STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN

BAFFERT OFF TO HALL OF FAME START AT SANTA ANITA

Bob Baffert is off to a flying start in pursuit of his ninth Santa Anita training title. The 56-year-old native of Nogales, Arizona, inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame last August, had won with 38 percent of his starters through Friday—eight for 21--and led runner-up John Sadler by four victories through the meet’s first six days.

Baffert’s leading Triple Crown candidate is Kentucky Derby Future Book favorite Lookin At Lucky, but he soon could be joined in the spotlight by an impeccably-bred colt named Take Control.

Sired by 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy out of 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri, Take Control rallied from last in his debut race at one mile last Wednesday to win by a length and a half under Martin Garcia. Despite his championship bloodlines, the chestnut colt went off at a relatively generous $2.80 to one, perhaps because Baffert was on record that Take Control would need an outing before showing his best form.

“He needed a race,” Baffert confirmed on a picture-perfect Saturday morning at Clockers’ Corner. “He ran green, but we were hoping he would run like we thought he could . He’d been working well with nice horses, but I didn’t want to run him short because he would have got nothing out of it.”

Take Control, owned by Kaleem Shah of Vienna, Va., is expected to go through conditions before testing stakes waters. “We’ll run him in non-winners,” Baffert said. “It’s sort of tough moving up too fast, but at least I snuck in a 2-year-old race for him (to hopefully thwart a long-standing ‘jinx’ against horses that have not started at two winning the Run for the Roses).”

As for Lookin At Lucky, who was an eventful second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile before winning the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park last month, he could make his 3-year-old debut in the $150,000 Grade II San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 on March 13. “He’s just training, and I’m not going to commit to anything right now,” Baffert said. “If I run him, it will be in March, maybe in the San Felipe.”

GOMEZ PURSUES ANOTHER MONEY TITLE AFTER PHOTO FINISH IN 2009

Garrett Gomez got off to a good start Friday in pursuit of his fifth consecutive national purse earnings title, winning the $65,000 Blue Norther Stakes on 2-5 favorite In the Slips and the $100,000 Sensational Star Stakes on 13-10 favorite Compari. The 38-year-old jockey had to wait until his final ride in 2009 to capture money crown No. 4.

Gomez had only two scheduled mounts Thursday, and when Red Arrow finished sixth and last in the second race, Gomez thought his chances were gone, even after he won the fourth race on Fund Raiser, leaving him $194 short of leader Julien Leparoux.

“When the first horse lost, I thought my chances were blown.” Gomez said. “I didn’t know what we could do about it, but after I got back to the (jockeys’) room, they were telling me how close I was, and I said, ‘Really?’ “Everybody started doing the math, and it came down to, all I had to do was ride another horse and I had it. I was fortunate to pick up the mount in the last race, and then win it. It’s pretty cool to come down to a finish that tight after a whole year. The weird thing is, Julien and I are good friends. We’ve stayed at each other’s houses, and I respect him very much.

“He’s a great rider with a strong work ethic. We both ride top horses and it’s really amazing that it came down to the wire like it did.”

While Gomez lost the mount on 9-5 morning line favorite Life Is Sweet in today’s San Gorgonio Handicap when she was scratched reportedly due to a minor ailment, he is committed to three strong contenders in next weekend’s stakes: My Baby Baby for Ken McPeek in Saturday’s $65,000 Paseana Handicap; Furthest Land for Mike Maker in Saturday’s $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap; and Connie and Michael for McPeek in Sunday’s $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes.

UNIQUE FEATURES ON HRTV'S ‘INSIDE INFORMATION’ SUNDAY

The creating of a John Henry statue by sculptor Nina Kaiser, a profile of training great Shug McGaughey's longtime relationship with the renowned Phipps family, and the Three Chimneys Stallion exercise program will be featured on HRTV’s new episode of "Inside Information" Sunday at 6 p.m.

Hosted by Jon White, the show will spotlight John Henry, one of racing's most dominant and revered forces during the early 1980's, who won Horse of the Year titles in 1981 and 1984. He also won seven Eclipse Awards, rising from the claiming ranks to do so.

John Henry raced 20 times at Santa Anita, winning 11 graded stakes, eight of them Grade 1. A statue of John Henry created by Kaiser was unveiled in the Santa Anita paddock on Dec. 26.

"He was an all-time favorite, an all-time champion, and he (had) to be out in that paddock," emphasized George Haines, vice president and general manager, of Santa Anita.

McGaughey was destined for greatness. However, an enduring relationship forged with the Phipps racing family may have hastened his ascent, handling such Phipps greats as Easy Goer, Personal Ensign and Inside Information, while winning nine Breeders' Cup races.

Another show segment highlights stallions residing at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky., and an innovative exercise program for the retired residents.

FINISH LINES: Trainer Gary Stute called Papa Clem’s five furlong drill on Pro-Ride Friday in a bullet :57.80 “super, better than I could have hoped for.” The Arkansas Derby winner is being pointed to the Grade II San Fernando Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 16 . . . ShowVivor began 2010 Friday with 3,215 participants, while its new cousin, WinVivor, had 2,759. Entering Saturday’s races, there were 2,086 alive in ShowVivor and 1,980 in WinVivor.

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