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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
GOMEZ SITTING PRETTY ON LOOKIN AT LUCKY IN SANTA ANITA DERBY
This is the time of year some jockeys are playing musical 3-year-olds, trying to land a mount for the Kentucky Derby. Not Garrett Gomez. He has his horse, and the 38-year-old rider wouldn’t trade places with anyone.
Gomez is the regular rider of last year’s 2-year-old male champion Lookin At Lucky, one of the nation’s leading contenders for the Run for the Roses on May 1, who is the 4-5 morning line favorite to win Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, the West Coast’s premier steppingstone to the world-famous classic at Churchill Downs.
Gomez has ridden Lookin At Lucky in each of the colt’s seven starts, losing only once, when they were compromised with an outside post position and poor racing luck through the stretch, missing victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by a head last Nov. 7. Gomez expects far better fortunes in the Santa Anita Derby, a race he won last year aboard Pioneerof the Nile, trained by Bob Baffert, who also conditions Lookin At Lucky.
“That’s a good spot for him,” Gomez said, addressing post position seven in the field of 10 going a mile and an eighth. “Any spot’s good for him, except the 13 hole (the colt’s post in the Juvenile). He’s very versatile and I can pretty much do what I want with him. That’s what makes a good horse.”
Both Gomez and Baffert were satisfied with Lookin At Lucky’s debut as a 3-year-old on March 13, when he overcame a nightmarish trip to win the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park by a head. It was the son of Smart Strike’s first start on traditional dirt and his first race in blinkers.
“We know that he handles the dirt now,” Gomez said. “One of my main questions was how he was going to handle it, not just running over it, but having it hit him in the face. He flinched at it for a second, and then traveled well within himself.
“He answered all the questions the right way. He ended up having to do more than we wanted, and we were more animated than we wanted to be, but he handled the situation well, and that’s good, because it’s a scenario he could face in the Derby. It will give him a stronger foundation for the road ahead.”
Should Lookin At Lucky win the Santa Anita Derby, he would be the first 2-year-old champion to win the track’s marquee race for 3-year-olds since Affirmed in 1978.
Lookin At Lucky galloped a mile and a half Thursday on Santa Anita’s main track.
In other Santa Anita Derby news:
Caracortado, winner of the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes, galloped a mile and a half on Santa Anita’s main track Thursday for trainer Mike Machowsky, who was not unduly concerned that free-running Sidney’s Candy would enjoy a favorable pace scenario, similar to the one he got in winning the Grade II San Felipe on March 13.
“I looked at the race on paper, and I think we’re going to get a real good trip,” he said. “I think maybe Who’s Up or (Jerry) Hollendorfer’s horse (Skipshot) will keep Sidney’s Candy honest, and if they don’t, I can. My horse needs to sit close . . . He’s so ratable. He’s very handy . . . so I’m not worried about pace. We’ll put it on if we have to.”
San Vicente and San Felipe Stakes winner Sidney’s Candy galloped a mile and a half over Santa Anita’s main track for John Sadler.
Skipshot galloped a mile and a half on the main track, will do the same Friday and will walk on Saturday, according to Dan Ward, assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
The M Racing duo of Who’s Up and Cardiff Giant continued on course for trainer Mike Puhich. “Who’s Up jogged one mile and stood in the gate, and Cardiff Giant galloped a mile and a half,” Puhich said. Asked if he had concerns that Sidney’s Candy would get loose on the lead, Puhich said, “Who’s Up is fresh and fit, and I’m not going to take him out of his game. I’m not going to change his running style at all. I’ll leave it up to Victor (Espinoza).”
Posse Power galloped a mile and a half under John Ferzacka for trainer Frank Lucarelli. “He’ll gallop again Friday and on Saturday, he might have a little jog,” Lucarelli said.
Setsuko galloped a mile and a half for Richard Mandella. “He’s as good as he can be,” the Hall of Fame trainer said of the Sham runner-up, who is in need of graded earnings to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. “We’ll find out if we’re good enough or not. You’ve got to be good enough first, then worry about graded earnings.”
Sham Stakes winner Alphie’s Bet galloped a mile and a half at his Hollywood Park headquarters. Trainer Alexis Barba plans to bring the California-bred son of Tribal Rule to Santa Anita around 10 a.m. on Friday. “He’ll school that day,” Barba said. “I’m happy with the No. 10 post position. It’s the same one he had when he won the Sham. Maybe it’s a good luck omen.” Thomas Baines galloped a mile and a half at Hollywood Park for trainer Doug O’Neill.
