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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• ‘CHROME’ SPURS ESPINOZA CONFIDENCE IN PREAKNESS
• JON WHITE JUMPS ABOARD ‘CHROME’ BANDWAGON
• FANS CAN PARTY ON AT SANTA ANITA PREAKNESS DAY
• OBVIOUSLY FIRING BULLETS FOR AMERICAN STAKES
ESPINOZA’S FAITH PREVAILS IN ‘CHROME’ FOR PREAKNESS
It’s been a dozen years since Victor Espinoza won the Preakness Stakes on War Emblem, after riding him to a front-running, 20-1 upset in the Kentucky Derby. A bid for the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes appeared imminent until the gates opened, when a bad start dashed those hopes.
Fast forward to 2014. On May 3, Espinoza wins the Kentucky Derby on 5-2 favorite California Chrome, who is the odds-on favorite to capture the second jewel of the Triple Crown, Saturday’s Preakness Stakes. Espinoza has faith in the California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit, as he did when he rode War Emblem in 2002.
“I was very confident when I rode War Emblem in the Preakness, because of how he ran in the Kentucky Derby,” Espinoza said. “He blew the field away, and I thought he would do the same thing in the Preakness, although coming back in two weeks is always a concern.
“I knew War Emblem had speed, but there were other speed horses in the Preakness that year, and I was worried their riders would send their horses with me. It was tough, I’ll tell you. I had to work in that race. I really had to ride hard.
“Thirty, forty yards from the wire, War Emblem was getting tired and the other horse was coming (45-1 shot Magic Weisner, who rallied from 11th to be beaten only three-quarters of a length under Richard Migliore). It surprised me, because I thought it was going to be easier.
“It was a different story with California Chrome in the Derby. He’s a tremendous horse. He doesn’t have to be in front. He’s easy to ride, more manageable. I can be in front or behind, inside, outside, it doesn’t matter. He gives me the confidence to do anything.
“It all depends on how the Preakness sets up. As long as I’m comfortable running, I should be OK. There was more pressure on me after we won the Santa Anita Derby because California Chrome was going to be the favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
“The pressure only lasted a couple days. After that, I was excited just thinking that for the first time, I was going to ride the favorite in the Kentucky Derby. But then I settled down.
“After the gates closed for the Derby, I was OK, but not California Chrome. When he walked into the gate, he was leaning to the outside. I’m like, ‘This is not good.’ A couple seconds later, he leaned to the left side. The assistant starter did an unbelievable job handling the horse. He took his time. I know there were 19 horses, but they were loaded really quick.
“Then, for a second, California Chrome moved right in the middle of the gate and he stayed still. When I heard there was one horse left to load on the outside, I said, ‘Just sit.’ And sure enough, when the gates opened, I bounced out of there as quick as possible.
“All the way around, the six horse (Samraat) didn’t leave me alone the whole race. He was outside of me and I could hear him breathing hard and I said, ‘He’s done,’ but on the middle of the turn, he was still there, and I didn’t want him to move, because if he moved early, then I had to make my move, and you know the stretch is long at Churchill Downs.
“I had to be patient. At that point, I had an excellent position, outside, tracking, just perfect, but I wanted to wait as long as I could. Finally, I decided, that’s it. Let’s go. Whatever happens is going to happen, and it worked out well.”
Espinoza, meanwhile, has been aboard the media’s Express Train ever since he crossed the wire in the Kentucky Derby. It’s been a wild ride, be he’s handled it well. On the surface at least, he’s still the same happy-go-lucky guy he always is. “It’s been busy,” he said, “but I’m enjoying myself.”
In other Preakness news:
“I love California Chrome,” said Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who won the Preakness last year on Oxbow for D. Wayne Lukas. “It’s his race. He’s facing fresh horses but he’s been destroying what he’s faced and he makes it look easy. I’ve got no reason to think he won’t do it again. I’m a huge fan.”
Said trainer David Bernstein: “He’s got Espinoza going for him, but other things, too. (Art) Sherman’s done a helluva job, but he’s got a rider who’s made every right move, and if he makes it in the Preakness, he’ll win it.
“He’s given the horse million-dollar rides. I like the fact that he eases the horses a little bit late and doesn’t have to beat him up to win by another length or two. Some other jocks, they ride the hell out of them all the way.”
