STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN

• TALAMO ON SPEEDY AGGIE ENGINEER IN SAN PASQUAL STAKES

• SWITCH SET FOR GRADE I SANTA MONICA ON JAN. 30

• BERRIO LEAVES HOSPITAL FOR TEMPLE CITY HOME

TALAMO COMES OF AGE AS HE NEARS 21ST BIRTHDAY

Despite time lost due to an injury, Joe Talamo enjoyed a successful 2010. He is looking forward to even better things this year, and not just because he’ll celebrate his 21st birthday on Jan. 12. The affable Louisiana native has a front-runner’s chance aboard Aggie Engineer for trainer Paddy Gallagher in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 San Pasqual Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, a major prep for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 5.

With the likelihood of a short field, headed by Dakota Phone, 37-1 winner of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, on paper, Aggie Engineer figures to be on the lead. Knowing that, Talamo dismisses the possibility of a pre-race burden, whether it’s justifiable or not.

“I know one thing; I love pressure,” he said. “But he’s such a versatile horse, he really doesn’t need the lead. Obviously, he runs his best races on the front. He had such a great trip last time; he walked the dog.”

That was in the Grade III Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park Dec. 4, when Aggie Engineer led throughout the nine-furlong race to win by a length and three quarters under 116 pounds. Overall, the chestnut gelding by E Dubai has a 6-4-2 record from 16 starts, with earnings of $268,280 for owners Ward and Roberta Williford of Dallas.

“But what I really like about him is, he’s training real good,” Talamo said. “Whether they go slow or not, he really has a good turn of foot. The way the track’s playing, it should be right in his favor.”

Talamo has every reason to be optimistic about the future. He missed two months with a broken left wrist last summer, which his agent, Scott McClellan, estimates cost him some 40 winners and seven stakes victories. With two wins Saturday and seven through six days of the 76-day winter/spring meet, he ranked third in the standings behind alpha jocks Rafael Bejarano and Joe Rosario.

“I think breaking my wrist at Del Mar hurt us a lot,” Talamo said. “But that’s part of the game. There are peaks and valleys. I’m just real happy we rebounded real quick. We’re really getting into some good barns. We’re getting a lot of better opportunities this year than we had last year, so I think that’s going to help out this meet.”

SANTA MONICA NEXT FOR LA BREA WINNER SWITCH, SADLER SAYS

John Sadler, who continues to nurse a bad knee, was back walking the beat at Santa Anita Sunday morning, cane in hand, and said La Brea Stakes winner Switch would make her next start in the Grade I Santa Monica Stakes at seven furlongs on Jan. 30.

“Twirling Candy will go in either the San Fernando (Jan. 15) or the Strub (Feb. 5), Sidney’s Candy the same schedule. Asked if he planned to keep the two apart as long as possible, Sadler said, “Yes, probably.” Twirling Candy won the Grade I Malibu on opening day, while Sidney’s Candy won the Grade III Sir Beaufort Stakes, which, due to heavy rain, was moved from one mile on turf to the traditional dirt main track.

Last week, Santa Anita’s leading trainer the last two meets said surgery was contemplated for his ailing right knee, but that’s on hold. “I’m just rehabbing right now,” he said. Due to his limited mobility, Sadler watched his three stars win consecutive graded races from home on TV opening day.

McMURTRY NEW MORNING LINE CHOICE IN SUNDAY’S EIGHTH

After It's Not Unusual was scratched Sunday morning from the eighth race, the Kent Molinaro-conditioned McMurtry (3-1 on the original line) became the new morning line favorite.

“This is an unusual situation in which I have changed the morning line favorite,” noted Jon White, who makes the morning line at Santa Anita. “Why? The original Sunday morning line was submitted Saturday morning. After that, early speed—particularly inside early speed—proved extremely successful on the Saturday card.

“Many bettors no doubt are aware of how Santa Anita's main track played Saturday. Thus, it will likely have a major impact in terms of the wagering on Sunday's card. McMurtry looks like he will go right to the front in the eighth race. Because bettors probably now will be playing McMurtry even more heavily based on the way early speed fared Saturday, I feel it's better to go ahead and switch morning line favoritism to McMurtry following the scratch of It's Not Unusual rather than stick with Valiant Effort (originally listed at 5-2) as the favorite.

“It is my goal to give the public the best line I possibly can. So when I do a revised morning line after a scratch, I believe it is best for the public that I make that revised line based on how circumstances have changed since the original morning line the day before.”

The revised morning line for Sunday’s eighth race: It's Not Unusual (scratched), McMurtry (8-5), Lodi Red (8-1), Valiant Effort (2-1), Pop’shands Are Hot (5-1), Accelerant (7-2) and Papa Lev (15-1).

FINISH LINES: Trainer A.C. Avila said Omar Berrio was at his Temple City home Sunday morning, but the 42-year-old jockey, who suffered an apparent stroke after Thursday’s races is scheduled to return to Arcadia Methodist Hospital shortly for further evaluation . . . Joel Rosario and his agent, Ron Ebanks, take the red eye to Florida after today’s races, where Santa Anita’s second-leading jockey rides at Gulfstream Park on opening day, Wednesday. “We’ll also visit trainers at Payson Park and Palm Meadows,” Ebanks said. “We’ll spend three days in Florida riding and shaking hands. We’ll be back Wednesday night after the races and ride here Thursday.” . . . Betting was up significantly through nine races at Santa Anita on Jan. 1, 2011, compared to Jan. 1, 2010, when a total of 10 races were run. On-track handle on the nine-race card Saturday showed an increase of 7.53 percent; satellite wagering 12.55 percent; out-of-state handle 8.62 percent; and all sources handle was up 9.20 percent . . . Richard Mandella on the impressive debut of Rumor, who won at first asking Friday by 6 ¾ lengths, covering six furlongs in 1:07.97. “Yesterday she was a rumor; today’s she’s a fact. Seriously, she had trained very well, enough to make us think she was pretty good,” Mandella said of the then 2-year-old daughter of Indian Charlie-Mini Chat. Asked if Rumor would go through conditions, Mandella said, “I have no idea right now.” . . . Kayla Stra is back from a successful tour at Golden Gate Fields to ride regularly at Santa Anita. “I’m still looking for an agent,” she said . . . Santa Anita is dark Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Racing resumes Thursday at 1 p.m.

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