Mike Mitchell has precedent going for him in next Saturday’s San Luis Rey Handicap. The 60-year-old trainer has more than one successful reclamation project on his lofty and lengthy resume, and he hopes to add to it with a 5-year-old gray gelding named You Got Me Rocking in the Grade II turf race at the marathon distance of a mile and one half.

On the Acorn and Star Over the Bay are among the former claiming horses Mitchell elevated to stakes winners. You Got Me Rocking will be seeking his first stakes victory in 15 career starts. He has started in only three, finishing eighth in the San Diego Handicap last July 19, third in the Del Mar Handicap on Aug. 23, and fifth in the Grade I Clement L. Hirsch at Oak Tree on Sept. 27.

“I bought him privately from Cody Autrey for Mr. Bacharach (internationally acclaimed composer, producer and conductor Burt Bacharach, who owns You Got Me Rocking with his wife, Jane),” Mitchell said. “They wanted horses to race at Del Mar. But after that, when I took the horse to Oak Tree, he was worn out. He didn’t run a bad race in the Hirsch (fifth of sixth after setting the pace), but I had to turn him out.

“Really, there wasn’t a thing wrong with him. I put him out in the sunshine at Bobby Mitchell’s Bonnie Acres Ranch in Hemet, and he’s come back real good.” So good, in fact, that on Feb. 26, You Got Me Rocking won an optional claming race at 1 1/8 miles on turf by 4 ¼ lengths, leading throughout under Tyler Baze.

“He’s trained real well,” Mitchell said. “Before, he’d get a little worked up and hot. Now, he’s settled down real nice. I always thought he could go this distance, so I asked Tyler how far the horse could run, and he said, ‘All day.’ I guess he’s kind of like Star Over the Bay.”

You Got Me Rocking is the first horse Mitchell has trained for Bacharach. He wishes he could have climbed aboard the Oscar-winning icon’s bandwagon sooner.

“I knew him through (the late) Dr. (Robert) Kerlan,” Mitchell said. “Doc and him were real good friends, and I would always sit with Dr. Kerlan (at the races). When Doc went into the hospital for about six months, I would go see him and Burt would always ask me how he was doing. That’s how we became friendlier.

“Burt is such a class guy. He has just been so sweet to me and my wife (Denise). He had a concert in San Diego when Del Mar was running and he invited us. You don’t expect people of that status to be so down to earth, but he is. And he’s got so much energy, it’s unbelievable (Bacharach turns 81 on May 12). He’s doing concerts all over the world. It’s just a joy to work for him and his wife. They’re just really, really nice people.”

Probable for the 58th San Luis Rey: Bonjour, Joe Talamo; Medici Code, Joel Rosario; and You Got Me Rocking, Tyler Baze.

You Got Me Rocking worked seven furlongs Sunday on Hollywood’s Cushion Track in 1:26.20.


Bob Baffert and his entourage of wife, Jill, son, Bode, and boxer, Derby, were in a celebratory mood at Clockers’ Corner Sunday morning after Pioneerof the Nile’s workmanlike victory in Saturday’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes.

“I’m happy,” Baffert said of the leading Kentucky Derby contender, who is scheduled to make his next start in the $750,000, Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 4 in a showdown with Sham Stakes winner The Pamplemousse. “He ate up good and his ‘workout’ is over.”

“I felt a little pressure yesterday because it looked too easy on paper, and I knew there wasn’t any pace,” Baffert said. Pioneerof the Nile won by 1 ¼ lengths as the 3-10 favorite under Garrett Gomez. “He started making his move at the five-eighths pole, then the horse just pulled and pulled and pulled.

“We’re learning more about him. When he’s covered up, he’s pretty good. When you’ve got him in the open, he takes off . . . When Garrett hit him a couple times, he just took off again . . . The Santa Anita Derby is going to be a good race. The Pamplemousse is quick and he’s fast. We’re fast, too, but he’ll have a little bit of an edge on me here, but we’re looking at the big picture.”

