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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• VERSATILE IOTAPA SET FOR GRADE I SANTA MARGARITA
• ‘700 CLUB’ MEMBER McANALLY EYES SANTA ANA WIN
• TURF NO PROBLEM FOR NAKATANI, COULD BE TROUBLE
• POPULARITY ON THE RISE FOR CALIFORNIA CHROME
• LUKAS SHOWS HIS CLASSY COLORS AFTER BIG ’CAP LOSS
IOTAPA SEEKS GRADE I WIN IN SATURDAY’S SANTA MARGARITA
Iotapa has won on the lead and from off the pace, and John Sadler is confident the daughter of Afleet Alex will give another solid performance Saturday when she runs in the Grade I, $350,000 Santa Margarita Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles.
“She can run either way,” Sadler said of the 4-year-old filly, who led throughout in winning the Grade II Santa Maria Stakes on Feb. 15. She is owned by the brothers Hronis, Peter and Kosta.
“She’s only had three route races,” Sadler said. “She was second behind Beholder in the Santa Anita Oaks. She’s a forwardly-placed horse going long and she’s doing well for the race. She had a good work here Monday (six furlongs in 1:12.20).”
Sadler, tied for third in Santa Anita’s standings through Sunday with Peter Miller at 20 victories each, heads to Oaklawn Park after Friday morning’s training sessions to saddle San Vicente Stakes winner Kobe’s Back in Saturday’s Rebel Stakes.
“It’s a tough race,” Sadler said. “You’ve got Tapiture (winner of the Southwest Stakes for Steve Asmussen), but we’ve certainly got a good horse, too. It’s not too big a field. We’re hoping to get a decent trip.”
The field for the Santa Margarita, race seven of nine: Fiftyshadesofhay, Martin Garcia, 5-2; Spellbound, Victor Espinoza, 4-1; Macha, Rafael Bejarano, 12-1; Miss Serendipity, Brice Blanc, 6-1; Let Faith Arise, Corey Nakatani, 4-1; Stanwyck, Gary Stevens, 6-1; Iotapa, Joe Talamo, 2-1; and Yahilwa, Tyler Blaze, 15-1.
McANALLY LEANS TOWARDS TURF WITH MISS SERENDIPITY
Of Ron McAnally’s 702 victories at Santa Anita, only one has come in the Santa Ana Stakes. The Hall of Fame trainer hopes to add to that total—good for fourth behind Bobby Frankel (917), Charlie Whittingham (869) and Bob Baffert (725 and counting)—when he sends out Miss Serendipity in Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Ana Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
“She doesn’t want to be on the lead,” said McAnally, who won the 2001 Santa Ana with Beautiful Noise, ridden by Chris McCarron. In her two U.S. starts, Miss Serendipity was on or in close attendance to the lead. McAnally makes a rider change for the Santa Ana, engaging Brice Blanc, who worked Miss Serendipity five furlongs Sunday on a firm turf course in 1:02.40.
“All of Miss Serendipity’s races in Argentina, she came from off the pace, on a slow pace, too,” McAnally pointed out.
Winless in her two U.S. starts--she finished fourth by identical margins of 2 ¼ lengths in both the Paseana Stakes and the Grade II Buena Vista Stakes.
Miss Serendipity was also entered in Saturday’s Grade I, $350,000 Santa Margarita Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, but McAnally said Thursday morning she “more than likely” would run on the grass. Miss Serendipity has five wins, five seconds and two thirds, all in her native Argentina, for owner Matias Cavalieri of Key Biscayne, Florida.
GRASS ALWAYS GREENER WITH NAKATANI ABOARD
Corey Nakatani’s reputation as a top turf rider is well-deserved. The 43-year-old Covina native navigates the green with nerves of steel. His prowess will be on display Saturday when he pilots Could Be Trouble for trainer Peter Miller in the $100,000 Irish O’Brien Stakes for older California-bred or sired fillies and mares at about 6 ½ furlongs on Santa Anita’s downhill course.
“Usually, a horse with a little experience over this course does well,” said Nakatani, who is unbeaten in two turf rides on Could Be Trouble, although not on the downhill course. “The key is letting them be comfortable, run their race and stay out of their way.”
