STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN

• STEVENS FOCUSED ON BIG ‘CAP VICTORY WITH ‘MACHO MAN’

• JOE TALAMO RETURNS HOME AFTER SEVEN-YEAR HITCH

• JONES DOUBLE TEAMS LAKERVILLE IN SENSATIONAL STAR

WINNING IS EVERYTHING IN SANTA ANITA HANDICAP

While much of the racing world is converging on the hype of the Santa Anita Handicap on March 8 that has commitments from the connections of superstars Mucho Macho Man, Will Take Charge and Game On Dude, the competitive focus of Gary Stevens understandably never wanes.

“A race like this is great for racing,” Stevens allowed, “but I have a mission to do. We’ll worry about our own horse.” That would be Mucho Macho Man, who defeated Will Take Charge by a nose with Stevens up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita last Nov. 2.

Mucho Macho Man is a rarity in contemporary racing. A full horse at age six, he’s still competing at the highest level for trainer Kathy Ritvo and Finn Green, Racing Manager for owners Dean and Patti Reeves.

“We don’t see that often,” Stevens said. “He could be at stud right now but he’s developing into an even better horse. He’s had a great following since his 3-year-old year, running in all three Triple Crown races, and it’s even greater now.

“Touch wood, he’s sound and it’s just the start of the year. His team put a plan together last year that included Santa Anita, and then the thought of Dubai was considered, but now they’re back to their original plan with the good races here in California.

“A rivalry started on Breeders’ Cup Day with Will Take Charge and it looks like it’s going to continue in the Big ‘Cap.”

TALAMO EXCITED ABOUT HOMECOMING TO HIS NATIVE STATE

No affront to Thomas Wolfe, but Joe Talamo plans to go home again.

Actually, the 24-year-old rider, second in Santa Anita’s standings with 30 wins, is heading to the Fair Grounds to ride in his native state of Louisiana on Saturday.

Among other stakes mounts, Talamo rides Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Ria Antonia for trainer Jeremiah Englehart in the Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes.

Talamo will be riding at the Fair Grounds for the first time since he won the riding title as an apprentice at the New Orleans track seven years ago.

Soon after that, at the behest of the late Bobby Frankel, Talamo came to Southern California where he has enjoyed great success under the sagacious guidance of agent Scotty McClellan.

“This will be my first time back since I was 17,” Talamo said. “It’s amazing. We actually had a few chances to go there a couple years ago, but it didn’t pan out. It’s going to be great seeing my family and friends.

“That’s where it all started for me. When I was seven and eight, my dad (Joe; his family calls its jockey son ‘Joseph’) brought me to the Fair Grounds. It was a dream just to ride there. I never thought I’d be that successful.

“It will be good to go back and see everybody.”

Talamo will have to adjust to the weather. Apparently, so-called global warming hasn’t permeated Bayou Country this winter.

“My dad said it snowed there about two weeks ago, which is unreal,” Talamo said. “It gets cold there, but they never really get ice and snow like that. I just can’t wait to go eat there. They’ve got some first-class restaurants.”

JONES DOUBLE TEAMS LAKERVILLE IN SENSATIONAL STAR

Marty Jones plans to test the stakes waters Saturday with Ambitious Brew and Mr. Ornery in the $100,000 Sensational Star Stakes for California-breds at about 6 ½ furlongs on Santa Anita’s unique downhill turf course.

Ambitious Brew will be making only his second stakes start in this, his seventh lifetime race, while Mr. Ornery makes his stakes debut in start No. 13.

“They’re stepping up in class and Lakerville’s a tough horse, but they both have run well down the hill and they’re doing well, so we’ll try him,” Jones said.

Ambitious Brew, a 4-year-old gelded son of Tizbud owned and bred by Pamela Ziebarth, won Nov. 3 in his first try over the downhill course. He has never been worse than second in six starts.

Mr. Ornery, a 5-year-old Cee’s Tizzy gelding owned and bred by Donald and Sally Valpredo, also won over the same course on Jan. 20 despite an eventful trip.

The field for the Sensational Star: Kate’s Event, Victor Espinoza; Coach Bob, Kent Desormeaux; Summer Hit, Rafael Bejarano; Lakerville, Gary Stevens; Ain’t No Other, Mario Gutierrez; Mr. Ornery, Kayla Stra; and Ambitious Brew, Brice Blanc.

FINISH LINES: Eclipse Award winner as male 3-year-old champion of 2013 Will Take Charge worked four furlongs on Oaklawn Park’s dirt course Tuesday in 48.40, as Wayne Lukas prepares the Clark Handicap winner for the Santa Anita Handicap…Downhill turf course specialist Lakerville, entered in Saturday’s $100,000 Sensational Star Stakes, also is nominated to Sunday’s Joe Hernandez Stakes over the same course, but trainer Barry Abrams said “We’re staying where we are,” meaning the son of Unusual Heat will run in the Sensational Star . . . John Sadler said the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 15 “is what we’re looking at right now” for San Vicente Stakes winner Kobe’s Back, while Sham Stakes runner-up Kristo is ticketed for the Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 8. Sadler, meanwhile is on a roll. According to Santa Anita’s crack statistician Jason Hom, Sadler has won with 10 of 22 starters from Feb. 8 through Monday, five of them stakes, for a 45.54 win percentage. His in-the-money percentage during that span is 68.18 percent. “The last two weeks have been super,” Sadler said. “We’ve been really fortunate. Things have gone our way, so we’re very happy, but we’ve got a long way to go this meet (June 29). You don’t want to get too excited too soon.” . . . After Mike Mitchell trainee Egg Drop suffered a tough loss to the Tom Proctor-trained Pontchatrain in Monday’s Grade II Buena Vista Stakes, Mitchell was among the first to congratulate Proctor in the winner’s circle. “I worked for Willard (Tom’s late father),” Mitchell recalled. “The Proctor family is very close to me. Willard was like a father to me, and I have a lot of respect for Tom. He’s a good, good friend.” . . . Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle, a candidate for the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai March 29, worked five furlongs for Bob Baffert Thursday in 1:00.40, while multiple graded stakes winner on turf Bright Thought drew closer to his return to the races with a six furlong move in 1:14.40 for trainer Jorge Gutierrez . . . The California Horse Racing Board will have its regular meeting tomorrow in the Baldwin Terrace Room at Santa Anita beginning at 9 a.m. The public is encouraged to attend. An audio-only Webcast of the meeting can be heard through the “Webcasts” link on the CHRB Website (www.chrb.ca.gov). The agenda and supporting package of materials are available on the CHRB website through the following links: agenda, package.