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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• CALIFORNIA CHROME: DESTINY’S HORSE AWAITS BELMONT
• SANTA ANITA FAN STRIKES MOTHER LODE WITH ‘CHROME’
• MINE THAT BIRD’S ’50-1’ TAKES FLIGHT FRIDAY IN MONROVIA
• MIRAHMADI AT SANTA ANITA MIKE DURING DENMAN RESPITE
CALIFORNIA CHROME EYES TRIPLE CROWN ON JUNE 7
California Chrome: the horse that keeps on giving, a feel-good story for the ages, the fairytale that never ends.
His legions were gathered en masse at Santa Anita again Saturday, anticipating nothing less than another methodically consistent victory in the Preakness Stakes, just like the one unveiled in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago.
They weren’t disappointed.
Off smoothly from the No. 3 post position under unflappable Victor Espinoza, California Chrome sat third between horses until nearing the three-eighths pole in the mile and three-sixteenths race, then, as he has every time Espinoza has ridden him in his previous five races, jettisoned away from his rivals, this time winning by a length and a half while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 105.
He has won his last six races by a combined 27 ½ lengths, Espinoza playing Col. Parker to California Chrome’s Elvis.
California Chrome is now three weeks and a mile and a half away from possibly becoming racing’s first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. He would join Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed.
Not only that, the California-bred chestnut might finally convince naysayers that he is indeed the Real Deal and rid them of their ritualistic numbers, figures, ratings and profiles, not to mention “pimple panic,” that go out the window once the gates open.
In addition, even though seven months remain on the 2014 racing calendar, the Golden Horse from the Golden State bred by owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin became the leader in the clubhouse for Horse of the Year honors.
Of course, victory in the Belmont Stakes and a Triple Crown would only cement justification. But even if he does not win, California Chrome’s magnetic accomplishments to date are immeasurable, especially since he is ignobly bred and trains out of Los Alamitos, a track in Orange County known for Quarter Horse racing.
“California Chrome immediately legitimized Los Alamitos as a track for major Thoroughbreds not only to work at, but to race at,” said prominent California owner/breeder Madeline Auerbach, a member of the California Horse Racing Board. “He put racing back in the forefront without any negativity. It’s a hometown story. I think it’s phenomenal.
“You can’t plan this. He did more for racing in California than anything and anybody else could have done, and the connections deserve all the credit. They kept it pure, they haven’t sold him out; they’re not about anything but the horse, and that’s what it’s supposed to be about. I don’t know how else to say it.
“California Chrome’s success benefits more than just California racing. I read something yesterday that said he is California’s horse. Not any more. He’s now the country’s horse. He’s America’s horse.” If California Chrome is not the savior of a game sorely in need of one, he’s the closest thing to it.
Thus, the beat goes on for California Chrome and his mensch of a trainer, 77-year-old Art Sherman, the Brooklyn Kid in his sixth decade of unceremoniously pounding the backstretch. The ride continues too for Espinoza, who returned to Santa Anita Sunday to a hero’s welcome.
Right now, the only folks happier than Team Sherman are the ones at Belmont Park. There, they prepare to welcome California Chrome, the People’s Horse, America’s Horse.
But if he wins the Triple Crown, he becomes Destiny’s Horse.
SANTA ANITA FAN EDDIE ESPINOZA HITS MOTHER LODE WITH CALIFORNIA CHROME
By winning yesterday’s $1.5 million Preakness Stakes, superstar California Chrome continues to touch and indeed enrich the lives of many thousands of racing fans across the world, perhaps none more profoundly than longtime Santa Anita fan Eddie Espinoza of nearby Whittier, who stands to win a cool million dollars should “The Chrome” win the mile and one half Belmont Stakes on June 7 and thereby become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.
A preliminary winner in Santa Anita’s inaugural Santa Anita Derby Millionaire Contest, Espinoza is on the ride of a lifetime—courtesy of California Chrome. Flown to Baltimore by The Great Race Place, Espinoza, 71, and his wife, Susan, were on-hand at Pimlico Race Course for California Chrome’s epic Preakness victory, and, with a $10,000 Santa Anita win wager in hand, they cashed for $15,000.
