The frenzy over California Chrome continues unabated. The California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit trained by Art Sherman enhanced his reputation with a sensational win in Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby, leaving no doubt in the mind of virtually every racing fan, knowledgeable or otherwise, that he’s a deserving favorite for the Kentucky Derby on May 3.

“He overcame a lot,” said private clocker Gary Young, speaking of the Santa Anita Derby, which California Chrome won by 5 ¼ lengths despite an eventful start in the mile and an eighth race.

“He never really did get set in the gate and he got really lucky in that the hole didn’t close on him. That’s one of the few trepidations I have about him in the Derby, because if you get left half a step there, it’s no good. I know that.

“But all things being equal, he’s the horse. When Mike Smith—and this is why Mike Smith is Mike Smith—saw he wasn’t going to win (running second to California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby), he didn’t beat up on Hoppertunity.

“He made sure he came in second to be certain he got the points (Kentucky Derby qualifying points, 40). That’s why Mike Smith is a Hall of Famer. He did not beat his horse up and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Hoppertunity take a pretty good step forward off the race.

“But right now, the Kentucky Derby is California Chrome’s race to lose.”


Freely translated from Yiddish, Big Macher means “big shot.” Richard Baltas thinks the 4-year-old Beau Genius gelding has just that in Saturday’s Potrero Grande Stakes for older horses at 6 ½ furlongs on the main track.

“He’s doing well,” Baltas said of the bay California-bred owned by Tom Mansor and Brendan Bikar, who races as Tachycardia Stables. “The horse has a good style; he can stalk or can be on the lead, too. It doesn’t matter.

“I like where we drew (post position seven of eight). There is one speed horse outside us (Cyclometer), but we should come out of there and Tyler (Baze) will have a good look at the field, but if they give us the lead, we’ll take it.”

Winner of the California Cup Sprint on Jan. 25, Big Macher was second by a half-length in the Grade II San Carlos Stakes last out behind Sahara Sky, himself a Grade I winner in last year’s prestigious Met Mile.

“Around the barn, he’s quiet, very professional,” Baltas said of Big Macher, who was claimed from his first start for $20,000 on July 17, 2013. “He’s just a plain horse who does everything pretty easy around the barn.

“He’s not a problem at all. He’s a nice horse, but the good thing is, he knows when he’s in a race, and that’s when he turns it on.”

The field for the Potrero Grande: Mongolian Saturday, Aaron Gryder, 6-1; Wine Police, Martin Garcia, 4-1; Zeewat, Mario Gutierrez, 12-1; Midnight Transfer, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Crimson Giant, Modesto Linares, 50-1; Wild Dude, Rafael Bejarano, 8-5; Big Macher, Tyler Baze, 5-2; and Cyclometer, Edwin Maldonado, 5-1.


It’s going on two years since Joe Talamo rode Tribal Spy in a race, but Santa Anita’s second-leading rider is looking forward to reuniting with the 4-year-old filly in Saturday’s Grade III Las Cienegas Stakes for older fillies and mares at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.

“I worked her a half-mile the other day in 49 (on turf) and she did it real nice,” Talamo said of the California-bred daughter of Tribal Rule trained by Adam Kitchingman. “She went off in 26 (the first quarter mile) and came home in 23. It’s been a while since I rode her, but she’s real consistent. If she runs like she’s been running, she’ll be tough.”

Talamo rode Tribal Spy in her first two races, late in 2012, and will be back aboard Saturday after an absence of 12 straight races. Tribal Spy won the Irish O’Brien Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf March 15.

The Las Cienegas field: Ciao Bella Luna, Martin Garcia, 4-1; Macaabra, Brice Blanc, 8-1; Llandudno, Tyler Baze, 6-1; Biorhythm, Drayden Van Dyke, 2-1; Sky High Gal, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; Tribal Spy, Joe Talamo, 9-2; and Minds Eyes, Edwin Maldonado, 8-1.


For the second weekend in a row, a Grand Prize winner in Xpressbet’s $10K Big Bet Sweepstakes turned his $10,000 Win bet on a major racing event into a life-changing payday.

Scott Shore, a resident of Coral Springs, Florida, was selected to attend the Santa Anita Derby and was given $10,000 to bet on his choice in the race. He attended with his father, Steve Shore, and close friend Sean Gerson, and put his money on California Chrome. He was rewarded with a $17,000 return.

Shore made his bet based on the colt’s impressive body of work, which included three consecutive authoritative victories. He also felt the track was playing favorably to California Chrome’s running style. One glance at California Chrome in the paddock cemented Shore’s decision. “He just looked really good,” Shore said. “I saw exactly what I needed to see right there in the paddock.”