Added Doug O’Neill, who saddled I’ll Have Another to win the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 2012: “Obviously, I’m pulling big time for Art, but I think the one horse (Dynamic Impact) looks solid. That’s the horse I would fear the most, but Chrome just keeps firing bullets and he’s in a zone right now, so the Chrome will be tough.”
CALIFORNIA CHROME WHITE’S PREAKNESS SELECTION
Santa Anita oddsmaker Jon White is picking California Chrome to win Saturday’s Preakness Stakes following the California-bred’s 1 ¾-length victory in the Kentucky Derby.
“The vast majority of Preakness winners are horses who ran in the Kentucky Derby,” said White. “Twenty-seven of the last 30 Preakness winners competed in the Derby. The only three exceptions in the last three decades were Red Bullet (2000), Bernardini (2006) and Rachel Alexandra (2009).
“So it is a rarity for the Preakness to be won by a so-called new shooter, a horse who didn’t run in the Derby. California Chrome, Ride On Curlin and General a Rod are the only three entered in this year’s Preakness that ran in the Derby.
“I think California Chrome’s margin of victory in the Derby does not truly reflect his superiority on that occasion. After he burst away from the pack at the top of stretch, he was never in any danger of losing the race.
“I also thought Ride On Curlin actually ran a pretty good race in the Derby even though he only finished seventh. He was last early, 19 lengths off the pace. He was still 15 lengths behind with a furlong to go, then came home well enough to lose by 6 ¾ lengths. Ride On Curlin’s sire [Curlin] won the Preakness, and I won’t be surprised if Ride On Curlin runs well in the Preakness.”
White’s selections for Santa Anita’s races appear in the official program. His top pick won five times each day last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. As Santa Anita’s oddsmaker, White again will be making the morning lines for this year’s Breeders’ Cup races at the Great Race Place on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.
COME TO SANTA ANITA TO CHEER ON CALIFORNIA CHROME IN PREAKNESS
Celebrate Preakness Stakes Day Saturday at Santa Anita and root on the Golden State’s Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome in the second leg of the Triple Crown, and also wager on a live racing card at The Great Race Place.
Fans can party in the Infield and enjoy live music, craft beers and repast from a variety of food trucks. Special packages are available on line at santanaita.com/events. Use promo code INFIELD for a 50 percent discount.
The first 10,000 THOROUGHBREDS members, or any new members who wish to sign up at Santa Anita on Preakness Day will receive a free California Chrome baseball cap with paid General Admission, while supplies last. It is free to sign up at all admission gates. The cap is a replica of California Chrome’s distinctive purple and teal colors.
First live race post time at Santa Anita tomorrow is 11:30 a.m. Admission gates will open at 8 a.m.
OBVIOUSLY SHARP FOR 2014 DEBUT IN AMERICAN STAKES
When Obviously makes his first start in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 American Stakes since finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita last Nov. 2, he will do so in the name of a new trainer: Phil D’Amato, formerly Mike Mitchell’s assistant.
The two recently switched assignments, but Mitchell knows the horse as well as, if not better, than anyone. “He’s doing great,” Mitchell said of the 6-year-old Irish-bred gelding, who has posted eight straight bullet workouts, fastest of the day at the distance. “Joe (Talamo) has worked him every time. It should be a good horse race.”
Talamo, Santa Anita’s Spring Meet riding leader through 11 days with 13 wins, pilots Obviously for the 13th straight time in the American. Neil Drysdale said Friday morning that Kilroe Mile winner Winning Prize, the 8-5 morning line favorite in the American, likely would scratch. “I don’t think I’m running,” the Hall of Fame trainer said, adding he would “wait for the Shoemaker,” referring to the Grade I, $400,000 Shoemaker Mile on turf June 14.
The field for the American, race four of 11: Winning Prize, Corey Nakatani, 8-5; Obviously, Joe Talamo, 9-5; Pure Tactics, Kent Desormeaux, 15-1; Silentio, Gary Stevens, 3-1; Chips All In, Tyler Baze, 6-1; Smart Ellis, Martin Garcia, 15-1; and Tigah, Mike Smith, 8-1.
CALIFORNIA CHROME FAVORED IN HORSE OF THE YEAR FUTURE WAGER
Kentucky Derby winner and Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome is the new favorite at 3-1 in Eclipse Awards 2014 Horse of the Year future bet odds listed by William Hill.
Two-time defending Horse of the Year Wise Dan, who won his 2014 debut in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Derby Day, is now the second choice, although the odds being offered remain unchanged from last month’s opening price of 4-1.
