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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN, FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27TH, 2009
REDDAM MULLS SANTA ANITA HANDICAP FOR RED ROCKS
Red Rocks, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 2006 and the Grade I Man o’ War Stakes on turf at Belmont Park last July, could make his first start on a surface other than grass in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 7.
“He’s going to breeze Saturday (five furlongs at Payson Park in Florida) and then we’ll think about it,” trainer Mark Hennig said by phone late Thursday. “Paul’s never shy about taking a shot,” Hennig continued, referring to owner J. Paul Reddam. “He’s expressed some interest.”
Red Rocks, a 6-year-old Irish-bred horse by the Sadler’s Wells sire, Galileo, has a 6-4-3 record from 21 starts, with earnings of more than $2.8 million.
The Grade I Santa Anita Handicap at 1 ¼ miles is shaping up as one of the most competitive and diverse in recent years. Should Red Rocks run, eight Grade I winners, or more than half the field, could be among the starters. The Big ’Cap, at 1 ¼ miles, will be limited to 14 runners.
Probable for the 72nd Big ‘Cap: Blue Exit, Robby Albarado; Cause, Jon Court; Champs Elysees, Jose Valdivia Jr.; Colonel John, Garrett Gomez; Court Vision, Ramon Dominguez; Cowboy Cal, John Velazquez; Dansant, no rider; Einstein, Julien Leparoux; Magnum, Joel Rosario; Matto Mondo, Rafael Bejarano; Monba, Edgar Prado; Tiago, Mike Smith; and Zambezi Sun, Victor Espinoza.
Weights are due Saturday. If the race draws more than 14 starters, weight assignments are the first tiebreaker.
In other Big ’Cap news:
San Fernando Stakes winner Nownownow is scheduled to work on Pro-Ride Saturday, after which trainer Patrick Biancone will make a decision on the Big ’Cap or the Kilroe Mile.
European invader Dansant is scheduled to familiarize himself with Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride around 9 a.m. tomorrow.
All fans in attendance at Santa Anita will receive a free Big ‘Cap sports bag with paid admission, while supplies last. First post time is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.
SOLIS EXPECTS SPEEDY JOURNEY FOR THE PAMPLEMOUSSE IN SHAM STAKES
The Pamplemousse has captured the fancy of not only his trainer, Julio Canani, and his rider, Alex Solis, but the imagination of 3-year-old aficionados in anticipation of a run on the Triple Crown trail. The gray son of Kafwain, front-running winner of the Grade III San Rafael Stakes on Jan. 17, is the 9-5 morning line favorite to win Saturday’s Grade III Sham Stakes at 1 1/8 miles.
On paper, The Pamplemousse (the grapefruit) looks like the lone speed, although like each of the 12 entrants, he will be attempting nine furlongs for the first time.
“I study the past performances before the race, and I know how he runs,” Solis said. “I’m just going to let him come out of there and see where he places himself. If he’s in front, fine; if not, whatever.
“He’s going a mile and one eighth for the first time, but they’re all going a mile and one eighth for the first time. He ran great going a mile and a sixteenth already (breaking his maiden last Dec. 14), so it’s only another sixteenth. They’re all in the same boat.”
Solis is among three jockeys eligible this year for election into the National Racing Museum’s Hall of Fame. Disappointed when nominated in the past, the 44-year-old rider, who is joined by finalists Eddie Maple and Randy Romero, is keeping a stiff upper lip.
“I hope to God it happens,” he said.
Those with the highest number of votes in each category will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday, Aug. 14, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
The field for the ninth running of the Sham: High Flyin Indy, Alonso Quinonez, 30-1; Smart Bid, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; Tiz True, Aaron Gryder, 30-1; The Pamplemousse, Alex Solis, 9-5; Balfour Park, Brice Blanc, 30-1; Mr. Hot Stuff, Corey Nakatani, 7-2; Bourbon Bay, Joel Rosario, 15-1; Ventana, Jesus Rios, 15-1; Mark S the Cooler, Joe Talamo, 15-1; Unbridled Roman, Mike Smith, 12-1; and Take the Points, Garrett Gomez, 3-1. Lifeline was scratched.
TURF SPECIALIST GLOBAL HUNTER RETURNS TO GRASS IN KILROE MILE
With Global Hunter returning to turf in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on March 7, A.C. Avila is optimistic about the Argentine-bred 6-year-old’s chances. Global Hunter was third in the Feb. 7 Thunder Road Handicap, which was moved from turf to Pro-Ride due to weather conditions. He won the one mile Lure Stakes on turf at Oak Tree last Oct. 12.
“He’s much better on the grass,” the trainer said. “On Santa Anita’s old (synthetic) track, Cushion Track, he was much better, too, but on the new Pro-Ride, he’s only average. He’s a much better turf horse.”
The Thunder Road was Global Hunter’s first race in four months. “He came back to the races in good shape,” Avila said. “He’ll work an easy five-eighths on grass Sunday and we should be ready.”
