European invader Dansant enjoyed taking in the scenic sights at Santa Anita for the first time Saturday morning, jogging twice around the track in preparation for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 7.

“He’s settled in very well and he’s very alert,” said Cindy Niemetz, West Coast representative for the International Racing Bureau. “He’s scheduled to canter tomorrow.”

Andrew Morris, traveling lad for trainer Gerard Butler, supervised Dansant’s maneuvers in Butler’s absence. No rider has been named for Dansant.

The Grade I Santa Anita Handicap at 1 ¼ miles is shaping up as one of the most competitive and diverse in recent years. As many as 11 Grade I winners, more than 78 percent of the field, could be among the starters. The Big ’Cap 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.

In other Big ’Cap news:

Red Rocks, who has raced exclusively on turf in his 21 career starts, worked five furlongs at Payson Park Saturday in 1:02.80. Trainer Mark Hennig said owner J. Paul Reddam is considering the race.

San Fernando Stakes winner Nownownow worked seven furlongs on Pro-Ride Saturday in 1:26.40 with Alex Solis up. Trainer Patrick Biancone said he will make a decision on either the Big ’Cap or the Kilroe Mile, after evaluating the weights. Weights are due this afternoon. If the race draws more than 14 starters, weight assignments are the first tiebreaker.

Bobby Frankel, who had been considering the Big ‘Cap or the Kilroe for Hollywood Gold Cup winner Mast Track, said he likely would pass both races in favor of the New Orleans Handicap on March 14. “We might wait for that race,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “It’s just a matter of if he’ll handle the traditional dirt surface.”

The New Orleans Handicap, a Grade II event at 1 1/8 miles at the Fair Grounds, offers a purse of $500,000. Mast Track worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride Saturday in :59 flat.
Strub Stakes runner-up Blue Exit worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride Saturday in :59.60 for Jerry Hollendorfer.
p>Helen Pitts-Blasi, trainer of multiple Grade I winner Einstein, who will represent the East Coast in the Big ’Cap, will be on HRTV’s “Across the Board” show next Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Jockey John Velasquez, who rides Cowboy Cal in the Big ‘Cap, and who will remain to accept the Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award next Sunday, March 8, will be the guest on a pre-taped episode of “ATB” which will air on Wednesday, March 11 at 5:00 p.m. Scott Hazelton and Becky Witzman host ATB. Chris Speck produces.

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.


Prior to the last Santa Anita meet, Mike Mitchell had 16 training titles on his lengthy resume, but until he captured the Santa Anita crown last season for No. 17, he hadn’t won one since 2004, when he led the Oak Tree meet.

Through 47 days of the current 84-day session, and with two winners yesterday, the 60-year-old Bakersfield native led the Santa Anita standings with 20 wins. Mitchell, in a three-way battle with Jeff Mullins and Doug O’Neill (tied with 18 each), was winning at an impressive rate of 26 percent, the same norm he achieved in 2007-08 when he won with 33 of 125 starters. He was third in purse earnings with slightly more than $1.5 million.

“I would love to win it again, but I was shocked I won it last year,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t think I’d be in the hunt. I had a really good meet, and John (runner-up John Sadler) had a bunch of seconds (27, along with 28 wins and 24 thirds), but it was great for me. Now I’m in the hunt again, but it’s a long way until April. I don’t look at it now. You go crazy if you do.” The meet ends April 19.

Mitchell has just over 50 horses at his Hollywood Park base, about half that of O’Neill’s mega-stable. “The Zayat horses helped,” Mitchell said, referring to an influx from owner Ahmed Zayat, “but they’re well bred and you can’t maneuver them around like you can a claiming horse. But I’m thrilled to have them, and it would be great if they help me win the title.”


Mr. Hot Stuff will be making his first start in a stakes race today as one of 10 sophomores in the Grade III Sham Stakes. The colt lost his first four starts, but showed dramatic improvement to win a one-mile maiden race on Feb. 1.

“The Pamplemousse looks like he will be tough to beat in the Sham, but Mr. Hot Stuff should be taken very seriously off his impressive maiden win and pedigree,” HRTV and Santa Anita simulcast network commentator Jon White said. “In Mr. Hot Stuff’s maiden win, he turned a 4 3/4-length deficit at the eighth pole into a 1 3/4-length victory. That was his best race yet by far.
“If Mr. Hot Stuff does win the Sham,” White added, “he will be following in the footsteps of his full brother, Colonel John, who won the Sham last year before going on to win the Santa Anita Derby and Travers. Mr. Hot Stuff also will be trying to make it back-to-back Sham wins for his owner and breeder (WinStar Farm) and trainer (Eoin Harty).”

Mr. Hot Stuff and Colonel John are sons of Tiznow and Sweet Damsel. Tiznow won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2000 en route to the Horse of the Year title. He won a second Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2001. Tiznow remains the only two-time Classic winner.

“Tiznow is one of three finalists this year for induction in the national Hall of Fame (along with Best Pal and Point Given) in the contemporary male category,” White noted. “Sweet Damsel is a daughter of Turkoman, who was voted a 1986 Eclipse Award as champion older male. Turkoman actually is proving to be a very good broodmare sire. He also is the broodmare sire of Point Given and Hard Spun (runner-up in the 2007 Kentucky Derby).”

The Pamplemousse had been on White’s Kentucky Derby Top 10 list until getting knocked off by Dunkirk.

“But if The Pamplemousse wins the Sham, he definitely will go right back on my Top 10 list,” White said.

Here is White’s current Kentucky Derby Top 10 list: (1) Pioneerof the Nile, (2) Old Fashioned, (3) Stardom Bound, (4) Friesan Fire, (5) Patena, (6) Capt. Candyman Can, (7) Papa Clem, (8) I Want Revenge, (9) Dunkirk, (10) Chocolate Candy.


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: California Oaks winner Will O Way worked five furlongs for Vladimir Cerin on Pro-Ride Saturday in a bullet :58.80 for her meeting with champion Stardom Bound in the Santa Anita Oaks next Saturday . . . Undefeated champion Zenyatta had her first official breeze Saturday since winning the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic last Oct. 23, going four furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track in :48.80, breezing, for John Shirreffs . . . Pioneerof the Nile is scheduled to work Sunday under Garrett Gomez for the March 14 San Felipe Stakes . . . With two wins yesterday, Gomez opened a 55-51 lead over Rafael Bejarano in the Santa Anita jockeys’ race . . . Sir Beaufort Stakes winner Gio Ponti, nominated to the Grade I Kilroe Mile on March 7, worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride Saturday in 1:02.60 for Christophe Clement. “He breezed very well,” said Clement assistant Nicholas Bachalard, “but no decision has been made on the Kilroe.” . . . CBS SportsCentral will televise Sunday’s Baldwin Stakes live at approximately 3:37 p.m. . . . Jason Levine, host of “Inside Racing” on XTRA (570 AM) at 8 a.m. on weekends, hosts a handicapping seminar next Saturday, March 7, 10:15 a.m., in Santa Anita’s executive board room. His special guest will be Alan Benowitz of Admission is $20 . . . 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.