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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• SYNTHETIC TO DIRT NO CONCERN FOR ‘HAWK’ IN SHAM
• CALLAGHAN HOPES DIRT IS GREENER FOR ONTOLOGY
• ‘SPUD’ TRIES TO MASH FOES FOR MORENO IN SAN PASQUAL
• MALDONADO EYES NATIONAL GOALS WITH NEW AGENT
SPEEDY MIDNIGHT HAWK STRETCHES OUT IN SHAM STAKES
Bob Baffert seeks his third win in just 13 runnings of the Sham Stakes Saturday when he sends out Midnight Hawk in the Grade III race for 3-year-olds at one mile.
Midnight Hawk was an impressive maiden winner by 6 ¼ lengths first out on Hollywood Park’s synthetic Cushion Track, winning at the uncommon distance of 7 ½ furlongs on Dec. 13. Is the move to traditional dirt in the Sham a concern?
“Not at all,” Baffert said of Midnight Hawk, the 8-5 morning line favorite who will run without blinkers in the Sham. “He’s just real speedy. He wants to take the lead.
“I worked him the other day and he didn’t want to sit behind horses. Pace is going to be important in this race, and we’ll find out if he can go that far. We don’t know yet.”
A son of 2007 and 2008 Breeders’ Cup Sprint king Midnight Lute, Midnight Hawk is owned in part by John Sikura of Lexington, who races as Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc., along with Mike Kitchen, Mike Pegram and former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice and Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
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.
ONTOLOGY GETS ANOTHER CHANCE ON DIRT IN SHAM
In eight career starts, Ontology has run on conventional dirt only once, checking in eighth by 15 ½ lengths in the Grade I FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita last Sept. 28. Four of his races have come on grass, but Simon Callaghan sees Saturday’s Sham Stakes as an opportune spot to learn whether the FrontRunner finish was a true indication of the colt’s distaste for dirt.
“He had blinkers on the FrontRunner and he kind of ran rank,” the trainer said. “I put a line through that race. We want to see for future reference where we are with this horse, so we want to try him once more on dirt and see what options we have for him later in the year.”
A chestnut son of Tapit owned by J. Paul Reddam, Ontology broke his maiden last out, winning by nearly three lengths going a mile on turf at Santa Anita Dec. 28.
OCTOGENARIAN MORENO IN ‘COMEBACK’ MODE FOR SAN PASQUAL
Henry Moreno has been training almost as long as Santa Anita’s been open—65 years, not including a run with Quarter Horses and a tour in Korea when he was drafted back in 1950.
Now 84—Santa Anita is marking its 77th year of operation—Moreno, down to five horses, admits he has been “kind of coasting for a while,” but will “try to make a comeback.”
A good time to start would be Saturday, when the white-thatched conditioner sends out longshot Spud Spivens in the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes, a forerunner to the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 8.
A 6-year-old California-bred gelding owned by Vincent and Audrey Marchionno and Moreno, Spud Spivens has never won a stakes, but has reaped minor awards in eight of them, including the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup in his last start, in July of last year.
“He’s training awfully well in the morning, but he might need a race,” Moreno allowed. “I think he’ll make a good showing. I’m not saying he’ll win, but he’ll run pretty good.” The son of Tizbud’s best efforts have been from off the pace. He will be ridden Saturday for the first time by Corey Nakatani, who has never won the San Pasqual, which will have its 77th running.
“I’ve had a little bad luck with riders trying to send this horse to the front,” said Moreno, who counts himself among the oldest active trainers in California. “This horse runs better coming from behind.”
The San Pasqual: Blingo, Victor Espinoza, 7-2; Blueskiesnrainbows, Martin Pedroza, 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.
NEW HORIZONS FOR MALDONADO WITH NEW AGENT
Edwin Maldonado has his sights set on new horizons with new agent Jim Pegram. The 31-year-old jockey, who established himself as one of Southern California’s leading riders since arriving on the circuit three years ago, won two races Thursday, equaling his previous total during the first 10 days of the meet.
“We did well together, and he got me where I’m at,” Maldonado said of his former agent, Vic Lipton. “It’s sad that I had to let him go, but I want to travel to New York and elsewhere to ride in the big races, and I think Jim will be ideal for helping me achieve those goals.
“Vic and I are still friends and I’m hoping he doesn’t take it personally.”
Said Pegram: “I’m very happy to work for Edwin. It’s a very great opportunity for me.”
SANTA ANITA MOURNS PASSING OF ACE CAMERAMANAnd this poignant message from handicapper Tom Quigley:
“Good morning, everyone:
“If you have ever watched a race from Santa Anita, Betfair Hollywood Park or Del Mar in the last 10 years, you might not have known Rob Jiminez, but you certainly witnessed his work.
“He was a TV cameraman who worked the walking ring and the winner’s circle at all three tracks, providing you the ability to watch and wager on the horses from Southern California.
“Rob passed away this week at the age of 44.
“He was a normal, healthy, hard-working, average American who thought he had a bad case of the flu, so he went to his local hospital's Emergency Room this past Saturday night.
“He was admitted to the hospital, contacted pneumonia and suffered a fatal heart attack on Wednesday (pending final autopsy results).
“Rob had no life insurance and his family could use some help defraying his funeral expenses.
“You can help by making any size donation by clicking on this easy to use link:
“The amount you donate as well as your identity can remain anonymous if you so desire.
MUCHO MACHO MAN CONNECTIONS TO SIGN POSTERS TOMORROW
Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man, who was recently named 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.
FINISH LINES: Gary Mandella reports downhill turf course specialist Kindle came out of her game second-place finish in Sunday’s Monrovia Stakes in good order and is ticketed for the Grade III Las Cienegas Handicap on April 12. Kindle has now been second in three stakes run over the about 6 ½-furlong distance, each time after holding the lead into the homestretch. Citation Handicap winner Silentio will train up to the grassy Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on March 8. “We’ll just try to win the Kilroe fresh,” Mandella said . . . Agent Vince DeGregory now represents jockey Fernando Perez, recently recovered from a riding mishap. “He worked six horses this morning,” DeGregory said, “so he’s ready to go.” . . . Retired Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. offered advice on dieting to young riders in Santa Anita’s jockeys’ room Friday morning . . . Some 200 photographers shuttered away at will on an, ahem, picture-perfect morning at Clockers’ Corner Friday on Photography Day. Photographers ranging from beginner to professional captured images with the San Gabriel Mountains as a backdrop, then enjoyed breakfast followed by a Q and A session with Santa Anita photographers, trainers and management. For information on the next camera class, call 626 574-6400 . . . Fans are still invited to participate in ShowVivor, Santa Anita’s popular online handicapping contest with $10,000 in prize money. Fans can compete in the following categories through June 29: longest show streak ($5,000); longest win streak ($2,000); most wins ($1,000); most second-place finishes ($1,000); and highest win payout ($1,000) . . . Today’s hunch bet: Warren’s T. Baze, ridden by none other than Tyler Baze, in the fifth race. Trained by Jorge Gutierrez for owner Ben Warren, the chestnut colt is named for the jockey.