“I feel so blessed, this is awesome,” said Eddie Espinoza. “I want to thank Santa Anita for this opportunity. Look where a normal day at the track has taken us.”
Selected randomly on Santa Anita Derby Day, April 5, Espinoza tabbed trainer Art Sherman’s California Chrome to win and he picked up $8,000, which included a $5,000 win bet provided by the track.
Comfortably ensconced with his wife, Susan and a group of family and friends in Santa Anita’s elegant Eddie Logan Suite on Kentucky Derby Day, May 3, Espinoza was all smiles following the California-bred’s win in the Run for the Roses, as Espinoza cashed a $7,500 win wager placed for him by Santa Anita, resulting in a Derby Day score of $26,000.
Espinoza, who has been coming regularly to Santa Anita for “about 20 years,” was unequivocal when asked following the Kentucky Derby as to where he and his wife would be when California Chrome loads into the starting gate for a shot at equine immortality on June 7. “We’re going to watch it right here, on the front row, in the Eddie Logan Suite,” the couple said in unison.
Win, lose or draw on Belmont Stakes Day, the Espinozas have already had a great run, banking $49,000 via the Santa Anita Derby Millionaire Contest, but along with hundreds of thousands of fans everywhere, the couple is hoping CHROME turns to GOLD in the Big Apple.
HIGHLY ACCLAIMED ‘50 TO 1’ OPENS AT MONROVIA THEATRE MAY 23
Academy Award-winning Producer Jim Wilson’s latest film, the highly acclaimed “50 to 1,” which depicts the down-home Cinderella story of 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, will make its California debut this Friday, May 23 in nearby Monrovia at Krikorian Premiere Theatre and at six other Krikorian venues in Southern California—in Buena Park, Downey, Pico Rivera, Redlands and Vista.
Wilson, who produced 1990’s Dances With Wolves, which starred Kevin Costner and took Best Picture honors and six other Academy Awards, is a long-time horse owner and passionate lover of horses and Thoroughbred racing. He participated in a question and answer session regarding the film, its rollout and reactions that it has created, two weeks in advance of its Southern California debut.
Q.) We’ve heard good things about 50 to 1 and its depiction of a small group of New Mexico horsemen en route to the win of a lifetime. How long do you anticipate the film running locally?
“It’s all according to supply and demand. As long as people go, it will continue to run. Typically, theatres now will show a film for a week or two or longer, depending on how many people are coming. I’m in a theatre in New Mexico now where we beat Spider Man and we’re in our eighth week. You just never know.”
Q.) George Krikorian is very involved in the Thoroughbred business as an owner/breeder and he now sits on the California Horse Racing Board. Has he seen the film?
“I invited George to a screening, I would say five months ago . . . He said, ‘When you get ready to release it in California, give me a call.’ So, obviously both of us being horse owners, I said ‘You betcha.’ So when we finished our seven-state tour, I called George and he said, ‘Let’s put it up there.’
Q.) This state-by-state rollout is kind of an unorthodox approach with a new film. What’s been your thinking on this?
“It’s really unorthodox. Part of it is I don’t have the money. I don’t have the funds of a giant studio that can put up 30 or 40 million dollars and gamble and see how we’re going to do. So part of it is financially driven in that we’re able to go state by state and as you do one state, you sort of take those proceeds and go on to the next. It’s kind of a throwback to the 70s and 80s when there were a lot of grassroots (movie) campaigns and it worked . . .The first idea was to go from New Mexico (where Mine That Bird was based) and weave our way through seven states to Kentucky, which we did on tour.
