STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN

SOLIS EYES DERBY DREAM WITH ALPHIE’S BET

Alex Solis is a survivor. In a career that began in 1982, he has overcome a life-threatening injury, been denied access to racing’s Hall of Fame several times, and is still looking for every rider’s dream, victory in the Kentucky Derby.

He had a potential winner last year in The Pamplemousse, but the speedy gray colt was injured the day of the Santa Anita Derby, dashing Solis’ hopes. Never one to give up, the soft-spoken Panamanian is back for another go this year with a California-bred colt named Alphie’s Bet.

“I’m very excited; he’s a really nice horse,” Solis said of the bay son of Tribal Rule who is preparing for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 3. “It looks like distance will be no problem for him, but I’m just taking it one race at a time. Hopefully, we’ll make it to the (Kentucky) Derby.”

Alphie’s Bet registered an impressive 8-1 upset winning the Sham Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths on March 6. At 1 1/8 miles, the Grade III race is the same distance as the Santa Anita Derby.

“That’s a plus,” Solis said, referring to the colt’s running style. “He’s got a long stride and keeps going. It seems to me like he’s peaking at the right time for the big races that are coming up.”

Solis has 20 riding titles, three Breeders’ Cup wins, a Preakness victory aboard Snow Chief in 1986, 11 triumphs in $1 million races and career victories approaching 5,000 on his extensive resume. He could have yielded to retirement after missing five months with a fractured vertebra in his back suffered in a spill at Del Mar in July 2004, but his courage and fortitude saw him through.

“I enjoy what I do,” said Solis, whose business is handled by agent Brian Beach. “I’m 45 years old and still love what I do. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t be here. I feel very blessed to ride the horses that I’m riding. Hopefully, some of those good horses will take us to big races and God willing, I’ll win the Kentucky Derby one of these days.”

Probable for the Santa Anita Derby: Sidney’s Candy, Joe Talamo; Caracortado, Paul Atkinson; Lookin At Lucky, Garrett Gomez; Setsuko, Rafael Bejarano; Thomas Baines, Joel Rosario; Alphie’s Bet, Alex Solis; Posse Power, no rider; Skipshot, no rider; Cardiff Giant, Christian Santiago Reyes; and Who’s Up, Victor Espinoza.

In other Santa Anita Derby news:

Bob Baffert said last year’s male 2-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky is scheduled to work Sunday, after which the Hall of Fame trainer will decide on running in either the Santa Anita Derby or the Grade I, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park April 10.

Alphie’s Bet worked five furlongs at Hollywood Park Thursday in 1:02.20, for Alexis Barba. “It was a little slow,” the trainer said, “but he’s like that. He’s doing fine. We’re looking forward to the race.”

UNLUCKY HIGH COURT DRAMA WHEELS BACK IN TOKYO CITY CUP

No, Doug O’Neill did not take a page from the Barry Abrams training book when he entered High Court Drama back in one week to run in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Tokyo City Cup for older horses at a mile and a half.

Last Saturday, High Court Drama finished ninth of 10 in the mile and a half San Luis Rey Handicap on grass, beaten about 30 lengths. Undeterred, O’Neill paid the $2,000 supplemental fee to enter the 5-year-old son of Theatrical in the Tokyo City.

“He got wiped out in traffic in the San Luis Rey,” O’Neill said, “but he came out of the race in great shape. The Tokyo City was a race we had in mind for him before the San Luis Rey anyway, so we’re running back and hoping for better luck.”

The field for the Tokyo City Cup: Tap It Light, Tyler Baze, 114; Eagle Poise, Mike Smith, 115; Unusual Suspect, Alonso Quinonez, 117; High Court Drama, Chantal Sutherland, 117; Philatelist, Rafael Bejarano, 117; Quindici Man, Martin Garcia, 116; Rendezvous, Joel Rosario, 116; and Snowmaster, Jose Valdivia Jr., 114.

