexington, who races as Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc., and Mike Kitchen, Mike Pegram and former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice and Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. The colt impressed Baffert with his 6 ¼-length win at 7 ½ furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Dec. 13.
Sadler was no less affected by Kristo’s front-running, 6 ¾-length sashay going a mile and a sixteenth at Santa Anita last Oct. 31. Kristo had his final major drill for the Sham on Sunday, working six furlongs in 1:12.80 under regular rider Rafael Bejarano.
“He worked well,” Sadler said. “His last race was good. I didn’t want to run him on synthetic, so I’ve saved him for the dirt.” Baffert won the inaugural running of the Sham in 2001 with Wild and Wise for Golden Eagle Farm, and again in 2006 with Stonerside Stables Bob and John. His last Kentucky Derby win came in 2002 with War Emblem.
Kristo, a $500,000 son of Distorted Humor owned by brothers Pete and Kosta Hronis, has been favored at 3-10 in each of his three career starts,
The field for the Sham, race five of nine: Kristo, Rafael Bejarano, 2-1; I’ll Wrap It Up, Tyler Baze, 8-1; Life Is a Joy, Corey Nakatani, 12-1; Ontology, Mario Gutierrez, 8-1; Top Fortitude, Kayla Stra, 2-1; and Midnight Hawk, Mike Smith, 8-5.
PEDROZA ‘RATES’ BLUESKIESNRAINBOWS TOUGH FOR SAN PASQUAL
In 22 career starts, Blueskiesnrainbows has been on the lead at some point in 14 of them, winning six, including the Native Diver Stakes gate to wire Dec. 14 at Hollywood Park.
That doesn’t make him a stone front-runner, according to Martin Pedroza, who has ridden the 5-year-old English Channel horse in five of his last six races, winning two of them, the aforementioned Native Diver and the Ralph M. Hinds at Fairplex Park last Sept. 22.
But on paper, Blueskiesnrainbows is likely to be at least in close attendance to the pace in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes for older horses at 1 1/16 miles.
“He doesn’t have to be in front,” Pedroza said of the Virginia-bred chestnut trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for Kelly Mitchell (Bad Boy Racing) and Stanley Whisenant (Whizway Farms). “He can have a target and sit right behind, then blow his butt away.”
The San Pasqual: Blingo, Victor Espinoza, 7-2; Blueskiesnrainbows, Martin Pedro, 2-1; Majestic City, Edwin Maldonado, 5-1; Spud Spivens, Corey Nakatani, 12-1; Majestic Harbor, Tyler Baze, 6-1; Rousing Sermon, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; and Drill, Mike Smith, 6-1.
DESORMEAUX ‘COMES HOME AGAIN’ TO CALIFORNIA
On California Cup weekend, Jan. 25 and 26, Kent Desormeaux returns to the scene of many of his greatest triumphs, Santa Anita Park, where he won three riding titles in the 1990s before seeking greener pastures back East.
Winner of 5,533 races including the Kentucky Derby three times, the three-time Eclipse Award winner, who turns 44 on Feb. 27, will be represented by agent Danny Thomas.
“Basically he’s coming from Florida to ride the Cal Cup races and to be closer to his two sons,” said Southern California native Thomas, 46, a former horse owner and long-time fan of the sport, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and a minor in Film from Chapman University.
“Hopefully, he’ll have a good weekend, pick up business in stakes races and possibly build on that and then come out here on a more permanent basis,” Thomas said.
That would avail Desormeaux an opportunity to spend more time with sons Joshua and Jacob, which is high on his priority list.
“He’s hungry,” Thomas said. “He pretty much told me whatever it takes, whatever I need to do. So I’m really happy. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
MUCHO MACHO MAN CONNECTIONS TO SIGN POSTERS SATURDAY
Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man, who was recently named the winner of the Secretariat Vox Populi, “Voice of the People” Award, will be honored on Saturday, as his owners, Dean and Patti Reeves, along with Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, will sign full color posters of Mucho Macho Man beginning at 11 a.m., in Santa Anita’s East Paddock Gardens area.
Stevens, who had been inactive for seven years, culminated an unprecedented comeback at age 50 with a pulsating nose victory aboard “Mucho” in the Classic, has also won three Kentucky Derbies and a total of 10 Breeders’ Cup races.
