STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN

SANTA ANITA DERBY KING STEVENS GOES FOR ‘10’ WITH LOOKIN AT LUCKY

Gary Stevens, who won the Santa Anita Derby a record nine times, is an integral member of the talented on-air team for NBC-TV, which will present the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby live on Saturday from 2 to 3 p.m.

Retired since November 2005, Stevens is also a full time analyst with HRTV. If the Hall of Fame rider had designs on making a comeback at the age of 46, which he doesn’t, there is only one horse Stevens would want to ride in tomorrow’s renewal of the West Coast’s premier steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby on May 1.

That would be Lookin At Lucky, the 4-5 morning line favorite in a field of 10 going a mile and an eighth. The Smart Strike colt is trained by Bob Baffert, who has won the Santa Anita Derby five times. Three of his horses were ridden by Stevens.

Along with the Santa Anita Derby, NBC also will show the Grade I, $750,000 Wood Memorial from Aqueduct, featuring Fountain of Youth Stakes winner and leading Kentucky Derby contender Eskendereya. HRTV will air the Santa Anita Derby on a delayed basis.

Stevens’ Santa Anita Derby winners were the filly Winning Colors (1988), Mister Frisky (1990), Personal Hope (1993), Brocco (1994), Larry the Legend (1995), Indian Charlie (1998), General Challenge (1999), Point Given (2001) and Buddy Gil (2003). Baffert trained Indian Charlie, General Challenge and Point Given.

“I’ve been reading Baffert’s quotes the last couple days, and it almost sounds like he’s ready to concede a defeat, if it happens,” Stevens said when asked his preview of the race. “I can’t see Lookin At Lucky getting beat.

“I suppose if there’s going to be an upset, I could give Sidney’s Candy a chance to take them gate to wire, and Caracortado’s really done nothing wrong. There was a lack of pace in the San Felipe (Stakes, won in front-running fashion by Sidney’s Candy, with Caracortado third). There should be a good pace in the Santa Anita Derby. If there were to be an upset, one of those two horses would be the one to do it. “But if I had a choice of horses to ride, it would be Lookin At Lucky, no doubt.”

In other Santa Anita Derby news:

Following the renovation break at 8:10 a.m., Lookin At Lucky galloped a mile and a half Friday on Santa Anita’s main track under Manny Avila.

Alphie’s Bet has accomplished something none of his nine Santa Anita Derby rivals has: he already has won at a mile and an eighth, when he captured the Grade III Sham Stakes while breaking from the No. 10 post position on March 6. The colt drew the same spot for Saturday’s race.

“Having already won at a mile and an eighth is a plus,” said his regular rider, Alex Solis. “We know he can go the distance . . . But we’re all looking for the same thing, a peak performance on the first Saturday in May.”

Solis, who won the Santa Anita Derby twice, in 1986 with Snow Chief and in 2006 aboard Brother Derek, knows full well not to take anything for granted. He missed out on last year’s Santa Anita Derby when his mount, The Pamplemousse, suffered a tendon injury and was scratched the day of the race.

“If Alphie’s Bet breaks like he did last time, he’s going to be more in the race,” Solis said. “I’m not going to do anything different. I’m not going to send him out of there. I’m just going to let him come out on his own and let him be happy. Hopefully, we can save some ground. The competition is a lot tougher this time (than in the San Felipe). We’ll try to get the best trip we can. But the most important thing of all is to stay healthy.”

Alphie’s Bet galloped a mile and a half at Hollywood Park before leaving for Santa Anita, where he was to bed down in Barn 118 for trainer Alexis Barba. The California-bred son of Tribal Rule was scheduled to school during today’s seventh race.

Caracortado galloped a mile and three-eighths on the main track for trainer Mike Machowsky. Sidney’s Candy galloped a mile and a half on the main track for John Sadler, who is well on his way to his second consecutive Santa Anita training title. Through Thursday, he led runner-up Bob Baffert, 38-27.