Saturday is Tokyo City Cup Day at Santa Anita. Fans can enjoy cultural exhibits and performances at Japan Family Day with traditional Japanese culture and entertainment, including Kado, Karate, Koto, Origami, Shinkendo, Shodo, Taiko and tea ceremony performances.

LA NEZ WORKING WELL FOR SUNDAY’S SANTA PAULA STAKES

Mike Smith reunites with La Nez for Sunday’s Grade III, $100,000 Santa Paula Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 6 ½ furlongs, and the Hall of Fame jockey likes his chances.

“I’ve worked her every time since her last race (third in the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes on Dec. 26) and she’s training well,” Smith said. “She was only a half-length behind Alphie’s Bet in that race and she gave weight to him,” Smith pointed out. “He came back and won the Sham.”

The field for the Santa Paula: Seriously, Victor Espinoza, 114; Tanda, Alex Solis, 116; Crisis of Spirit, David Flores, 116; Five Silver Stars, Joel Rosario, 114; Sister Dawn, Rafael Bejarano, 114; Church Camp, Joe Talamo, 116; and La Nez, Smith, 118.

Five Silver Stars worked four furlongs on Pro-Ride Thursday in :49.20 for Jerry Hollendorfer.

ZENYATTA’S CHARISMA CHARMS SPECIAL NEEDS FAN

Zenyatta’s emergence as a presence in the public spotlight, in addition to being perfection personified on the race track, did not happen overnight.

“That’s what I tell people,” John Shirreffs said of the undefeated 6-year-old mare who gave the trainer his fifth Santa Margarita Handicap victory March 13 with a scintillating last-to-first burst for her 15th straight win. The daughter of Street Cry worked six furlongs under regular rider Mike Smith at Hollywood Park Thursday in 1:14.60, breezing, for the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 9.

“Zenyatta didn’t start out like this,” Shirreffs continued. “Zenyatta evolved into something much bigger than we ever imagined.

“She didn’t start out taking it all in and doing her little dance and all that stuff. As she raced, she just evolved into something entirely different.”

Among her qualities are patience and understanding. Shirreffs told the story of Jack, a 5-year-old boy with autism, who is one of Zenyatta’s biggest fans. Autism is a disorder that affects development of the brain. People with autism have problems talking and understanding, and they usually have poor social skills. But Zenyatta goes with the flow.

“Jack zeroes in on Zenyatta,” Shirreffs said. “He pushes on her with his finger. He doesn’t know how to pet her, but he wants to touch her, so he takes his finger and goes like this (poking gesture), and then starts screaming really loud, to express his happiness.

“I told Jack it was all right. Zenyatta didn’t even flinch.” Jack is the son of Grant and Greta Hayes and was taken along with his father to Zenyatta’s Hollywood Park home by Jay Privman, National Correspondent for Daily Racing Form. “Jay does a radio show (Thoroughbred Los Angels) on the station I work at (AM 830, KLAA),” said the boy’s father. “It was a great experience, it was so awesome, it’s hard to put into words. Jack lives in a distant world and Zenyatta brought him out of that world and into ours. If I mention Zenyatta or one of John’s other horses, Winston, he just starts to glow with happiness and he jumps up and down.

“He was extremely happy during the visit. We haven’t seen that much joy in him, ever. It was truly miraculous, and when we got home, he was more focused than he’s ever been. He was just tuned into our family like never before. We just can’t thank John enough. He was so genuine and kind to my son.”

SANTA ANITA HOSTS “UNCORKED” WINE EVENT ON SUNDAY

Santa Anita’s popular “Santa Anita Uncorked” wine event will take place Sunday in the Paddock Gardens area, adjacent to the Seabiscuit Walking Ring. The event, which debuted in 2008, will include wine tasting, cuisine sampling, an art show and a day at the races.

Fans 21 and over are encouraged to spend a day at spectacular Santa Anita tasting fine wines, world-class cuisine from popular area restaurants, and perusing a colorful Paddock Art Exhibit while experiencing a day at the races. “Santa Anita Uncorked” will again be sponsored by the Wine of the Month Club based in nearby Monrovia.