Pioneerof the Nile’s owner, Ahmed Zayat, enjoyed the San Felipe victory along with his sons, Justin and Benjamin.

“All we wanted was just to have an easy race for him,” Zayat said. “The real crank up will start now. We just wanted to keep going forward with an easy maintenance race. We didn’t want any effort from him. He was very close . . . the track had a speed bias, and we just wanted him to have it easy.”

Asked the origin of the colt’s name, Zayat said: “I’m from Egypt, and a pioneer . . . Pioneerof the Nile, kind of like that.”


After a break of more than four years, Corey Nakatani and Bob Meldahl are together again. The 38-year-old jockey and the veteran agent announced they have joined forces after Nakatani’s previous agent, Vince DeGregory, last week decided to go in another direction.

“Vince and I parted on good terms,” Nakatani said. “His uncle busted his hip and he had to go back to New York to spend some time with him. I told him I wanted a couple of days to figure out what I wanted to do. He had no problem with that.”

Meldahl represented Nakatani for 13 years until health issues prompted him to sever ties at Del Mar in 2004. Nakatani has been fighting weight problems recently, and has taken a realistic and active approach to overcome them. He currently rides at 118 pounds.

“What I achieve now will not be based on my agent,” said Nakatani, a 10-time riding champion who had 11 wins from 131 mounts at Santa Anita through Saturday. “I’ve got to get my weight down to where I’m doing 115, so I can ride the stakes races. I’m doing acupuncture and I hired a nutritionist and a personal trainer. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to get back on the horses that I feel like I need to be on.”

Meldahl said he would continue to also represent jockey Isaias Enriquez.

FINISH LINES: Impressive maiden winner Zensational worked four furlongs Sunday on Pro-Ride in a bullet :46.20 for Bob Baffert. “I’m thinking of the ($800,000) Sunland Derby (at 1 1/8 miles on March 29),” Baffert said. “I got him galloping out six furlongs in 1:13 flat.” Garrett Gomez, whose two stakes wins Saturday left him two shy of tying the Santa Anita record of 19 for one meet shared by Laffit Pincay Jr. and Corey Nakatani, could have the mount on Zensational. Gomez rides Bittel Road for Todd Pletcher at Turfway Park next Saturday in the $500,000, Grade II Lane’s End at 1 1/8 miles. Bittel Road worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride Sunday in 1:00.80. . . Gotham Stakes winner I Want Revenge worked under Joe Talamo in :48.80, breezing on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Sunday as he prepares for the Grade I, $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 4. “I never had a horse work so easy,” Talamo said. “He went in :48 and I thought it was :52. He just galloped around there.”

. . . Darrell Vienna said Feisty Suances, second to Pioneerof the Nile in the San Felipe, could make his next start against California-breds in the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood Park on April 25

. . . Bobby Frankel said champion filly Stardom Bound is scheduled to leave for Kentucky this Wednesday . . . Baffert still had no riding assignment for two-time Eclipse Award winner Indian Blessing in the $2 million Golden Shaheen on Nad Al Sheba’s straightaway course at six furlongs March 28 in Dubai. Indian Blessing worked five furlongs Saturday on Pro-Ride in 59 seconds flat. Vosburgh winner Black Seventeen, also prepping for the Golden Shaheen, went the same distance in 1:01.20 for Brian Koriner . . . Probable for next Sunday’s Grade II Santa Ana Handicap for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf: Belmont Cat, no rider; In My Glory, Martin Garcia; Satan’s Circus, Talamo; Sharp Susan, Mike Smith; and Visit, Gomez. Visit worked six furlongs on Pro-Ride Sunday in 1:14.40 for Frankel . . . Undefeated Rail Trip, prepping for the Santana Mile on April 4, worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride in 1:03.40 for Ron Ellis . . . Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Desert Code, a candidate for the Grade II, $150,000 Arcadia Handicap at one mile on grass April 4, worked six furlongs on turf Sunday in 1:14.60 for David Hofmans . . . There were 32 participants alive in ShowVivor II going into Sunday’s races.