It’s been more than a dozen years since Victor Espinoza won his only Kentucky Derby, and more than a half a century since a California-bred won the Run for the Roses.

Espinoza and his No. 1 Derby prospect, California Chrome, could end those voids if the fates allow come May 3, when the 140th Derby unfolds at Churchill Downs.

As always in horse racing, however, it’s first things first, and next up for Espinoza and California Chrome is a major test against open company in the Grade II, $300,000 San Felipe Stakes on March 8, a race worth 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.

Since he has been beating up on state-breds in his last two races, presently, California Chrome has zero points, and trainer Art Sherman is acutely aware of that deficiency.

Espinoza, who won the 2002 Kentucky Derby wire-to-wire on War Emblem for Bob Baffert, has ridden California Chrome in his last two victories, the King Glorious by 6 ¼ lengths at Hollywood Park Dec. 22 and the California Cup Derby at Santa Anita by 5 ½ lengths on Jan. 25. The 41-year-old rider, fourth in Santa Anita’s standings with 23 wins, also has been working the son of Lucky Pulpit owned and bred by Steven Coburn and Martin Perry.

“He’s getting better,” Espinoza said of the chestnut colt, who would become the first Cal-bred to win the Kentucky Derby since Decidedly in 1962. “His last two wins have given him so much more confidence.”

Espinoza worked California Chrome the past two Saturdays at the colt’s Los Alamitos headquarters, going six furlongs Saturday in 1:11.80, sans blinkers.

“When he goes to the track, he knows when he’s going to work,” Espinoza said. “It was a nice, steady work for him Saturday. He went without blinkers, and he’s more settled without them. With blinkers on, he’s more aggressive.

“He’ll run with blinkers in the San Felipe,” as he has in his last five starts.


Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man, who arrived in Southern California Sunday afternoon from Florida, went two times around Santa Anita’s training track Thursday morning as he prepares for the Santa Anita Handicap on March 8.

“We haven’t had any bumps in the road getting here,” said Finn Green, Racing Manager for owners Dean and Patti Reeves and Frank Stronach, who recently bought a share of the horse.

“We’re dealing with the rain as it comes,” Green added. “We’ll be flexible (on a breeze) based on the weather, and we’ll move it further out instead of trying to get something in on a questionable track. We’ll wait for the track. But you can tell the track’s being well-tended to.”

More than half an inch of rain hit the drought-stricken Los Angeles area last night, but the sun was out late Thursday morning. Another storm is set to reach the area late tonight.

Thursday’s three races scheduled to be run on turf were moved to the main track, creating an even greater challenge for handicappers participating in today’s Pick 6, which has a carryover of $198,609 and is expected to reach $1.25 million. The main track is listed as “fast.”

In other Big ’Cap news:

Of the four horses he has nominated to the Santa Anita Handicap, Jerry Hollendorfer said Thursday morning he is considering running only one, On Trust Handicap winner Rousing Sermon.

Clubhouse Ride, who picked up $1,528 for finishing fifth in Sunday’s $75,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on the turf, is $478 shy of $1 million in earnings.

Trainer Craig Lewis has the 6-year-old Candy Ride horse nominated to three races on March 8, the Santa Anita Handicap at 1 ¼ miles on dirt, the Kilroe Mile on grass, and the San Carlos Stakes at seven furlongs on dirt.

“He can run on anything,” Lewis said. “Determining factors will be the weather and how it affects his training, and weight assignments for the Big ’Cap.”


Santa Anita’s Jockeys play tonight in the 47th annual charity basketball game against Holy Angels School.

The game will be played at La Salle High School in Pasadena, with proceeds to benefit the Holy Angels athletic program, the Kentucky-based

Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) and the Eye on Jacob Foundation.

Sponsored by J. Paul Reddam’s CashCall and Meticulous Talent, game time is 7:15 p.m. and admission doors open at 6:15 p.m.

In addition to active riders such Gary Stevens, Mike Smith, Joe Talamo, Rafael Bejarano, Corey Nakatani, Aaron Gryder, Edwin Maldonado, Tyler Baze, Mario Gutierrez, Orlando Mojica, Alonso Quinonez, Alberto Delgado, Julien Couton and others, retired Hall of Famers Eddie Delahoussaye and Laffit Pincay Jr. will be available to sign autographs and other memorabilia beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Delahoussaye and Pincay will also serve as honorary team captains along with game captains Smith, Stevens and Talamo. Tickets are $5 and with the purchase of two, fans will receive one General Admission ticket to Santa Anita, good for any race day through April 27. There will also be a Half Court Shot Contest at halftime, with the winner receiving a two-night stay in a luxury suite at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas.