“We were on a bus for nearly six weeks . . . It’s just that love and attention that I find really pays dividends . . . It may sound silly, but Mine That Bird was 30 lengths behind (in the 2009 Kentucky Derby) and he took his time. This kind of film is going to need a rollout. It’s a word-of-mouth film . . . If you go on Tomato Meters or IMVB, people are loving this film . . . ”
Q.) How would you compare your movie to recent films such as Secretariat and Seabiscuit?
“It’s a bit of a romp. It’s much more comedic than either Secretariat or Seabiscuit, because the characters were just that and the horse was a bit of a character, too.”
Q.) As you know, so many people say that our game is dying due to a variety of factors. Why do you continue to have a passion for it and continue to lay your own money down trying to promote it?
“Look, when you love a sport like I do this, like none other, that doesn’t go away. The economics could go to the absolute bottom and I will always love a man and a horse in unison racing around a track. That in and of itself will never be taken from me, or a lot of people. That’s just not going to leave them, it’s just such a phenomenal sport . . . One can point a lot of fingers.
“I actually think the product works very well. I think racing is attractive in terms of what it has to offer. We can always market wiser and better and there are new audiences to approach. I think 50 to 1 is just a little kernel of that. No one movie is going to turn the whole thing around but I do know that as I play this film around the country, I’ve run into a lot of people who (for various reasons) have been driven from the theatres but they’ve come back to this movie and they’ve said ‘I haven’t seen a film in 20 years and you’ve brought me back and I greatly appreciate it.’ They give me a big hug and I know that we are introducing this sport to a lot of people who don’t know a darn thing about racing.”
Q.) By your own admission, the film is devoid of “A List” actors, but we’re told the acting is outstanding. HRTV’s Laffit Pincay is shown in the movie trailer interviewing trainer Chip Woolley during the pre-Derby walk-over and it appears very realistic. That said, it’s no secret that Bob Baffert is less than pleased with the way he has been depicted.
“I don’t know if Bob’s seen the film . . . Historically, you have to go with Bob as the competitor to these guys (Mine That Bird’s connections). Because he was that person. In the Breeders’ Cup in 2008 in the Juvenile, he won with Midshipman. He is the face of racing. There is no better, if you want to call it villain or competitor than this guy. He historically is the guy that took on Mine That Bird at Santa Anita in the (2008) Breeders’ Cup.
“Midshipman was owned by the Sheik, and these guys (Mine That Bird’s connections) finished dead last. And, you know, Bob is there pumping his fist and doing what Bob does. I’ve known Bob for 25 years and I know how Bob can be. I’m hugely respectful of him as a trainer and all of that. I love Bob. I like to watch Bob and see what Bob does, but he had Pioneerof the Nile in the following Derby (2009). He is the guy historically, to follow. If you are somebody who’s going to take on the industry, Bob is the one you want to beat. He’s the one that I want to beat when I go to the track. He’s hard to beat . . . With that shock of white hair and his swagger and all of that . . . “
Q. We understand Baffert took time to meet with the actor (Bruce Wayne Eckelman) who portrayed him in advance of the movie being filmed.
“Bob was nice enough to meet with Bruce at Del Mar. He drove down to Del Mar and Bob took him to the backside and showed him around the barn. Bob couldn’t have been nicer. We can make a big brouhaha about it . . . I think Bob should just see it (the film) . . . To say that we painted Baffert as someone who is occasionally arrogant? Yeah. Am I occasionally arrogant? I can be.”
For the rest of the story, Southern California racing fans will have to wait until “50 to 1” comes to town on May 23.
MIRAHMADI TAKES MIKE, DENMAN TAKES A BREAK
Trevor Denman, the Voice of Santa Anita Park for more than 30 years, will take time off in the month of June to “freshen-up” before returning to call the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita on Saturday, June, 28, which will highlight the track’s closing weekend of racing action.
In his absence, Frank Mirahmadi, who calls full-time at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and in the summer at the majority of California’s Northern Fairs, will “pinch hit” for Denman for 10 days, beginning Thursday, June 12 through Friday, June 27.