Among those upscale area restaurants participating are: San Marino Seafood, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Cafe 322, Charcuterrie and Santa Anita’s FrontRunner. Wineries represented will include Zaca Mesa, Mike Smith and Alex Solis’ Jinetes, and many more.

“Santa Anita Uncorked” packages will include parking, Club House admission with a grandstand seat, program, wine tasting, cuisine sampling, art exhibit and a souvenir wine glass.

Tickets for admission, parking, program and restricted area wrist band are available for $60 each and can be purchased at the Santa Anita ticket office, or by phone at (626) 574-RACE. Tickets can also be purchased on-line at www.santaanita.com. Proceeds from “Santa Anita Uncorked” will go to benefit Rotary Club Youth Services.

JOCKEYS TO MEET ABILITYFIRST YOUTHS; SPECIAL NEEDS EVENT HYPES 5K RUN

A group of Santa Anita-based jockeys will sign autographs and participate in a “meet and greet” gathering with special-needs youngsters provided by AbilityFirst, in Santa Anita’s famed Seabiscuit Walking Ring from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. next Thursday, April 1. The event is intended to raise public awareness of AbilityFirst and to help promote Santa Anita’s Derby Day 5K Walk and Run on Saturday, April 3.

The Santa Anita Derby Day 5K is part of AbilityFirst’s Marathon Campaign, which is presented by Comerica Bank. AbilityFirst program participants and their families, along with friends and employees, are walking and running, raising money to enhance programs and services offered at all 24 AbilityFirst Southern California locations. In its 25-year history, the Marathon Campaign has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In addition to meeting such jockeys as Tyler Baze, Rafael Bejarano, David Flores, Garrett Gomez, Joel Rosario, Mike Smith, Alex Solis, Chantal Sutherland and Joe Talamo, AbilityFirst participants will be able to get autographs and have pictures taken, witness a saddling demonstration, learn how to groom a racehorse, feed (candies and carrots) horses and take an actual ride in the walking ring.

It has also been confirmed that the Easter Bunny will make an appearance and will have healthy treats available.

“We’re very excited to once again be able to work with folks at AbilityFirst,” said Santa Anita Community Events Coordinator Pete Siberell. “We were very successful in raising a substantial amount of money with them last year and we’re confident we can build on that success this year. AbilityFirst is a first-class, highly respected organization and it’s great to once again include them in our Derby Day 5K.

“We’re going to be offering their kids some new things this year and this will provide them with a genuine opportunity to learn some hands-on horsemanship. It’s been widely documented that working with animals, including horses, can be very beneficial to special needs persons and this is a great opportunity for all of us. It should be a lot of fun.”

The annual AbilityFirst Marathon Campaign consists of two events: The Santa Anita Derby Day 5K on April 3 and the Los Angeles Marathon, which was held March 21 in Los Angeles.

For the third consecutive year, Comerica Bank is demonstrating their support of AbilityFirst as a Presenting Sponsor of the Marathon Campaign. Comerica Bank is contributing $30,000 to help fulfill AbilityFirst’s mission of helping individuals with disabilities realize their full potential.

AbilityFirst is a Pasadena-based charity that enables both children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities to realize their full potential. AbilityFirst also works to meet the needs of those afflicted with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and epilepsy.

AbilityFirst Marathon Campaign information can be found at www.abilityfirst.org.

In addition to its association with AbilityFirst, Santa Anita Park will also make community donations to the Arcadia High School Athletic Boosters Club, the Arcadia Historical Museum and the Arcadia-area Explorer Scouts.

The 73rd Santa Anita Derby will be run April 3, with the Derby Day 5K Walk and Run getting underway the same day at 7:45 a.m. For more information, fans are encouraged to visit www.santaanita.com.

$10,000 ‘DREAMBET’ OFFERED ON SANTA ANITA DERBY DAY,

All fans attending the races on Santa Anita Derby Day, Saturday, April 3, will be eligible to enter a “DreamBet” sweepstakes sponsored by Churchill Downs, and thus have a chance to bet $10,000 to win on a horse of their choosing in the Santa Anita Derby, to be telecast live on NBC.

