In his 16 starts in the United States, Obviously has been in front all the way or at somepoint in 14 of them, winning eight, including the Grade III American Stakes on May 17.

A committed front-runner, the 6-year-old Irish-bred gelding trained by Phil D’Amato, will, barring the unforeseen, be in front again Saturday when he runs in the Grade I, $400,000 Shoemaker Mile on turf.

“I think he’s the speed of the speed in the race,” D’Amato said. “The American was a perfect prep for him. His confidence is through the roof, so we’re looking for a really big performance Saturday.”

The American was Obviously’s first start since last Nov. 2, when he set the pace in the Breeders’ Cup Mile before weakening late to finish fifth behind two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan.

Pressured throughout much of the American, Obviously withstood an uncharacteristic challenge from Silentio, who has been more successful stalking rather than pressing the pace, and drew off to win by 5 ½ lengths.

The field for the Shoemaker, race seven of nine: Obviously, Joe Talamo, 9-5; Jack Milton, Javier Castellano, 3-1; Tom’s Tribute, Kent Desormeaux, 6-1; Winning Prize, Corey Nakatani, 5-2; Summer Front, Joe Bravo, 6-1; Pulpit’s Express, Darren Van Dyke, 30-1; and Silentio, Victor Espinoza, 5-1.


Any serious chance Silentio had of defeating lone speed Obviously in the AmericanStakes on May 17 was compromised when the 5-year-old horse trained by Gary Mandella had to change tactics in an attempt to keep Obviously from getting loose on the lead.

It was a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t, because Obviously led throughout anyway, opening up five lengths into the stretch and winning the one-mile American by 5 ½.

Mandella hopes the pace is more beneficial in Saturday’s Grade I, $400,000 Shoemaker Stakes at one mile on grass.

“There was nobody else to go with Obviously, so Gary (Stevens on Silentio) felt compelled to chase him to try and win the race, and I didn’t blame him,” Mandella said. “It cost us second (Silentio finishing third by 5 ¾ lengths, losing second by a neck to Chips All In). We could have accepted the pace scenario and finished second, but we chose to try and win.

“That’s not my horse’s style, we found out. You never know until you do it, but we did it and it didn’t work. I’m hoping that the bigger purse and the higher grade (of the Shoemaker) help me in terms of better horses and more speed and we can sit back and make a run.”

The Shoemaker Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In automatic qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Mile to be run at Santa Anita for the third straight year on Nov. 1.

As part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge program, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fee of $40,000 for the Shoemaker winner to start in the Mile, if that horse is nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by Oct. 20, the pre-entry deadline.


Ron McAnally could not only write a book about his legendary career, he could probably write one about Bill Shoemaker’s, too.

McAnally gave The Shoe many a leg up during their hey day, including on the immortal John Henry, whose most memorable victory came with Shoe aboard in the inaugural Arlington Million in 1981, when the great gelding nosed out The Bart ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye.

“It was very close,” said McAnally, who trained John Henry to two Horse of the Year titles during a Hall of Fame career that has spanned more than six decades. “We weren’t sure if John Henry won or not. His head was down, The Bart’s was up.

“It had rained, and he didn’t like an off track, but when they got to the half-mile pole, you could see he got his rhythm, and that’s when he started to move. There’s a big statue at Arlington now showing the finish. It was a big day for us, one of our super moments in racing.

“To me, Shoemaker was the best rider that I’ve seen, and I knew him when he was mucking out stalls and I was, too, right there where Paddy Gallagher is stabled now (at Santa Anita’s barn 68).

“I was thinking to myself back then, ‘He shouldn’t be mucking out stalls; he should be up on a horse’s back.’ I went in the service for two years, I came back and there were big headlines in the paper, ‘Shoemaker Does This and Shoemaker Does That,’ and I’m wondering who it was.

“I walked down to the paddock and there he was, the boy who was mucking out stalls when I was mucking out stalls. So I was there when Shoe first got started.

“To me, as a person he was great. He was very quiet, but the key to most of his success was coming from off the pace. A lot of riders would go 22 and 45 (for the quarter and half mile) and he would get on the same horse and take him back. He had magic hands.