When asked if Shore received input from family or friends on who to choose, he assured that the choice was all his. “Everybody was incredibly supportive, but I felt like a pitcher who was in the seventh inning of a perfect game,” he joked. “Nobody wanted to give me the wrong piece of advice.”

While watching the race from the winner’s circle, California Chrome gave Shore the experience of a lifetime. “There were a few anxious moments early in the race, but once California Chrome secured his position, I was pretty confident,” Shore said. “And by the time he reached the sixteenth pole so far in front, I was able to start celebrating with my dad and friend, Sean. It was nice not having to sweat through a close finish. He’s an incredible racehorse and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for him. He definitely made a fan of me.”

Shore won his chance by registering for free in Xpressbet’s $10K Big Bet Sweepstakes and by placing wagers with Xpressbet January through March. “I switched to Xpressbet about six month ago, and I haven’t looked back,” said Shore. “When they called and informed me I was a Grand Prize winner, I was shocked and overjoyed. It’s one of those things that you never think will happen to you. Everyone at Xpressbet has been incredibly accommodating, and I can’t thank them enough. Between visiting the paddock, winner’s circle, the new suites and jockey’s room, this has truly been the experience of a lifetime.”

This is the second weekend in a row that an Xpressbet $10K Big Bet Grand Prize winner has turned his prize into a winning wager. At last weekend’s Florida Derby, Tom Guadagno placed his $10,000 Win bet on Constitution, which provided Guadagno a $43,000 payday.

The Big Bets aren’t over yet. Xpressbet customers can register for free in the $50K Preakness Big Bet Sweepstakes, which will reward one lucky customer with a VIP trip to this year’s Preakness on May 17, along with $50,000 to place a Win bet on a horse of their choosing in the Preakness Stakes. Visit for more information.


Santa Anita Park mourned the passing of 5-3 entertainment giant Mickey Rooney this past Sunday at the age of 93. In what may’ve been his final public appearance, Rooney spent the day at The Great Race Place on March 30, and posed for a publicity photo with fellow show biz icons Dick Van Patten and Mel Brooks.

“Mickey was fine,” said Van Patten when interviewed by People earlier this week. “He seemed terrific. But I guess when you’re 93 . . . He was my idol. He could do everything. He was a wonderful actor. He could sing. He could dance. He could play instruments. Unbelievable.”

America’s top box office movie star in 1938, ’39 and ’40, Rooney loved horseracing and was a frequent attendee dating back to the 1930s at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar.

Rooney’s love of and association with horses was underscored by two very prominent film roles—in 1944’s National Velvet, in which he co-starred with Elizabeth Taylor, and in 1979’s The Black Stallion, in which he is depicted in one memorable scene atop a bale of hay giving instructions to a would-be jockey. Rooney would later be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his work on The Black Stallion.

Santa Anita will honor Rooney with a moment of silence this Saturday.

FINISH LINES: Victor Espinoza rides three horses for trainer Wesley Ward at Keeneland this weekend, Pablo Del Monte in the Blue Grass Stakes and Emotional Kitten in the Jenny Wiley on Saturday, each a Grade I race, and Richies Party Girl in the Grade II Beaumont Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Sunday . . . Jockeys Orlando Mojica and Chantal Sutherland Kruse have moved their tack, Mojica going to Indiana Downs and Sutherland Kruse to Woodbine in The Great White North . . . Recent millionaire Clubhouse Ride worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Thursday in 1:14.20 for trainer Craig Lewis, who has the veteran stakes winner ticketed for the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic on April 19 . . . Eclipse Award winner as 2-year-old filly champion of 2013 She’s a Tiger worked six furlongs in a bullet 1:13.20 for Jeff Bonde . . . Through 63 racing days, Rafael Bejarano has an insurmountable 35-win lead over runner-up Joe Talamo in the race for leading rider, but Talamo leads in most mounts, 350-349 . . . Tom Quigley’s handicapping seminar guests at the East Paddock Gardens this weekend are Matt Bernier, cast member of Horseplayers TV Show, on Saturday, and Joe Talamo on Sunday, each day at 11:20 a.m. . . . Santa Anita’s first 2-year-old race this meet at 4 ½ furlongs is scheduled to be run April 25 . . . Easter Sunday, April 20, marks the 15th anniversary of the death of Charlie Whittingham. The legendary trainer was 86 for only one week, celebrating his birthday April 13.