Mr. and Mrs. Reeves will be flying in from their Florida base to participate in the ceremonies surrounding the presentation of the award created by Penny Chenery, owner of 1973 Triple Crown Champion Secretariat.
“I think we all identified with Mucho Macho Man’s story of overcoming adversity,” said Chenery last month. “It is a classic theme that transcends sports and life and generations. And because he is poised to return in 2014, racing fans will have much to anticipate in this champion Thoroughbred.”
The Reeves’ and their racing manager, Finn Green, have announced the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic, to be run at Santa Anita Nov. 1, as this year’s long-range objective for their 6-year-old son of Macho Uno.
The Vox Populi trophy will be presented to the Reeves’ and Stevens at Santa Anita later in the day, and trainer Kathy Ritvo will be recognized during a simultaneous presentation at Gulfstream Park. Both celebrations will be broadcast live on HRTV.
Previous winners of the Vox Populi trophy are Zenyatta (2010), Rapid Redux (2011), and Paynter (2012).
FINISH LINES: Any doubt of a Pick 6 carryover (of $87,195) into Thursday was erased Sunday when first-time starter Ruff Proof won the ninth race by a half-length under Orlando Mojica for trainer David Bernstein at a $59 payoff. “Her mother (Hello Ruffie) won first time out and paid $60,” said Bernstein, who has five horses in training and is best remembered for conditioning champion older male of 1994 The Wicked North, who was disqualified from first to fourth in that year’s $1 million Santa Anita Handicap, costing the owners $475,000 (first was worth $550,000; fourth, $75,000). “They were the same kind of horse,” Bernstein said of Ruff Proof and Hello Ruffie. “They had determination and you could tell that in their training. This is Idiot Proof’s first crop and I think this is the first one to win for him in Southern California. There were two Idiot Proofs in the race. (Doug) O’Neill had one in there (Faith Proof, who finished eighth at 5-1). They bet on that horse. They didn’t bet on mine.” Twenty years have passed since the DQ of The Wicked North, but it’s still topical. “People talk about it even now,” said Bernstein, one of racing’s true nice guys who celebrated his 74th birthday on Jan. 6 . . . Agent Jim Pegram has taken the book of jockey Edwin Maldonado . . . Real Quiet Stakes winner Tamarando worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Thursday in 1:00.40. “He’ll run on the 25th,” said Jerry Hollendorfer, alluding to the $250,000 California Cup Derby at 1 1/16 miles. The Hall of Fame trainer and top aide Dan Ward also were riveted watching San Felipe winner Hear the Ghost go six furlongs in 1:13.60 and Damascus Stakes winner Zeewat work five furlongs in 1:01.20. In all, Team Hollendorfer worked 20 horses at Santa Anita Thursday morning . . . Game On Dude, finalist for an Eclipse Award as top Older Male, worked five furlongs for Bob Baffert in 1:01.80 for the Feb. 8 San Antonio Stakes, while maiden winner Indianapolis went four furlongs for Baffert in a bullet 46.60 . . . Mike Pender said the Grade II grassy San Marcos Stakes at 1 ¼ miles Feb. 8 is likely for San Gabriel winner Jeranimo’s next start, “but we’re keeping all options open. We’d like to keep him at his home track.” . . . Congratulations to Brice Blanc and apprentice Drayden VanDyke on recording their first victories of the meet Sunday . . . Peter Rotondo Jr., star of Horseplayers TV show premiering Jan. 21, 7 p.m., on Esquire Network, and Patrick McQuiggan, race book host of South Point Casino in Las Vegas, will be Tom Quigley’s guests Saturday and Sunday, respectively, 11:20 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Best wishes to Chris Crocker on her retirement. Chris mother-henned Santa Anita’s popular gift shop with TLC for 19 years, but is returning to the Midwest to be closer to her family. Her final day at Santa Anita will be Jan. 20 . . . After missing a day last week due to illness, Doug O’Neill was back on the beat Thursday morning sporting a new look: sans beard. “When I was sick with the beard, I felt like a homeless guy,” said the trainer of 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another. “I had to shave it off.”