Ali-Frazier, Celtics-Lakers, Yankees-Red Sox, The Pamplemousse-Pioneerof the Nile. With all due respect to the other participants in next Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, The Pamplemousse and Pioneerof the Nile have captured the fancy of racing fans. The two 3-year-olds are the heavyweights the racing world will focus on with keen intensity as they take what they hope will be their final step towards the Kentucky Derby on May 2.
Each horse has a similar record, but contrasting running styles. The Pamplemousse’s forte is speed. He is unbeaten in his last three starts since stretching out, numbering the Grade III San Rafael Stakes and the Grade III Sham Stakes among his victories. The son of Kafwain trained by Julio Canani has three wins and a third in five starts, with earnings of $209,280.
Pioneerof the Nile is a stretch runner. The son of Empire Maker trained by Bob Baffert also has won his last three starts: the Grade I CashCall Futurity, the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes, and the Grade II San Felipe Stakes. He has a 4-0-1 record from seven starts, with earnings of $784,200.
The Pamplemousse and Pioneerof the Nile also are horses of different a color. The Pamplemousse is gray; Pioneerof the Nile is dark bay or brown.
The Pamplemousse’s rider is Alex Solis. Garrett Gomez rides Pioneerof the Nile. Neither has ever won the Kentucky Derby, but hope their Santa Anita Derby mounts will give them a chance to add a victory in the Run for the Roses to their already glossy resumes.
While The Pamplemousse and Pioneerof the Nile are the marquee contenders in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, Dan Ward likes the chances of Chocolate Candy. “We’ll be overlooked,” said Ward, 50, the right hand man at Santa Anita for Jerry Hollendorfer, perennial training king in the Bay Area, who conditions Santa Anita Derby contender Chocolate Candy for the Sid and Jenny Craig Trust.
“I can’t worry about the other horses in the race,” the soft-spoken Ward said. “I just worry about us.”
Ward, a native of San Diego, has been with Hollendorfer for a year and a half. Prior to that, he spent 22 years with Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel. “You can’t do any better than learning from those two,” Ward said. “They’re great. If you’re going to be in this business, it’s really an experience you can’t buy.”
“He was a hard-working kid,” Frankel said of Ward, “although he’s not a kid anymore. He used to rub a really good horse I had named Johnny’s Image. He might have been the best grass horse I ever had.”
Chocolate Candy, a bay son of Candy Ride, has a 4-1-1 record from eight starts, including victories in the California Derby on Jan. 17 and the Grade III El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 14, both races at Golden Gate Fields. He has earned $382,500.
Probable for the 72nd Santa Anita Derby, one of five stakes to be decided next Saturday: Chocolate Candy, Joel Rosario; Feisty Suances, Victor Espinoza; Gallant Son, no rider; Mr. Hot Stuff, Corey Nakatani; The Pamplemousse, Alex Solis; and Pioneerof the Nile, Garrett Gomez.
In other Santa Anita Derby news:
Chocolate Candy is scheduled to work four furlongs Tuesday under Joel Rosario, while The Pamplemousse is scheduled to have his final blowout the same day at three furlongs with Solis aboard.
“The Pamplemousse is doing great,” said Julio Canani assistant Miguel Delgado Sunday.
Santa Anita will host a media post position draw breakfast, 10 a.m. at Clockers’ Corner this Wednesday, April 1. Among the contingent of horsemen participating will be Baffert, trainer of Pioneerof the Nile, Julio Canani, who conditions The Pamplemousse, Eoin Harty, trainer of Mr. Hot Stuff; jockeys Garrett Gomez, Rosario, Alex Solis and Corey Nakatani; and David Bienstock, part owner of The Pamplemousse.
HRTV’s Gary Stevens will assist Santa Anita racing office officials with the 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.
First post time on Santa Anita Derby day will be 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.
The breakfast will feature a raffle benefiting CARMA (California Retirement Management Account, a charitable organization that raises money for retired California race horses). Tickets are $5 each or five for $20 and available now at Clockers’ Corner and the racing office. Grand prize is 50 percent of the cash from the raffle tickets. Additional prizes include two nights at the Las Vegas Hilton. Participants must be present to win.

HRTV and Santa Anita simulcast host Jon White sees next Saturday’s Grade I Santa Anita Derby as a key race leading up to the May 2 Kentucky Derby.
“This year’s Santa Anita Derby certainly has considerable quality in that it brings together not one, not two, but three of the horses on my current Kentucky Derby Top 10 list – Pioneerof the Nile, The Pamplemousse and Chocolate Candy,” White said. “There’s no question that the Santa Anita Derby is a very important race this year vis-à-vis this year’s Kentucky Derby.”

