Doug O’Neill holds a slight lead over onrushing Peter Miller in his bid for a fourth Santa Anita training title. With five racing days remaining in the inaugural Spring Meet, the Michigan native who turned 46 on May 24 held a 24-21 lead over runner-up Miller, who sent out the first three winners Friday and one Saturday to close the gap.

O’Neill’s numbers show marked improvement from the recent Santa Anita Winter Meet, where, while he won 23 races, it was from 212 starters, an 11 percent average. With 24 wins from 108 starters this meet, O’Neill’s average has doubled to 22 percent.

“It’s a cyclical sport,” O’Neill said. “You have your peaks and valleys and we had a major valley early on. Hopefully, we haven’t peaked, but we’re in a good run right now. Things are going well, and it just seems to go like that.

“We’re going to ride it as long as we can, and when we start dipping into a valley, we’ll start making adjustments and maybe try and run our horses in softer spots. You just have to try and stay strong through all the highs and lows.”

As to the new Southern California racing landscape due to the closing of Hollywood Park last December, O’Neill, like his peers, is making the adjustment.

“It’s unique,” he said. “I think it’s the first time ever that there are three condition books out—the last Santa Anita, Los Alamitos and the first Del Mar. It’s a challenging time. I feel bad for the racing secretaries because they’ve got to try and fill these races.

“As horsemen, you’ve got all these options. You’re trying to do what’s in the best interest of your horse, so it’s a challenging time, but I think we’ve got three really solid surfaces, solid barn areas, and although none of us like change, I think we’re heading the right way.”


Imperative comes into the Gold Cup at Santa Anita with a gap of more than two months since his last race, a 26-1 upset of Game On Dude in the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic on April 19. No problem there. That’s been the plan all the way.

“We just gave him some time off and got him ready for the Gold Cup,” explained trainer George Papaprodromou. “Hopefully there will be pace in the race with Game On Dude and Fury Kapcori to make things easier for us. But he’s already exceeded our expectations, winning a million dollar race after we claimed him for $50,000.”

Imperative is scheduled to work “a nice, easy half (mile)” under regular rider Kent Desormeaux on Monday.

In other Gold Cup news:

Tokyo City Cup winner Majestic Harbor worked five furlongs Sunday morning in a bullet 58.80 under regular rider Tyler Baze, galloping out six furlongs in 1:11 3/5. Fractional times were 23 seconds for the first quarter mile and 47 2/5 for the half.

“I was very pleased and so was Tyler,” trainer Sean McCarthy said. “It was just what we were looking for. He worked great.”

Also, Chilean invader Salto Del Indio worked five furlongs for trainer Mike Puype in 1:00.40 under Brice Blanc, who rides the 4-year-old ridgling in the Gold Cup, which will mark his U.S. debut.

“He’s been training well and he’s got good dirt form,” Puype pointed out. “He’s a wild card for the race, obviously, but we’ve got to take a shot and see what can happen.

“He’s been one-two-three in 13 of 15 starts on dirt. I’ve watched replays of his races, and he comes from off the pace.”

Probable for the Gold Cup: Clubhouse Ride, Joe Talamo; Fury Kapcori, Corey Nakatani; Game On Dude, Mike Smith; Imperative, Kent Desormeaux; Lideris, no rider; Majestic Harbor, Tyler Baze; and Salto Del Indio, Brice Blanc.

Trainer Peter Miller said Sunday morning he would enter Lideris in both the Gold Cup and the Grade II San Juan Capistrano Stakes at about 1 ¾ miles on turf closing day, June 29. In either race, Peruvian jockey Juan Eugenio Enriquez would ride, Miller said.


Bob Ike, as familiar to California racing fans as Santa Anita’s Seabiscuit statue, is making a career change. Respected by peers and bettors alike, Ike sent the following missive with the reasons for his new venture:

“I haven't had a chance to talk to most of you but wanted to let you know that I will be getting out of the newspaper handicapping game as of June 29. Bob Mieszerski will be replacing me in the LANG papers.

“Marc Doche and I have started a website called (, homepage is live) that will allow the billing and payment of horse racing industries (and recreational horses) to move online and into the 21st century.

“We have been working with a web development team for almost a year now and will be ready to launch in a few months. I believe in it strongly and need to be fully committed to this new venture, so I'm going ‘all in’ as of closing day at Santa Anita. I will still be part of the Saturday radio show and do my handicapping sheet for the websites on weekends, however.

“A little surreal to be changing course at age 51 but I feel this is a great opportunity to do something special in a business that I love. Wish me luck.” We do.