A native of Durban, South Africa, Denman, 61, began his illustrious career at Santa Anita in October, 1983, and has since become synonymous with championship racing at The Great Race Place. He will call races at Santa Anita through Belmont Stakes weekend, June 7 and 8 and will then travel with his wife Robin to their 110-acre farm in Minnesota until returning for closing weekend.
“We have about 40 young calves that have to be attended to,” said Denman. “This is something Robin and I have been doing for 17 years now, and we love it, plus the time away really does serve to freshen me up. That said, I’m looking forward to coming back for closing weekend and with Game On Dude pointing for the Gold Cup, you know it’s going to be a heckuva race.”
Mirahmadi, 46, a native of Los Angeles who is regarded as one of America’s top race callers and who possesses an incredible sense of humor and ability to imitate a large number of celebrities and fellow announcers, will be fulfilling a lifelong dream beginning June 12.
“Trevor Denman is the greatest announcer of all-time,” said Mirahmadi. “Growing up here in L.A., I was so privileged to have been able to hear guys like Harry Henson, Dave Johnson and Trevor. My career has been inspired by his brilliance and he’s been a great help to me in improving my craft. It is the ultimate honor to be selected to fill in for him.”
Mirahmadi considers his ability to imitate legendary sportscaster Marv Albert, the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield and Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas as the best in his vast arsenal.
Following closing day of Santa Anita’s Spring Meet on June 29, Denman will again be idle until opening day at Del Mar on July 17.
“We look forward to Frank coming in while Trevor is away and we think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Santa Anita President Tom Ludt. “We are blessed to have Trevor on a daily basis and along with Frank, we look forward to having him back to call the Gold Cup here on closing weekend.”
FINISH LINES: Two-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder is scheduled to work Monday morning, “probably seven furlongs,” for the $1 million Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park on Belmont Day, June 7. Regular rider Gary Stevens will be aboard the 4-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella . . . Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Candy Boy worked four furlongs with Stevens up in 50 flat for trainer John Sadler . . . Edwin Maldonado, tied for third in the Spring Meet standings with 11 wins, retains the mount on Cyclometer for Bruce Headley in one of two Memorial Day features a week from Monday, the Grade III, $100,000 Los Angeles Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs. The Grade I, $300,000 Gamely Stakes for fillies and mares, 3 and up at 1 1/8 miles on turf, heads the holiday card that starts at 1 p.m. . . . Trainer Richard Baltas reports that Big Macher, winner of the Grade II Potrero Grande Stakes on April 6, is progressing after being vanned off the track due to an issue with his right front foot last Saturday following a five furlong workout in 59.80. “He had a nuclear scan and everything looks pretty good,” Baltas said of the California-bred son of Beau Genius. “I X-rayed his feet and I didn’t see anything, so we’ll go slow and easy and bring him back. We put new shoes on him.” . . . Trainer Simon Callaghan reports that Santa Anita Oaks winner Fashion Plate is scheduled to begin galloping this week after her disappointing showing in the May 2 Kentucky Oaks and will be pointed to the Grade I Acorn Stakes at one mile on Belmont Day . . . The last year there were two Triple Crown winners in different sports was 1937, when Joe (Ducky) Medwick captured baseball’s version for the St. Louis Cardinals and War Admiral swept honors in horse racing . . . Jockey Martin Garcia has been suspended three days (May 25, 26 and 29) for causing interference on his mount, Kristinite, in the seventh race May 11, resulting in the disqualification from second to third . . . The California Horse Racing Board will conduct its regular meeting 9:30 a.m. Thursday, May 22, and the Southern California Race Dates and Stabling Oversight Committee will meet at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, both in the Baldwin Terrace Room at Santa Anita. The public is encouraged to attend . . . Friday’s seventh race was an Unusual Heat Trifecta. The first three finishers--Heat Flash, Boozer and Bobby Z Man--were sired by Unusual Heat. The $1 Tri paid $89.50. Trainer Barry Abrams owned, bred and conditioned the winner; previously owned, bred and trained Boozer; and bred and trained Bobby Z Man.