Holy Angels Middle School, located on Campus Drive, just to the south of Santa Anita Park, has long educated many members of the racetrack community, and its church, Holy Angels, has been a source of strength for many as well.

The Eye on Jacob Foundation is named for Jacob Desormeaux, the 15-year-old son of Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux. Jacob was diagnosed several years ago with Usher’s Syndrome, a rare disorder that causes loss of hearing, imbalance, and eventual loss of sight in approximately 14,000 children in the United States.

La Salle High School is located at the southwest corner of Michillinda Ave. and Sierra Madre Blvd. in Pasadena, approximately four miles northwest of Santa Anita. Admission tickets and promotional tee shirts are on sale now at Champions! Gifts and Apparel in Santa Anita’s East Paddock Gardens, on-track, or through Holy Angels School.


Corey Lanerie, one of the Midwest’s most successful jockeys, has been named the 64th winner of the 2014 Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award by a nationwide vote of his peers.

It is expected that Lanerie, currently based at Gulfstream Park, will venture west to Santa Anita to accept the award in either March or April.

Lanerie, who broke his maiden at Evangeline Downs in April, 1991, outpolled four other finalists: David Amiss, Dennis Carr, Aaron Gryder and Scott Stevens.

Presented annually by Santa Anita since 1950, the Woolf Award is one of the most highly coveted honors in all of racing as it recognizes those riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for both the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

Born Nov. 13, 1974, in Lafayette, Louisiana, Lanerie, began galloping horses at age nine and like so many Cajun riders before him, he rode at unrecognized “bush” tracks prior to officially launching his professional career.

A winner of more than 3,500 races, Lanerie has won multiple riding titles at Churchill Downs and was leading rider at Churchill’s 2013 Autumn Meeting. He has also been leading rider at Ellis Park in Kentucky and at three Texas tracks—Lone Star Park, Sam Houston Park and Retama Park.

Born to ride, Lanerie’s grandfather was a trainer who owned horses and his father, Gerald, became a trainer following a career as a jockey.

Held in the highest regard by horsemen and fellow jockeys wherever he has competed, Lanerie currently resides in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife, Shantel, and their young daughter, Brittlyn.

The Woolf Award was created to honor and memorialize the legendary jockey George “The Iceman” Woolf, who was regarded as one of the greatest big money riders of his time. Woolf died following a spill, which has often been attributed to the effects of diabetes, on Santa Anita’s Club House turn Jan. 3, 1946. The Woolf trophy is a replica of the full-size statue of the late jockey which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area.

Last year’s Woolf Award was won by Mario Pino.

FINISH LINES: The race for training honors continues to see-saw: Through 39 racing days, Bob Baffert led Jerry Hollendorfer in wins, 22-21. Other respective numbers were, starts, 81-86; seconds, 11-20; thirds, 14 each; win percentage, 27-24; and purse earnings, $1,591,990-$1,557,994 . . . Baffert and Hollendorfer each have two horses entered in Saturday’s feature, the Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles. Baffert entered Santa Ynez winner Awesome Baby and California Oaks winner Be Proud, while Hollendorfer sends out Artemis and Soviet Problem winner Swiss Lake Yodeler . . . The field for the Santa Ysabel: Artemis, Gary Stevens, 9-2; Anniversary Kitty, Joe Talamo, 5-1; Awesome Baby, Mike Smith, 5-2; Swiss Lake Yodeler, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; Tiz Kissable, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1; Sweet Bliss, Edwin Maldonado, 7-2; Be Proud, Martin Garcia, 5-1; and Saintly Joan, Tyler Baze, 20-1 . . . Thanks to his hot streak the past two weeks, John Sadler has moved into a tie for third with Peter Miller in Santa Anita’s standings at 18 wins each, but leads everyone in stakes victories with six . . . Congratulations to Kent Desormeaux, who celebrates birthday No. 44 today but is riding like he’s 20 years younger. The Hall of Fame jockey has six wins from just 20 mounts this meet, a 30 percent average. Desormeaux will be at Aqueduct Saturday to ride Noble Cornerstone for Wesley Ward in the Gotham Stakes . . . Tom Quigley’s handicapping seminar guest Saturday, weather permitting, is former trainer and current handicapping contest professional Gary Johnson, 11:20 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens. If Saturday’s session is a victim of weather, it will be rescheduled for Sunday.