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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN, SUNDAY, MARCH 22ND, 2009
BAFFERT SEEKS FIFTH SANTA ANITA DERBY WIN WITH PIONEEROF THE NILE
Bob Baffert is as familiar with winning the Santa Anita Derby as he is with winning training titles at the storied track. He has made his headquarters in Arcadia for nearly two decades, winning the Santa Anita Derby four times, and the training championship eight times, including a record seven years in a row from 1996-97 through 2002-03.
“They’re all different,” Baffert said on a rainy Sunday morning at Clockers’ Corner, when asked about his past Santa Anita Derby winners and this year’s major contender, Pioneerof the Nile. “Plus,” Baffert continued, “the last time I won (in 2001, with eventual Horse of the Year Point Given), this was a dirt track.”
Santa Anita has since converted to a synthetic Pro-Ride main track. Baffert has won 19 races and four stakes this meet through 63 days. Two of the stakes victories were by Pioneerof the Nile, in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes and the San Felipe Stakes. Baffert is not concerned that the son of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker won’t hold his form if he gets to the Kentucky Derby on May 2 and runs on conventional dirt at Churchill Downs.
“Some of the synthetics are different, like Polytrack, but the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park (where Pioneerof the Nile won the CashCall Futurity as a 2-year-old last December) is more like dirt,” Baffert said. “I don’t worry about that. A good horse will do that, and Pioneerof the Nile is a good horse.”
Probable for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles: Chocolate Candy, Joel Rosario; Feisty Suances, no rider; Mr. Hot Stuff, Corey Nakatani; The Pamplemousse, Alex Solis; Pioneerof the Nile, Garrett Gomez; and Take the Points, no rider.
In other Santa Anita Derby news:
Sham Stakes runner-up Take the Points worked five furlongs for Todd Pletcher in company with the filly Bsharpsonata on Pro-Ride Sunday in 1:00.40. Bsharpsonata was given the same time, but her work was labeled “breezing.”
The Pamplemousse is scheduled to work six furlongs Wednesday. Jerry Hollendorfer also will work Chocolate Candy Wednesday, at a distance to be determined.
Santa Anita will host a media post position draw breakfast, 10 a.m. at Clockers’ Corner on Wednesday, April 1, which happens to be April Fool’s Day. Baffert and Julio Canani, trainer of The Pamplemousse, will be among a complete contingent of Derby horsemen to participate, and the two are expected to express themselves fully.
HRTV’s Gary Stevens will assist Santa Anita racing office officials with the actual draw. The retired Hall of Fame jockey won a record nine Santa Anita derbies from 1988 through 2003. Along with participating horsemen, Stevens will also be available for media interviews.
BAFFERT ON HRTV’S ‘ACROSS THE BOARD’ NEXT WEDNESDAY
Trainer Bob Baffert will guest on a special edition of HRTV’s “Across the Board” this Wednesday at 5 p.m. Baffert, who is nearly certain to be a first-year inductee in the National Racing Museum’s Hall of Fame this spring, has Pioneerof the Nile set for the Santa Anita Derby on April 4, and champion Indian Blessing in Dubai for the $2 million Golden Shaheen on March 28.
Carolyn Conley and Kurt Hoover will host “Across the Board” this week. Regular co-host Scott Hazelton will be in Dubai for World Cup day on March 28.
VERSATILE MEDZENDEEKRON SET FOR NEXT SUNDAY’S SENSATIONAL STAR
Aside from pronouncing his name, the toughest task fans of Medzendeekron face is finding his most suitable venue. Trainer Barry Abrams has the same problem.
Medzendeekron, a California-bred son of the prolific sire Unusual Heat, has won on turf and synthetic, in sprints and at distances, and against state-breds and in open company. Through March 19, Unusual Heat was third nationally based on runners’ 2009 earnings, at $1,272,456, behind Distorted Humor and A.P. Indy. Unusual Heat’s turf runners ranked first, with $614,216.
Medzendeekron won the $100,000 Crystal Water Handicap against California-breds at one mile on turf last out, and next Sunday, reverts to about 6 ½ furlongs on Santa Anita’s unique downhill turf course in the $125,000 Sensational Star Handicap.