Skipshot galloped a mile and a half on the main track, and Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, was quietly optimistic that the winner of three straight races at Golden Gate Fields could upset Lookin At Lucky.

“Most of the prep races have produced surprises,” Ward said. “There might be a surprise in this race, too. Some of these 3-year-olds grow up overnight. This is a good time to find out.” M Racing’s duo of Who’s Up and Cardiff Giant both galloped a mile and a quarter for trainer Mike Puhich. “We’re ready to rock,” he said. “It’s all done but the shouting.”

Victor Espinoza, who rides Who’s Up, will keep an eye on expected pace-setter Sidney’s Candy. “My horse hasn’t run for a while (since last Nov. 28, when he won the Generous Stakes on grass), but it seems like he’s been working very well,” Espinoza said. “He’s been training good for this race. There’s a little bit of speed to challenge Sidney’s Candy, but I’ll play it by ear and see what happens when the gate opens.

“There will be pace in the race. Sidney’s Candy isn’t going to go (the first quarter) in :24 1/5 (his time for San Felipe Stakes). My horse has a lot of speed and I’m not going to be fighting him too much.”

Posse Power galloped two miles and then schooled in the paddock for trainer Frank Lucarelli. “We’re all set,” Lucarelli said.

Setsuko galloped a mile and a half for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella.

Thomas Baines was en route from his Hollywood Park headquarters, where he was to be bedded down in Barn 88 at Santa Anita for 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.

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 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.

TYLER BAZE HOPES TO WIN THE ‘BATTLE’ IN ARCADIA HANDICAP

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Tyler Baze is back on Battle of Hastings, and couldn’t be happier. The 27-year-old rider, who recently hired Vic Stauffer as his agent, rides the consistent gelding in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 Arcadia Handicap for older horses at one mile on turf.

Baze has ridden the English-bred son of Royal Applause in 10 of his 11 starts in the United States, four of them stakes victories. He missed the Hollywood Derby last Nov. 29 when he was recovering from surgery on his pinky finger.

“He always gives 100 percent,” Baze said of the 4-year-old gelding trained by Jeff Mullins. “I can do anything with him.” Outside of a seventh-place finish in the 2008 Generous Stakes in his U.S. debut, in 10 subsequent starts, Battle of Hasting has never been worse than fourth.

Baze, meanwhile, was seventh in Santa Anita’s standings with 37 victories through Thursday. “Vic’s working out great,” Baze said of Stauffer, who also represents Martin Garcia. “He works hard. I’m very happy with the way things are going.”

The field for the Arcadia: Battle of Hastings, Tyler Baze, 120, 3-1; Compari, Gomez, 117, 2-1; Blue Chagall, Alex Solis, 117, 6-1; Fluke, Joe Talamo, 119, 5-2; Golden Balls, Brice Blanc, 116, 15-1; Swift Winds, Alonso Quinonez, 114, 15-1; and Aitcho, Mike Smith, 115, 6-1.

FINISH LINES: Santa Anita regulars Rafael Bejarano and Garrett Gomez do battle at Oaklawn Park today. Bejarano rides 6-5 morning line favorite Blind Luck for Jerry Hollendorfer in the Grade II, $300,000 Fantasy Stakes, while Gomez pilots All Due Respect, 9-2 on the morning line, for trainer Kathy Walsh in the mile and one-sixteenth race . . . California Horse Racing Board steward Scott Chaney is the 1-9 favorite to win the men’s division of Santa Anita Derby Day’s 5K run Saturday, while Sandy Hoar of Hospitality is the 4-1 choice among women . . . Jockey Goncalino Almeida, a native of Rio de Janeiro, was instrumental in the sale that brought Brazilian-bred Zardana to America for owner Arnold Zetcher when she was trained by Ron McAnally. Now conditioned by John Shirreffs, Zardana will go down in racing lore for her upset victory over 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in the New Orleans Ladies’ Stakes on March 13. “She was a wonderful filly in Brazil,” McAnally recalled. “It was no shock to me that she beat Rachel Alexandra.”

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