Churchill Downs, site of the 136th running of the Grade I, $2 million Kentucky Derby on May 1, is also helping to produce the one-hour Santa Anita Derby telecast, and the “DreamBet” sweepstakes is intended to spur widespread fan interest and awareness in the run-up to the world’s most famous race.

The Santa Anita Derby will be a part of NBC’s “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series, which will air three consecutive Saturdays, from March 27 through April 10, and will take viewers to the heart of this demanding steppingstones to the Run for the Roses.

NBC’s “Road to the Kentucky Derby” will air from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on April 3, with the Grade I Wood Memorial from Aqueduct scheduled during the first half of the show. The Santa Anita Derby will be run as the sixth race on an 11-race program, with post time scheduled for 2:40 p.m.

Santa Anita’s admission gates will open at 10 a.m., with first post at 12 noon. All fans showing proper identification and proof of U.S. citizenship are eligible to fill out a sweepstakes application, which will include their selection to win the Santa Anita Derby.

The “DreamBet” sweepstakes drawing will be held following the third race and a list of 10 finalists will be posted at the “DreamBet” Center in the East Paddock Gardens and on television monitors throughout the plant.

“This is a very exciting opportunity and we’re pleased to have been invited to partner with Churchill Downs on this promotion,” said Santa Anita Vice President of Marketing Allen Gutterman. “This broadcast is going to provide terrific exposure for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita and around the country and live television is always great for the game.

“We think the DreamBet is going to have broad-based appeal far beyond racing fans and will give the audience watching at home a rooting interest that may not have been there before.

“Can you imagine the excitement this is going to generate?” said Gutterman. “Here we have the prospect of a fan, any fan, with $10,000 bet to win on a horse who might just make the lead turning for home—on live, national television. We think this is a tremendous way to show the world just how exiting this game can be. And beyond that, if the horse wins, fans around the country will now have a Santa Anita horse to root for in the Kentucky Derby. Any way you look at it, this contest is a winner.”

For more information on the Santa Anita Derby and the “DreamBet” sweepstakes, fans are encouraged to visit www.santaanita.com, or www.churchhilldownsincorporated.com.

FINISH LINES: Chantal Sutherland ended a 55-race winless streak Wednesday when she guided favored Major General to a length and a quarter victory in the fifth race for trainer Mike Mitchell. Sutherland hadn’t won since Feb. 21, when she scored with Unusual Encounter for trainer Barry Abrams. “It happens to the best of them,” said Sutherland’s agent, Tommy Ball. “It gets frustrating, but you just have to do what you do best, put it behind you, and keep going. All riders go through a little slump at one time or another.”. . . Laffit Pincay Jr. and Gary Stevens were answers Wednesday night on the long-running game show, “Jeopardy,” hosted by horse racing aficionado Alex Trebek. Pincay’s son, HRTV analyst Laffit Pincay III, has been hors de combat recently due to arthroscopic knee surgery and will be off today’s Pursuit of the Crown show. Young Laffit expects to resume his duties with HRTV prior to the Kentucky Derby on May 1 . . . The Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) plans to provide three hours of Dubai World Cup coverage Saturday from 8 to 11 a.m. The broadcast, presented by AmWest Entertainment, will be made available worldwide with free live streaming on the HRRN website, www.horseracingradio.net, and will precede HRRN’s two-hour broadcast of the Louisiana Derby which can be heard from 1 to 3 p.m. and also be streamed live on the HRRN site. Both broadcasts will be hosted live from the Fair Grounds . . . Tomorrow is one of the final Free Fridays at Santa Anita this meet. Patrons will receive free General Admission and box seats, while supplies last, as well as being offered $1 hot dogs, beers, sodas, popcorn and coffee . . . Syndicated handicapper Jerry Antonucci and private clocker Toby Turrell of Winners Card will be Jack Disney’s guests at Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:15 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens.

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