Setsuko, second in the 2010 Santa Anita Derby but sidelined since finishing fourth in Grade II American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs last April 30, is set to return to the races in the Grade I, $250,000 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on opening day, Sunday, Dec. 26.

The seven furlong race exclusively for 3-year-olds promises to draw a classy and competitive field, but Richard Mandella feels maiden winner Setsuko deserves the chance.

“He sored up a little bit in his ankles when we took him to Kentucky,” the Hall of Fame trainer said of the bay colt by Pleasantly Perfect owned by Wertheimer and Frere. “So I gave him a couple months rest and let him grow up. He’s done very well and is training so good I want to try him in the Malibu.

“I wasn’t really thinking of doing that until he worked so good (six furlongs at Santa Anita Wednesday in 1:14.20). I think it’s time to see what we’ve got.”

Although Setsuko has yet to win a stakes, he has never been off the board in nine starts, earning $243,326. In 58 previous runnings, Mandella has won the Malibu a record four times, with Rock Hard Ten (2004), Dixie Union (2000), Afternoon Deelites (1995) and Oraibi (1988).

Probable for the Malibu: Alcindor, Rafael Bejarano; Caracortado, Joe Talamo; Twirling Candy, Joel Rosario; Noble’s Promise, Julien Leparoux; Setsuko, Alex Solis; and Thomas Baines, Martin Pedroza.


Zenyatta, the great race mare who was retired to be bred at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky after losing by a head to Blame in the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Classic despite unleashing her signature last-to-first run, is doing well in her new environment, according to Jerry Moss, who owns the 6-year-old daughter of Street Cry with his wife, Ann.

“She’s absolutely doing great,” Moss said. “Every report we get is good. She’s getting close to the point where they take the shank off her a little bit, which is quite an amazing time. We’re hoping to witness it.” (A shank is a rope or strap attached to a halter or bridle by which a horse is led).

Zenyetta’s first suitor in the breeding shed has not been announced. “We haven’t come up with a real decision on that yet that we can talk about,” Moss said. “But we’re pleased with the progress she’s made down there. She seems very happy. We were there for about three days and people couldn’t have been nicer, so I’m excited about it.”

If Zenyatta is not named Horse of the Year 2010 and finishes second to Blame, it would mark the third straight year she was second in the voting. She was runner-up to Curlin in 2008 and second to Rachel Alexandra last year.

Zenyatta concluded her career with earnings of $7,304,580 and was unbeaten in her first 19 starts, displaying stretch runs that had to be seen to be believed, before losing to Blame in the Classic. If Zenyatta is denied again this year, Moss will remain perpetually perplexed.

“I think she certainly deserves it,” he said, “just on class and what she’s accomplished. But I really don’t like to get into this name-calling and start denigrating other horses. I don’t like to do that. I say, ‘Congratulations to everybody,’ but I think we deserve it, that’s all.

“If it doesn’t happen, it will be a bit of a travesty. I don’t know how you can win the Classic one year and not be Horse of the Year, and miss by six inches the next year and not win it again.”

FINISH LINES: Garrett Gomez is closing in on leader Ramon Dominguez in pursuit of his fifth consecutive national money-winning title. Through Dec. 8, Gomez trailed Dominguez by $399,071, $16,998,792 to $16,599,721. Gomez, who turns 39 on Jan. 1, would equal Laffit Pincay Jr.’s money won streak of five consecutive years set from 1970 through 1974, but would fall short of Bill Shoemaker’s mark of seven straight years, established from 1958 through 1964 . . . Doug O’Neill, leading trainer at Santa Anita from 2004 through 2007, has 45 horses on hand for the upcoming meet. “I’m lovin’ it,” O’Neill said, and he wasn’t talking about McDonald’s. He was speaking of Santa Anita’s new traditional dirt main track . . . Track superintendent Richard Tedesco sealed the track Thursday afternoon in anticipation of the possibility of rain overnight. The track was opened at 7:30 a.m. Friday and there were 109 recorded workouts, including stakes winners Always a Princess for Bob Baffert (six furlongs in a bullet 1:10) and Kelly Leak (four furlongs in :48.80) for Mike Machowksy . . . Trainer Carl O’Callaghan reports Golden Shaheen winner Kinsale King will be pointed to defend his crown next March, but plans to have one prep prior to the Dubai race, possibly in the Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes at six furlongs Jan. 22 . . . Agent Jim Pegram has lost 80 pounds since Feb. 1, simply by watching his diet. “I won’t say what I weigh now and what I started at, because it’s too embarrassing,” said Pegram, who represents top jockey Martin Garcia, who is expected to return to action in five or six weeks.