Could Be Trouble was fourth last out on Jan. 31, her first start in more than seven months. Prior to that, she won twice under Nakatani, at one mile and at six furlongs, each time on Hollywood’s turf course.
“She was off for a while,” Nakatani said of the gray daughter of Ministers Wild Cat. “She was going to run in a dirt race, but it didn’t go. I’m glad to be back on her and hope to win another race.”
The field for the Irish O’Brien, race four of nine: Boller Bomb, Martin Garcia; Dancingtothestars, Joe Talamo; Oscillator, Edwin Maldonado; Tribal Spy, Irving Orozco; Ciao Bella Luna, Rafael Bejarano; Sudden Sunday, Victor Espinoza; and Could Be Trouble, Nakatani.
CALIFORNIA CHROME CAPTURES PUBLIC’S FANCY
Plans for California Chrome’s next race are still on hold but that hasn’t diminished interest in the California-bred colt one whit. When it comes to gaining mainstream recognition, he may not be in Silky Sullivan’s league yet, but he’s getting there.
The son of Lucky Pulpit, smashing winner of his last three starts, including the Grade II San Felipe Stakes last Saturday, is on the fast track to the May 3 Kentucky Derby after earning 50 qualifying points by winning the San Felipe.
“We just had Channel 8 from San Diego and ESPN here and I’ve done nine radio interviews,” trainer Art Sherman said Thursday morning by phone from his headquarters at Los Alamitos. “I don’t know why he’s so popular, but there’s a ton of interest in him.”
As to whether he would run in the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 5, Sherman said, “It’s too early to know right now. He came out of the San Felipe in good shape but he’ll let me know when he’s ready and where we’ll go next. Right now I’m just doing maintenance work with him, keeping him in light training.”
DEPARTMENT OF FIRST CLASS, D. WAYNE LUKAS
In an era when complaints about weight, track surfaces, weather and various other racing conditions are the order of the day, D. Wayne Lukas’s quotes regarding Will Take Charge’s valiant second-place finish to Game On Dude in last Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap are a glaring and most welcome exception.
In a story in today’s Daily Racing Form by Mary Rampellini, Lukas said that “WTC” was scheduled to arrive back at his Oaklawn Park base yesterday, and would now be pointed to the Grade I Oaklawn Handicap on April 12. Game On Dude won Saturday’s Big ’Cap in gate-to-wire fashion by 1 ¾ lengths while setting a stakes record for the mile and a quarter of 1:58.17.
“When the 3-year-old race was run and California Chrome took off like that, I thought, ‘We need to re-evaluate what we’re going to do,’” Lukas said. “You could see the speed was absolutely holding.
“Bob Baffert did a beautiful job preparing (Game On Dude) for the race. That was a masterful training job. He had him trained to the minute. It was the fastest Big ’Cap ever, and when you go back through the historical annals and see who’s won the Big ’Cap, that is something. Great race, great crowd, great theatre.”
And, when you consider that “WTC” had also suffered an excruciating nose defeat in his last visit to The Great Race Place, in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2, it’s hard to imagine anyone ever showing more class following yet another tough defeat than Lukas did in today’s DRF.
FINISH LINES: Mike Smith rides Hopportunity for Bob Baffert in Saturday’s Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park . . . Tom Quigley’s guests at his handicapping seminars this weekend will be Larry Benavidez, assistant to trainer John Sadler, on Saturday, and Dennis Decauwer, winner of Santa Anita’s Double Down Challenge Tournament this year and runner-up in the Daily Racing Form/NTRA national championship in 2009, on Sunday, each day at 11:20 a.m. . . . The March 21 meeting of the California Horse Racing Board originally scheduled for Santa Anita has been moved to Cal Expo in Sacramento on the same date, starting at 10 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 for the meeting is available on the CHRB Website and the supporting package of materials will be available on the Website later this week through the following links: agenda, package. . . . Schmaltzy, a 3-year-old filly entered in today’s fifth race, has had two starts. She was seventh first out, beaten 13 ½ lengths; she was seventh next out, beaten 13 1 /2 lengths; she went off at odds of $46.90-1 in her first start and $47.30-1 in her second, but who’s going to quibble over 40 cents?