“He’s never run good down the hill, but there’s nowhere else to run him,” Abrams said of the consistent 6-year-old gelding, who has a 5-3-3 record from 20 starts, with earnings of $336,758. “He’s a Cal-bred, and he’s won three races against state-breds, so we’ll give it a try.”
Probable for the 12th Sensational Star: Liberian Freighter, Rafael Bejarano; Lucky Honey, no rider; Lucky J.H., no rider; and Mendzendeekron, no rider.
SANTA ANITA, JOCKEYS MEET SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN THURSDAY
A group of Santa Anita-based jockeys will participate in a “meet and greet” gathering with special-needs youngsters provided by AbilityFirst, in Santa Anita’s fabled Seabiscuit Walking Ring from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. next Thursday, March 26, to promote Santa Anita’s Derby Day 5K Walk and Run on April 4.
AbilityFirst is a Pasadena-based charity that enables children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities to realize their full potential. AbilityFirst also works to meet the needs of those afflicted with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and epilepsy.
The Santa Anita Derby Day 5K is part of AbilityFirst’s Marathon Campaign, which raises money to enhance programs and services to children and adults with disabilities at all 24 of its locations.
In addition to meeting such jockeys as Tyler Baze, Rafael Bejarano, David Flores, Garrett Gomez, Aaron Gryder, Joel Rosario, Mike Smith, Alex Solis, Chantal Sutherland and Joe Talamo, AbilityFirst participants will be able to meet the actual horse who portrayed the immortal Seabiscuit in the 2003 blockbuster film of the same name. Along with the jockeys, “Seabiscuit” will be available for photos, candies and carrots.
“We’re very excited to have the opportunity to work with AbilityFirst this year,” said Santa Anita Community Events Coordinator Pete Siberell. “AbilityFirst is a first-class, highly respected organization that helps those who need it the most.
“The meet and greet that we have planned next week should be a big hit with their special-needs kids and to have the jockeys participating in this is just tremendous. We’re confident this is going to attract many more people’s attention to the Derby 5K Walk and Run, and to the race itself.”
AbilityFirst Marathon Campaign information can be found, and sponsorships made, at www.abilityfirst.org.
In addition to its association with AbilityFirst, Santa Anita will also make community donations to the Arcadia High School Athletic Boosters Club, the Arcadia Historical Museum and the Arcadia-area Explorer Scouts.
The 72nd Santa Anita Derby will be run on Santa Anita Derby Day, Saturday, April 4. The Derby Day 5K Walk and Run will get under way at 7:45 a.m. For more information on registration, go to www.Santaanita.com.
FINISH LINES: Doug O’Neill said “we still have the (Kentucky) Derby in mind” after Square Eddie worked three furlongs Sunday on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track in :37.40, breezing. It was the first official drill for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up since Feb. 2, when he was sidelined with sore shins . . . Gotham Stakes winner I Want Revenge worked five furlongs at Hollywood Sunday in :58.20 under regular rider Joe Talamo. “He went well, and everything looks good,” said trainer Jeff Mullins, who is preparing I Want Revenge for the Grade I, $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 4 . . . Trainer Julio Canani said Spring House was “fine” this morning after being vanned off following his last-place finish as the 2-1 second choice in a field of five in the mile and a half San Luis Rey Handicap yesterday . . . Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Desert Code, a candidate for the Grade II Arcadia Handicap at one mile on turf on April 4, worked six furlongs on Pro-Ride Sunday in 1:14.20 for David Hofmans . . . Beltene, expected to start in next Sunday’s Santa Paula Stakes under Joel Rosario, worked four furlongs for Jack Carava in :50.60 . . . In a goodwill gesture, several members of the Santa Anita jockey colony will visit the Shriners Hospital for Children in Los Angeles in full riding gear, silks and all, Monday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. The Shriners Hospital for Children is a one-of-a-kind health care system dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing pediatric specialty care, innovative research and outstanding teaching programs . . . Alex Solis turns 45 on Wednesday . . . Ellis Davis of Equibase celebrates his 62nd birthday today . . . There were seven participants alive in Santa Anita’s popular on line handicapping contest, ShowVivor II, going into Sunday’s races.