Other favorites include three-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude (6-1), last year’s champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge (6-1), defending Breeders’ Cup Classic hero Mucho Macho Man (7-1), and Saturday’s Westchester Stakes winner Palace Malice (8-1). Dominant Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable is the shortest-priced filly or mare on the list at 14-1.
A complete list of the 2014 Horse of the Year odds updated Monday by William Hill can be accessed on Dave Tuley’s “View From Vegas” sports betting website at www.viewfromvegas.com/uploads/2014-HOY-William Hill 5-12-plus CalChrome props.pdf. William Hill operates 100 sports betting locations across Nevada.
Future bet wagering on Horse of the Year will conclude Nov. 7, six days after the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita.
Horse of the Year will be announced at the 44th annual Eclipse Awards ceremony Jan. 17, 2015, at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The official result and voting tabulation for the Horse of the Year future bet will be posted online at ntra.com.
MANDELLAS VIE IN SUNDAY’S ADORATION STAKES
Father and son square off Sunday when trainer Gary Mandella saddles former claiming horse Champagneandcaviar in the $100,000 Adoration Stakes for fillies and mares, age three and up, and his father, Hall of Fame member Richard, sends out Spellbound in the Grade III race at 1 1/16 miles.
Once the gates open, blood will not be, as the saying goes, thicker than water.“It’s very much every man for himself,” Gary said with a chuckle.
As for Spellbound, who registered a 16-1 upset in the Grade II La Canada Stakes on Jan. 19, Papa Mandella said, “She’s as ready as she’s going to get and I think she’ll have a nice chance.”
The field for the Adoration, race eight of 10: Let Faith Arise, Corey Nakatani, 8-5; Legacy, Drayden Van Dyke, 6-1; Floral Romance, Mike Smith, 12-1; Yahilwa, Kent Desormeaux, 12-1; Champagneandcaviar, Tyler Baze, 15-1; Elblouissante, Gary Stevens, 6-1; Irish Presence, Fernando Perez, 30-1; Spellbound, Victor Espinoza, 9-2; Warren’s Veneda, Joe Talamo, 4-1; and Scarlet Strike, Edwin Maldonado, 12-1.
XPRESSBET’S PREAKNESS WAGERING GUIDE STILL AVAILABLE
Leading online wagering provider Xpressbet has its 2014 Preakness Stakes Wagering Guide available for free via download. Now in its eighth edition, the Preakness Wagering Guide is available to both Xpressbet customers free by visiting www.xpressbet.com/PWG2014.
The Wagering Guide contains insight from veteran industry insiders who offer decades of handicapping experience. Contributors provide race analysis, statistics and trends, as well as wagering strategies and best value plays.
This year’s Kentucky Derby Wagering Guide had two experts correctly identify California Chrome as the horse to beat and Steve Byk nailed the winning $340 exacta in his suggested wagers.
Expert contributors to the 2014 Wagering Guide once again include Bob Neumeier and Mike Battaglia of NBC Sports, HRTV’s Jon White and Jeff Siegel, Dick Jerardi of the Philadelphia Daily News, and ‘At The Races’ radio host Steve Byk. Fans can access Xpressbet’s Preakness Wagering Guide by visiting www.xpressbet.com/PWG2014. Xpressbet’s Belmont Stakes Wagering Guide will be available on Friday, May 30.
FINISH LINES: Trainer Doug O’Neill on Empress of Midway, who runs in Saturday’s $75,000 Angels Flight Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs: “She should love it. She’s in good shape after the gate mishap in Kentucky and we’re excited.” Empress of Midway flipped in the gate prior to the Kentucky Oaks on May 2, sustained a scratch on a hind leg, and was declared from the race . . . Jockey Irving Orozco has been fined $1,000 by the Board of Stewards for failing to fulfill his riding engagements March 27 and 28. In addition, he is required to sign a testing agreement with the California Horse Racing Board and abide by recommendations issued by Winners’ Foundation following evaluation . . . Steven Herrera, a 27-year-old newcomer from Peru, will soon make his Santa Anita debut. He won 95 races in Peru, tacks 117 pounds, and will be represented by agent George Ortuzar . . . Retired trainer Mel Stute, who saddled more than 2,000 winners including Snow Chief to capture the 1986 Preakness, will be Tom Quigley’s special guest in the East Paddock Gardens at 10:20 a.m. Saturday, while clocker Donald Harris will do the honors Sunday at 11:50 a.m.