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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
SIDNEY’S CANDY, ‘LUCKY’ SMELL ROSES AFTER EVENTFUL SANTA ANITA DERBY
It was all quiet on the Western front Sunday morning after the most eventful Santa Anita Derby in recent memory Saturday. It was on to the Kentucky Derby for front-running winner Sidney’s Candy, and ditto for third-place finisher Lookin At Lucky, the 4-5 favorite who, after troubled trips in three of his last four races, perhaps should be called Lookin At Unlucky.
On a pleasantly cool, intermittently sunny Easter morning, tempers and rhetoric had subsided to the norm less than 24 hours after blows both verbal and physical were hurled following the West Coast’s premier steppingstone to the Run for the Roses on May 1.
An incident midway on the second turn in the mile and an eighth Santa Anita Derby sparked the outbursts. Lookin At Lucky, ridden by Garrett Gomez, “steadied and was shuffled back midway on that turn” when Who’s Up, running in second at the time under Victor Espinoza, “angled to the rail.” Gomez lost whatever chance he had of winning, but rallied to finish third, beaten six lengths by Sidney’s Candy and one and a half by Setsuko, who closed from 10th and last to capture second.
Jill Baffert, wife of Bob Baffert, trainer of Lookin At Lucky, verbally took Espinoza to task outside the jockeys’ room after the race, but Espinoza said Sunday morning that apologies had been exchanged Saturday night.
Directly after the running of the race, the stewards conducted an inquiry, but took no immediate action. Not so for Gomez, who confronted Espinoza weighing in at the scales, raining at least one punch on Espinoza. It made good theater on ESPN’s SportsCenter Saturday night, and in Sunday’s print publications, but common sense prevailed Sunday and it was back to the business at hand.
The California Horse Racing Board of stewards held a hearing on the incident Sunday morning before the races. Frank Alvarado, rider of fifth-place finisher Skipshot, was absolved of any wrongdoing; Espinoza received a three-day suspension starting next Sunday; and Gomez was fined $750 for his actions after the race, according to steward Tom Ward.
“Sidney’s Candy came back good,” said John Sadler, on his way to his second straight Santa Anita training title. Sadler would have his second starter in the Run for the Roses with the son of Candy Ride. “We don’t have a departure date yet. We’ll play it by ear, but we’re not going for at least a week.”
The Derby would be the first race for Sidney’s Candy on traditional dirt after six starts on synthetics. “I don’t think he’s going to have a problem,” Sadler said. “He’s a good horse.”
“Lookin At Lucky looks fantastic today,” said Baffert, who is seeking his fourth Derby win. “He’s happy, so that’s good. He leaves on the 12th (for Churchill Downs) and yeah, Gomez will ride him back." The two-time Eclipse Award winner has ridden the son of Smart Strike in each of his eight races.
“Garrett came by the barn this morning and we talked things over. I didn’t like where the horse was the first 100 yards, but I should have told Garrett exactly what to do. I just left it up to him and I messed it up.
“In the Rebel (Stakes on March 13), he was really knocked out after the race. But this is the best the horse has ever come out of a race. He was ice cold and he was bouncing. We learned a lot about the horse that will really help his chances in the Derby. We got beat by a very nice horse (in Sidney’s Candy), and you can’t make any mistakes against a horse like that. We’re not the favorite (for the Derby) anymore. We’ve dropped down a few notches, but what the hell. California 3-year-olds are very good this year. They’re tough.”
“If we can go, I want to go,” said Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella of Setsuko, who picked up $150,000 for finishing second, giving him $180,000 in graded earnings, the final criterion in determining the 20 horses that will start in the Kentucky Derby. “He came out of the race great. Now, it just depends on if he gets to do it or not.”
Mike Machowsky, trainer of Caracortado, who ran fourth after steadying in the incident with Lookin At Lucky and Who’s Up, said, “We have no plans right now. We’ll see how it plays out. I wouldn’t rule out the Derby, but he’d have to be kicking the barn down, and all that. I don’t think anybody was going to beat Sidney’s Candy. He looked very, very strong. Too bad there was all that rough riding.”
