STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN

· SADLER OFF AND RUNNING IN DEFENSE OF SANTA ANITA TITLE

· CASSIDY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT NEW YEAR AT SANTA ANITA

· LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL AFTER RECORD RAINFALL

SADLER EYES QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY, THIS MEET

John Sadler hopes to get off to a winning start as he pursues his third consecutive Santa Anita training title when he sends out six horses at The Great Race Place on opening day, Sunday.

Sadler has five horses entered in the four stakes races Sunday: Twirling Candy and Don Tito in the Grade I Malibu Stakes; Switch in the Grade I La Brea Stakes; Sidney’s Candy in the Grade II Sir Beaufort Stakes; and Contemplated in the $100,000 California Breeders’ Champion Stakes. But if Sadler wins the crown, the 54-year-old Long Beach native, a successful fixture on the California circuit for more than three decades, will do it with quality, not quantity.

“I think I’ll have a good meet,” said Sadler, who won 41 races from 192 starters last meet, outfinishing runner-up Bob Baffert, who had 34 wins from 154 starters. “I don’t quite have the numbers I had last year,” Sadler continued, “but as far as having nice horses and having a good meet, we feel good about that.”

Despite record rainfall in Southern California the past week that forced alterations in training schedules, Sadler is optimistic about his charges’ chances. “They’re coming up to the race in very good shape,” Sadler said. “We’re really happy with the track, although we’re catching kind of a historical amount of rain. That forced me to switch works for some of them, but we just adjusted to the weather.”

“We’re all in the same boat,” said Mike Machowsky, trainer of Malibu contender, the California-bred Caracortado. “I missed a work with him, but everybody had to deal with the weather. We’ll just gallop into the race. We’ll be OK.”

The field for the Malibu, which goes as the eighth race on a nine-race program: Paris Vegas, Corey Nakatani; Alcindor, Rafael Bejarano; Thiskyhasnolimit, Garrett Gomez; Caracortado, Joe Talamo; Noble’s Promise, Julien Leparoux; Setsuko, Alex Solis; Don Tito, Patrick Valenzuela; Thomas Baines, Martin Pedroza; Twirling Candy, Joel Rosario; Our Minesweeper, Brice Blanc; and Smiling Tiger, Russell Baze. Each horse is assigned 118 pounds, except Smiling Tiger, with 123.

CAL-BRED STAKES STARS ON THE MARK FOR CASSIDY

Jim Cassidy always had high hopes for The Usual Q.T., but the filly Evening Jewel has exceeded his expectations. The Usual Q.T. has two Grade I victories on his resume that includes eight wins and five seconds from 18 starts, with earnings of $1,405,240. Evening Jewel was beaten a nose twice in Grade I races by pro tem 3-year-old filly leader Blind Luck while compiling a 6-5-2 record from 14 starts. She has earned $1,015,943.

Each horse finished third in their last race, the Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 6 and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare sprint on Nov. 5, respectively.

Next up: the Grade II San Gabriel Stakes at 1 1/18 miles on turf for The Usual Q.T. on Monday, and the Grade III Monrovia Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf for Evening Jewel Jan. 2. “The filly is definitely an over-achiever,” Cassidy said between raindrops at Clockers’ Corner Wednesday morning. “I always liked The Usual Q.T. It was just a matter of him getting the chance. When he won the Oak Tree Derby here last year I knew we had something special.”

Both The Usual Q.T. and Evening Jewel are California-breds, the former by the prolific Unusual Heat and the 3-year-old filly by Northern Afleet.

Cassidy said The Usual Q.T. would run in the San Gabriel only if it remains on turf.

SANTA ANITA FARES WELL AFTER MORE THAN A FOOT OF RAIN

After record rainfall in Southern California over the past week that dumped more than 12 inches on Santa Anita’s new traditional dirt main track, there was light at the end of the tunnel as opening day approached on Sunday.

“We’ve had over 12 inches since the rains started last week,” said Track Superintendent Richard Tedesco at 11 o’clock Wednesday morning. “Right now, I’m walking the track at the quarter pole and it’s pretty firm. We plan to open most of the track for training Thursday and all of the track Friday, if things go as expected. The forecast calls for clearing soon, but there could be another system in Saturday that could bring another quarter inch of rain. We’ll see.”

FANS CAN JOIN SMITH, BAFFERT TONIGHT AT ESPN ZONE LA LIVE

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, the regular rider of the great Zenyatta, and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, will appear at the ESPN Zone L.A. Live, in downtown Los Angeles tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. HRTV racing analyst Peter Lurie will join the distinguished duo. Opening day passes, Santa Anita T-shirts, posters and hats will be given away to those in attendance.

For further information, contact Tim Whiteman or Jeff Freedman at ESPNZONE@LALIVE, or Tim.Whiteman@espnzonelalive.com or Fsprjeff@aol.com. They may be called at 213 765-7078 and 310 871-8317, respectively.

The show will feature a special pre-opening look at the upcoming Santa Anita meet that starts Sunday. Fans attending the Clippers versus the Houston Rockets game (7:30 p.m. tipoff) at Staples Center are welcome to join in.

FINISH LINES: Ben Cecil hopes Sebastain Flyte fares better in Sunday’s Grade II Sir Beaufort Stakes than the 3-year-old English-bred colt has in his last two races. “He’s had some bad luck,” the trainer said. “In the Oak Tree Derby, he was too far back and had no pace going and flew home (finishing fourth, beaten three-quarters of a length). In the Hollywood Derby, he had a tight start and steadied at the eighth pole. This is not an easy spot with Sidney’s Candy in there, but my colt is on the improve.” Eclipse Award-winning jockey Julien Leparoux comes in to ride. “The owners had luck with him in the past and we figured he’d be a good fit for the horse,” Cecil explained. “He’s a really nice horse and getting better and better.” . . . Condolences to family and friends of long-time owner Jim Vreeland, who died earlier this week at the age of 65 . . . . La Caňada Stables owner Ron Valenta, who led the 2009/2010 owner standings with 14 wins, hopes to continue the success he’s enjoyed with his private trainer, Jack Carava. Valenta led all owners at the Hollywood Park Fall Meeting with eight wins, but Carava, a 44-year-old Arcadia native, does not anticipate any former claiming horses developing into stakes winners, as was the case with First Intent in 1997. “This meet should probably start a little slow until we make some claims,” Carava said. “Our stock is a little weak right now. Hopefully, after we get some horses in place, we should finish strong. Right now, we just have everyday, bread and butter type horses. We have the right horses for the right races, so if nothing else, we’ll keep the racing office happy.” . . . Guest handicappers on Fans’ Forum opening day will be syndicated handicapper Terry Turrell and his son, handicapper/clocker Toby Turrell. Jack Disney hosts the session starting at 10:45 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens. First post time for Sunday’s nine-race card is 12 noon.

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