Pioneerof the Nile, winner of the Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes and Grade II San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita this year, continues to be ranked No. 1 by White. Following Quality Road’s Grade I Florida Derby victory, he has advanced to No. 2.
Here is White’s current Kentucky Derby Top 10: (1) Pioneerof the Nile, (2) Quality Road, (3) I Want Revenge, (4) Friesan Fire, (5) The Pamplemousse, (6) Dunkirk, (7) Old Fashioned, (8) Papa Clem, (9) Chocolate Candy, (10) Theregoesjojo.
“It also will be interesting to see how I Want Revenge runs next Saturday in the Wood Memorial in New York after his huge win in the Gotham Stakes,” White added. “And another SoCal 3-year-old, Papa Clem, goes in the Arkansas Derby on April 11 after finishing second to Friesan Fire in the Louisiana Derby. We’re definitely into crunch time on the road to this year’s Kentucky Derby.”

In deference to its annual Santa Anita Derby 5K Walk and Run, Santa Anita Park and the city of Arcadia have announced that Baldwin Ave., from the 210 Freeway to Huntington Drive, will be closed to vehicular traffic from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. next Saturday, April 4.
Accordingly, Santa Anita’s Gate Eight, which adjoins the Westfield Shopping Mall on Baldwin Ave., will also be closed to vehicles during the same time period.
Those wishing to visit Santa Anita’s popular Clockers’ Corner venue at the top of the stretch will be able to enter on Santa Anita’s east end, through parking lot Gate Five. Gate Five will be open for easy access to Clockers’ Corner beginning at 5 a.m. and will remain open throughout the day.
Gate Five is located on the east end of the racetrack, at the confluence of Colorado Place and Huntington Drive.
For additional information on the Santa Anita Derby and on the Santa Anita Derby 5K Walk and Run, fans are encouraged to visit, or call (626) 574-7223.

Among the many Aaron Gryder well-wishers for winning the $6 million Dubai World Cup on Well Armed Saturday was David Hofmans, who will give the veteran rider a leg up on Desert Code in next Saturday’s Grade II Arcadia Handicap at one mile on turf.
“That was great,” Hofmans said. “Aaron is such a hard worker. I’m just glad something good happened to a good jockey.”
Desert Code, 36-1 winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Oak Tree last Oct. 25, is coming off a 2 ½ length win in the Grade III Daytona Handicap at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf on Feb. 15, but Hofmans is confident the son of E Dubai can handle the mile.
“He’s won at a mile and a sixteenth, but probably not against this kind of company,” Hofmans said. “We’re hoping a mile is the next step. He’s training well and he seems real sound.”
Desert Code worked seven furlongs on turf Sunday in a bullet 1:27.20.
Probable for the 22nd Arcadia: Desert Code, Gryder; Global Hunter, Alex Solis; and Mr Napper Tandy, Joel Rosario.

FINISH LINES: Undefeated Rail Trip is on course for next Saturday’s Santana Mile after working seven furlongs yesterday in 1:26.40. “He worked great and didn’t get the least bit tired,” trainer Ron Ellis said. Also set for the $70,000 Santana is Silent Soul for trainer David Hofmans. Iggy Puglisi rides . . . Unbeaten Heartless Vixen, 7-2 morning line third choice for today’s Santa Paula Stakes, was scratched due to a fever, Ellis said . . . Gotham Stakes winner I Want Revenge worked five furlongs Sunday in :59.80, breezing, under regular rider Joe Talamo on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track for next Saturday’s Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. “It was good, just a nice breeze,” trainer Jeff Mullins said. “He leaves Wednesday (for New York).” . . . Probable for next Sunday’s Grade III Las Flores Handicap for older fillies and mares at about 6 ½ furlongs: Coco Belle, Mike Smith; Foxy Danseur, Joel Rosario; Highland Torree, Martin Garcia; and Starry Pursuit, Talamo . . . Joel Rosario rode in all 10 races yesterday, while Martin Garcia rode in nine, missing only the fifth . . . Garrett Gomez held an 80-74 lead over Rafael Bejarano through Saturday in the race for leading rider . . . There have been 26 winners by progeny of Unusual Heat at Santa Anita this meet, equaling the sire’s record set last meet. Unusual Heat had four scheduled starters on Sunday’s nine-race card . . . Kevin Garrett, formerly technical director for ESPN’s horse racing coverage, has joined HRTV as Lead Director . . . Only two participants remained alive in Santa Anita’s popular on line handicapping contest, ShowVivor II, going into Sunday’s races . . . Philosopher/trainer Patrick Biancone, on Stream Cat winning the Tokyo City Cup Saturday at age 6: “In France, we have a saying: In the old pot, you make the best marmalade.”