“Very seldom would you see him hit a horse. He might hit him once or twice, but he was one of the greatest riders of all time.”

Added Corey Nakatani, who rode with Shoemaker and pilots Winning Prize in the race: “He was one of the best guys in the room. He had a great sense of humor. He would joke and play around and liked to have a good time, but that was his character.

“Obviously, once he got on the race track he was a fierce competitor like most of us. Horses ran for him. Hopefully, this race will be run here forever as a tribute to his memory.”


John Sadler sends out Iotapa and Magic Union for owners Peter and Kosta Hronis in Saturday’s Grade I Vanity Stakes for fillies and mares, age 3 and up, at a mile and an eighth.

Iotapa won the Grade II Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita in February, while Magic Union won first out for Sadler on Del Mar’s Polytrack last August but seeks her first stakes win in the Vanity.

“We bought her last summer,” Sadler said of Magic Union. “She ran a good second at Oaklawn (in the Grade II Azeri on March 15), and didn’t really care for Churchill (fourth after a troubled trip in the Grade I La Troienne on May 2), but she’s got some quality, so she’s going to be in there.

“Iotapa is a good fit in the race. She’s doing well and she’s a stakes winner here already, so both look pretty good.”

The field for the Vanity, which goes as the eighth race: Iotapa, Joe Talamo, 4-1; Magic Union, Javier Castellano, 8-1; Grace Hall, Joel Rosario, 5-2; Let Faith Arise, Corey Nakatani, 2-1; Scherzinger, Elvis Trujillo, 9-2; Yahilwa, Kent Desormeaux, 6-1; and Irish Presence, Fernando Perez, 30-1. Unusual Way was scratched.


Former jockey Gary Brinson, who was the head starter at Del Mar and Betfair Hollywood Park and has worked on gate crews for over 40 years, has been named head starter for the current Quarter Horse night meet at Los Alamitos Race Course effective tonight.

The appointment follows the decision by John Baker to resign as the starter at Los Alamitos last Tuesday. Baker had been the man with his hand on the button of the starting gate since September of 2005.

"We're grateful to John for nine years of service as the starter," said Ed Allred, the owner of Los Alamitos.

Santa Anita’s Jay Slender will be the starter at Los Alamitos during the two week daytime Thoroughbred meeting that starts Thursday, July 3.

Brinson will concentrate on the night races, bringing a wealth of experience manning the starting gate. He had been head starter at Del Mar since 1997 and also served in that capacity at Hollywood Park from 1984 until its closure on Dec. 22, 2013.

The late Marje Everett hired him for that job in 1984. Brinson has started horses at Los Alamitos in the past, and is known for his innovative decision of moving to the ground level to start races. Other starters around the country have since followed his lead.

A lifelong horseman, Brinson began walking hots and mucking stalls at a young age for his father, the late trainer Ross Brinson. Gary and his older brother, Clay, also rode as jockeys and exercise riders. Clay trained Thoroughbreds for many years in California and is currently stabled at Canterbury Park in Minnesota.

Ross Brinson, who died last year at the age of 101, won the Hollywood Gold Cup in 1947 with Cover Up and trained in California for more than 65 years.

FINISH LINES: Retired Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye will present the trophy for the Grade I Shoemaker Mile. “I’ll be honored,” said Eddie D . . . Railbird Joe: Joe Talamo, the Spring Meet’s leading rider with 29 wins through Thursday, drew the No. 1 post position with each of his three stakes mounts this weekend: Obviously in the Shoemaker Mile and Iotapa in the Vanity Stakes on Saturday, and Warren’s Veneda in the Desert Stormer Stakes on Sunday . . . Tyler Baze captured three races Thursday including the seventh on $25.20 winner My Slew to cap a Pick Six carryover into Friday of $61,936.71. Baze is tied for second in Santa Anita’s Spring Meet standings with apprentice Drayden Van Dyke at 22 wins each . . . Host Tom Quigley’s handicapping guests this weekend at 11:50 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens will be Ken McMahan and Jeannie King, multiple Daily Racing Form/NTRA NHC qualifiers (Saturday), and Southern California Equibase call taker Ken Davis (Sunday).