Probable for the 50th Kilroe: Artiste Royal, Rafael Bejarano; Dixie Chatter, Tyler Baze; Global Hunter, Jose Valdivia Jr.; Hewitts, Mike Smith; Mr Napper Candy, Joel Rosario; and Ventura, Garrett Gomez.
ONLY THE GAME IS LOST IN JOCKEYS-HOLY ANGELS’ CHARITY EVENT
Santa Anita’s jockeys lost to Holy Angels’ seventh and eighth graders, 35-19, in the 42nd annual charity basketball game last night at Pasadena’s La Salle High School, but a good time was had by all.
“I got the first basket, and that was it,” said player-captain David Flores. “The kids are good. They opened a big lead after the first quarter. After all, basketball is their game, and we were in their territory. We were just out of our realm, but we had fun and tried the best we could, and it was for a good cause.” Proceeds benefit the Holy Angels athletic department.
“The turnout was really good,” Flores continued. “The people were very supportive and it turned out very nice. Eddie D. (Delahoussaye), Laffit (Pincay Jr.), Gary Stevens, Mike Smith (each a member of racing’s Hall of Fame) were there. The crowd was much better this year than it’s been in a long time, so I was pretty happy about that.”
In addition to Flores, among the riders playing for Santa Anita, whose lead in the series is now 22-20, were Rafael Bejarano, Brice Blanc, Ben Creed (currently a student at Chris McCarron’s jockey school in Lexington, Ky.), Isaias Enriquez, Corey Nakatani, Joe Talamo, Kayla Stra and Reed Saldana. Joshua Desormeaux, 16-year-old son of Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux, and Chris O’Leary of the track’s publicity department, also played. Former rider Alex Maese, winner of Santa Anita’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1966, and instrumental in the creation of the event, joined in the festivities.
Nakatani, who led the riders with 11 points, won the free throw contest at halftime, sinking 27 in just over three minutes. “Nobody brings more intensity to his profession than ‘Big Game’ Nakatani,” said the jockeys’ long-time coach, Kurt Hoover of HRTV.
VELAZQUEZ TO RECEIVE SANTA ANITA’S WOOLF AWARD ON SUNDAY, MARCH 8
John Velazquez, winner of the 2009 Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, will receive the prestigious honor at Santa Anita on Sunday, March 8.
In a ceremony between races in the Santa Anita winner’s circle, Velazquez will formally receive the Woolf Trophy and be joined by many former winners of the award, which was instituted by Santa Anita in 1950. By a vote of his peers nationwide, Velazquez was selected over four other finalists: Gary Baze, Calvin Borel, Javier Castellano and David Flores.
The winner’s trophy is a replica of the full-size statue of George Woolf which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area. The statue was created through donations from the racing public after Woolf’s death following a spill at Santa Anita on Jan. 13, 1946.
Woolf, who was regarded as one of the greatest big-money riders of his era, was affectionately known as “The Iceman” in reference to his cool under pressure, and was revered by his colleagues as a fierce competitor and consummate professional. The award, which honors and recognizes riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing, is regarded as one of the most prestigious honors in the racing world.
FINISH LINES: Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Pioneerof the Nile, the West Coast’s leading Triple Crown contender, is scheduled to work Sunday for the March 14 San Felipe Stakes. Hall of Fame nominee Bob Baffert said impressive maiden winner Zensational remains a San Felipe candidate, “if he works good” up to the race . . . Indian Blessing worked six furlongs on Pro-Ride Friday in a bullet 1:11.80 under former jockey Joey Steiner for the March 28 Golden Shaheen in Dubai . . . Lewis runner-up Papa Clem, prepping for the March 14 Louisiana Derby, worked one mile under Rafael Bejarano for trainer Gary Stute in 1:39.60 . . . A trip to Dubai for the $1 million Godolphin Mile is not likely for the undefeated Rail Trip, easy winner of his first four races. “They (owners Samantha and Mace Siegel) want to take the long-term approach, knowing that the Breeders’ Cup is here (at Oak Tree, Nov. 6 and 7),” explained trainer Ron Ellis, “so we’re probably looking at either the Santana Mile or the Oaklawn Handicap (each race is April 4, although the Santana Mile is a restricted race with a $70,000 purse; the Oaklawn Handicap is a Grade II race with a $500,000 purse at 1 1/8 miles). The money is not the primary factor,” Ellis continued. “We’re talking about a horse that’s still in development. We’ll try to get on a schedule that could lead to the Breeders’ Cup.” . . . Family and friends numbering more than 1,000 will attend an Ortega family fund-raiser Saturday in Santa Anita’s infield. They’ll be rooting for the David Bernstein-trained Return of the King in the fourth race. The fund-raiser will benefit the Ortega family, nine members of whom were murdered in a Christmas Eve massacre in West Covina . . . Sunday is Snow Day at Santa Anita, featuring 200 tons of snow, winter games, snow slides and an ice skating rink in the track’s infield. Kids of all ages are invited and admission for kids is free all day. Adult admission is $5. Pony rides, face painters, carnival games and inflatable moon bounces will be available.