CHANEY, CADMAN WINNERS IN SANTA ANITA DERBY DAY 5K RUN
California Horse Racing Board steward Scott Chaney had time to stop, have a cold drink and handicap the Santa Anita Derby, before continuing on to the finish line as the winner of the men’s employee division of Saturday’s annual Santa Anita Derby Day 5K run. Zoe Cadman of HRTV was a late entry and surprised a strong field to win the women’s employee division.
On a clear, cool morning, over 4,900 participants, Santa Anita’s biggest 5K crowd, enjoyed the 3.1 mile course through the Arboretum and along the backside of the racetrack before finishing on the training track. The total included over 800 runners and walkers from AbilityFirst in Pasadena, which made the Derby Day 5K its venue for its annual fundraiser.
Chaney ran in the Open (under 40 years of age) race and finished a very respectable ninth overall (and seventh in his age group) among 2,315 participants. Longshot Rene Henriquez of Santa Anita’s starting gate crew clocked a commendable 23:54, followed by Jerry Gutierrez from Plant.
Cadman, an ex-rider, finished first in her age group and 169th overall. Sandy Hoar of Hospitality collected her second second-place medal in a row, while third place was captured by another late entry, Mignon Underwood, who helps her mom Helen out at Terrace Food Court.
FREE TOC CONFORMATION CLINICS NEXT SATURDAY
The public is invited to free horse “Conformation Clinics” hosted by Thoroughbred Owners of California next Saturday, April 10, 10 a.m., at the Top O’ The Stretch at Santa Anita and the Owner/Trainer Lounge at Golden Gate Fields.
Participants will meet leading California trainers, including Jamie Lloyd and Howard Zucker at Santa Anita, and Jeff Bonde and Keith Nations at Golden Gate, and get a close-up look at racehorses. The trainers will cover basics of racehorse conformation and how it relates to soundness and performance.
Although the events are free and open to the public, reservations are recommended and can be made by calling TOC at (800) 994-9909, or online at www.toconline.com. Santa Anita is located at 285 W. Huntington Dr, Arcadia, CA, 91007. The Top o’ the Stretch is at the west end of the Grandstand, and can be reached by entering through Gate 8 off Baldwin Avenue. Golden Gate Fields is located at 1100 Eastshore Highway, Albany, CA, 94706. The Owner/Trainer Lounge is on the ground level just above the saddling paddock.
TOC is the official organization serving new, veteran and future Thoroughbred owners in the state. It represents, advances, and protects owners’ interests and rights in legislative, administrative and business matters. Additionally, the organization provides ongoing educational opportunities for current and prospective owners, regularly presenting programs on Thoroughbred ownership including Ownership 101 Seminars, Advanced Horse Courses, and Conformation Clinics. www.toconline.com.
FINISH LINES: Rafael Bejarano, who has the Santa Anita riding title all but wrapped up with an 85-59 lead over runner-up Joel Rosario through Saturday, rides San Felipe Stakes runner-up Interactif for Todd Pletcher in next Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, agent Joe Ferrer reports . . . Bourbon Bay worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s firm turf course Sunday in 1:19.80 for Neil Drysdale, who is preparing the San Luis Obispo and San Luis Rey winner for the Grade II, $150,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at about 1 ¾ miles on turf closing day, April 18 . . . Geovanni Franco won his first race at Santa Anita in stylish fashion Friday, guiding Sidepocket Lou to a one and a quarter-length victory for owner/trainer Jorge Periban in the fourth race. Franco had 30 wins prior to the victory. The native of Mexico City had been riding at Hastings Park in Vancouver before coming to Southern California. The 19-year-old, who has a seven-pound apprentice allowance, is represented by agent Jim Pegram. Puerto Rican native Luis Medina also won his first race at Santa Anita Friday, piloting Impregnable to a front-running victory for trainer Mike Pender at a $29.20 payoff. Medina, 24, rode Twin Peaks to victory in world-record time for six furlongs of 1:06.49 in the Caballo del Sol Stakes at Turf Paradise last Nov. 21 . . . The Legislative, Legal, and Regulations Committee of the California Horse Racing Board will convene a public meeting Wednesday, April 14, 2:30 p.m., in Santa Anita’s Baldwin Terrace Room. The Committee is working with the horse racing industry, legislature, governor and fans to reach a consensus on legislation to help move horse racing forward. The Committee also will review other pending legislation involving horse racing.