The Thoroughbred Owners of California’s (TOC) membership has elected Jim Cahill and re-elected incumbents Mark Dedomenico, Mike Harrington, Terry Lovingier, Jack Owens, and Bill Strauss to its Board of Directors.

Dedomenico, Harrington, Lovingier, Owens and Strauss were elected to three-year terms, Cahill to a one-year term. The new Board officially takes office July 1 and will be seated at TOC’s first board meeting of the new fiscal year when directors meet July 11 at Los Alamitos.

Cahill, a graduate of San Diego State University with a Finance degree, was executive vice president of Costco before leaving that position to handle the financial affairs of the company’s founder, Sol Price. He has served as a volunteer board member of several non-profits including San Diego Foundation and High Tech High School Foundation. He became an owner eight years ago with the claim of 8-year-old gelding Senator Matty, campaigned Washington Cup winner He’s Not Bluffing, and currently has nine horses in training.

Dedomenico, a renowned cardiovascular surgeon and researcher, owns and oversees Pegasus Thoroughbred Training and Rehabilitation center in Redmond, Washington, where he is involved in researching new treatments for equine injuries and the use of platelet rich plasma and stem cell therapy. He has more than 50 horses in training including several graded winners and has won two Eclipse Awards.

Harrington is an owner, trainer and breeder. A graduate of Washington State University School of Veterinary Medicine, he took up training full time after retiring from his veterinary practice in 1993. His top two-year-olds included Buck Trout, Swiss Yodeler and Creative Cause.

Lovingier is owner and president of Lovco Construction, Inc. in Signal Hill. He also owns and operates Lovacres Ranch in Warner Springs, standing several stallions at Lovacres including Awesome Gambler, Empire Way, Time To Get Even, Bushwacked, Grace Upon Grace and Swiss Yodeler. He has raced many home-breds in small partnerships and campaigned Grade I winner Willa B. Awesome.

Owens was re-elected to the board in 2012 having previously served several terms beginning with the initial TOC election. He also served as Chairman of the Board in 2001-03, 2004-05 and 2011. A graduate of Stanford, he has been a lawyer for more than 30 years. Owens has been an owner and breeder for 30 years, racing predominantly in northern California, and currently campaigns stakes winner City by the Bay.

Strauss was co-founder and CEO of Provide Commerce/Proflowers, a company he took public on NASDAQ in 2003 and sold two years later. In addition, he is involved with many local charitable endeavors. He has owned racehorses for approximately five years and has had much success with horses such as The Pamplemousse, Turbulent Descent and Mizdirection.

A total of 7,024 ballots were mailed out to eligible voters, and 1,318 qualifying ballots were received. The complete vote tally is available for viewing on TOC’s web site at

The newly elected Directors join Nick Alexander, Bob Baffert, Ron Ellis, Ed Moger Jr., Billy Morey, Mike Pegram, George Todaro, Kathy Walsh and Mike Wellman in comprising TOC’s 2014-15 Board.

Current TOC bylaws require that at least three board members be from Northern California. Representing Northern California on the Board are Moger, Morey and Owens. TOC bylaws allow for up to six owner-trainers on the board, and representing the owner-trainer seats are Baffert, Ellis, Harrington, Moger, Morey, and Walsh.

FINISH LINES: When you’re 92, you can’t receive too many birthday greetings, so once again, congratulations to retired trainer Leonard Dorfman, who celebrates his 92nd birthday today in Round Rock, Texas. Trainer of stakes winners Travel Orb, Biggs, Minnesota Chief, Joni U. Bar and the late, multiple graded stakes-winning McCann’s Mojave, Dorfman was a decorated World War II combat veteran and carries a wealth of historic memories dating back to the thrilling days of yesteryear when Seabiscuit was making a household name for himself in the 30s and 40S . . . With five racing days remaining in the Spring Meet, the battle in the jockeys’ race appears to be for third place. Joe Talamo leads runner-up Tyler Baze, 39-26, but Drayden Van Dyke and Edwin Maldonado are tied for third with 22 each, followed by Corey Nakatani (19) and Martin Garcia (18). The race for leading trainer, however, is up for grabs, with Doug O’Neill leading Peter Miller, 24-21, the latter winning four races in the last two days. Blake Heap, flying under the radar, has six wins and three seconds from 12 starters . . . Today’s pick Six carryover of $103,974.11 is the ninth of the Spring Meet . . . Fans can take advantage of mandatory closing day payouts next Sunday, June 29, on the Pick 6, the Pick 5, and the Super High 5. First post time will be 1 p.m., with gates opening at 11 a.m. Santa Anita resumes racing at its Autumn Meet on Sept. 26, continuing through Nov. 2, and highlighted for the third straight year by the Breeders’ Cup World Championships Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.