The field for the 73rd Santa Anita Derby, which is the sixth race on an 11-race program: Posse Power, Leslie Mawing, 50-1; Thomas Baines, Joel Rosario, 50-1; Who’s Up, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; Sidney’s Candy, Joe Talamo, 3-1; Setsuko, Rafael Bejarano, 20-1; Caracortado, Paul Atkinson, 5-1; Lookin At Lucky, Garrett Gomez, 4-5; Cardiff Giant, Christian Santiago Reyes, 30-1; Skipshot, Frank Alvarado, 15-1; and Alphie’s Bet, Alex Solis, 8-1. Each carries 122 pounds.
All fans in attendance at Santa Anita Saturday will receive a free, high-quality casual shirt with paid admission, while supplies last. There will also be a $500,000 guaranteed Pick 4.
NBC will televise live the Santa Anita Derby and Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial from 2 to 3 p.m. HRTV will air the Santa Anita Derby on a delayed basis.
With the annual Santa Anita Derby Day 5K Run & Walk taking place Saturday morning, Baldwin Ave. between Huntington Drive to the south and Gate 7 to the north will be shut down at 7:30 a.m. for the race. To avoid congestion, it is recommended that employees use Gate 5, which opens at 6 a.m., and follow signs to the employee parking area.
First post time Saturday is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.
BAFFERT TO SIGN COLLECTIBLE JERSEYS ON SATURDAY
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who has won the Santa Anita Derby a record five times, will be available to sign the first-ever Bob Baffert collectible jersey documenting all of his Derby wins and past champions on Santa Anita Derby Day, Saturday, in Santa Anita’s East Paddock Gardens area.
These limited edition jerseys are available in two separate editions, both of which will be available for purchase at Santa Anita’s Champions! Gifts and Apparel.
Endorsed by Breeders’ Cup Ltd., Churchill Downs, Santa Anita, and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, these limited edition championship achievement jerseys are manufactured by MVP Athletic Apparel of Santa Clara, which also provides athletic sportswear for professional athletes and major sports teams nationally.
The $175 collectible features Baffert’s stable colors, a picture of Baffert on the sleeve, recognition of his Hall of Fame induction and an embroidered listing of many of his past and present champions including Lookin At Lucky, Midshipman, Indian Blessing, Vindication, War Emblem, Point Given, Chilukki, Silverbulletday, Real Quiet and Silver Charm.
This impressive roster includes the most prestigious graded stakes races won by each horse.
The $90 collectible includes Baffert’s stable colors, a picture of America’s most recognizable horseman and the year (2009) in which he was inducted in the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame.
Baffert and his wife, Jill, have announced that proceeds from the sale will go to benefit Old Friends Equine, a Kentucky retirement center for Thoroughbreds in Georgetown, Kentucky.
In addition to benefiting Old Friends, it is hoped that merchandising of this kind will help to enhance awareness of the Thoroughbred industry nationally.
Both jerseys prominently display the number three, emblematic of his three Kentucky Derby champions: Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (’98) and War Emblem (2002).
Anyone wishing to purchase these jerseys is encouraged to go to www.mvpchampions.com.
VERSATILE COMPARI SEEKS SIXTH STRAIGHT WIN IN ARCADIA HANDICAP
They don’t come more versatile than Compari. The 4-year-old California-bred gelding seeks his sixth straight win in a career of seven races when he runs in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 Budweiser Arcadia Handicap for older horses at one mile on turf.
Compari has won on synthetic, grass, sprinting and at distances up to a mile and an eighth for trainer Marty Jones, who is enjoying an impressive Santa Anita meet, with 10 wins from 47 starts to date.
“He’s done everything right,” said Garrett Gomez of Compari, who has benefited from the two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey’s guidance, resulting in four straight victories together. “He’s done everything Marty’s asked him to do, and I thought he really started moving forward when he brought him back off his layoff after the Snow Chief (Stakes last Dec. 17).
“The horse has gotten better and better. He handled the stretch out (from about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf in the Sensational Star Handicap on Jan. 1) and he handled the soft turf (in the Crystal Water Handicap at one mile on a “good” turf course Feb. 28). He’s turned into a nice horse and it’s a pleasure to be riding him.”
The field for the Arcadia: Battle of Hastings, Tyler Baze, 120; Compari, Gomez, 117; Blue Chagall, Alex Solis, 117; Fluke, Joe Talamo, 119; Golden Balls, Brice Blanc, 116; Swift Winds, Alonso Quinonez, 114; and Aitcho, Mike Smith, 115.
FINISH LINES: Jose Valdivia Jr. rides Robert B. Lewis Stakes runner-up Dave in Dixie for John Sadler Saturday in the Grade III, $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course . . . Bob Mieszerski, contributor to the Orange County Register and the Today’s Racing Digest website, and race caller/impersonator Frank Mirahmadi, will be Jack Disney’s guests on Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:15 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens.