Leading Triple Crown contender Pioneerof the Nile worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride Sunday morning in a bullet :58.80 under regular rider Garrett Gomez for next Saturday’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.

“He went really nice,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “All systems are go.” The San Felipe is expected to have a small field. Trainer Ronny Werner reportedly is considering Pray for Action for the West Coast’s final major prep to the Santa Anita Derby on April 4. Pray for Action is a Florida-bred son of Songandaprayer who has been training at the Fair Grounds.

Jeranimo, also being considered for the San Felipe by trainer Mike Pender, worked five furlongs Sunday in 1:00.20. Brice Blanc was aboard.

Pioneerof the Nile’s already respectable reputation was enhanced dramatically after I Want Revenge raced to an eye-catching 8 ½ length victory in Saturday’s Grade III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct under 19-year-old jockey Joe Talamo. Pioneerof the Nile twice defeated I Want Revenge, in the CashCall Futurity and the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.

“I Want Revenge had such a great trip,” said Talamo, back at Clockers’ Corner Sunday morning after a flight from New York following the Gotham. “I was really surprised at how easy we got to go, because on paper, I thought they might have gone in :47 flat for the half (mile; the time was :48.45). I mean, :48 to him is like :49. He’s got such a big stride.

“Knock on wood, if everything goes well, we could make it to the (Kentucky) Derby. That’d be sweet.”

Bobby Frankel said all of his participants in Saturday’s races came back well, with Ventura, beaten a nose by Gio Ponti in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf, pointing to the Grade I, $300,000 Vinery Madison at Keeneland on April 9.

Asked whether Stardom Bound would face males in the Santa Anita Derby after her desperate nose victory in Saturday’s Santa Anita Oaks, Frankel said, “I don’t think so. Talk to the owners.”

I Want Revenge, who has been on Jon White’s Kentucky Derby Top 10 list since the start of the year, shipped to New York and scored a scintillating 8 1/2-length victory in Saturday’s Grade III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. Santa Anita jockey Joe Talamo rode the Stephen Got Even colt for trainer Jeff Mullins.
“At the start of the year, I had Pioneerof the Nile at No. 1, followed in order by Old Fashioned,
I Want Revenge, Chocolate Candy and Stardom Bound,” said White, a commentator for HRTV and Santa Anita’s simulcast network. “At that time, I took the opposite view of how most people looked at Hollywood Park’s CashCall Futurity (Dec. 20). I know that a lot of people were not impressed with that CashCall Futurity. But, at the start of the year, I said that I thought that the top three finishers -- Pioneerof the Nile, I Want Revenge and Chocolate Candy -- all had a tremendous upside based on their pedigrees, running styles and trainers.”

Pioneeerof the Nile is scheduled to run in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes next Saturday and the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 4.

“I’ve said that not only do I like Pioneerof the Nile to win the Kentucky Derby, I honestly think he has a chance to become a Triple Crown winner,” White continued. “I’ve maintained all along, what if Pioneerof the Nile is better on the dirt than he is on synthetic tracks and the turf? In my opinion, I Want Revenge is bred to be proficient on the dirt. And so is Pioneerof the Nile. Pioneerof the Nile is by Empire Maker, a Belmont Stakes winner on the dirt, out of Star of Goshen, an 11-length stakes winner on the dirt at Churchill Downs. Star of Goshen’s sire, Lord at War, won the 1985 Santa Anita Handicap on the dirt.

“In the Gotham, it sure looked like I Want Revenge is a lot better on the dirt than on synthetic tracks, didn’t it? Before the Gotham, I Want Revenge’s best Beyer Speed Figure had been a 92. His preliminary Beyer for the Gotham is 113. I’m looking for Pioneerof the Nile to improve when he runs on the dirt, too.”

Meanwhile, keeping his vow that “if the Pamplemousse wins the Sham, he definitely will go back on my Top 10 list,” the talented son of Kafwain returned to White’s weekly Kentucky Derby Top 10 after the colt’s sparkling six-length victory in the Feb. 28 Sham.
Here is White’s current Kentucky Derby Top 10 list: (1) Pioneerof the Nile, (2) Old Fashioned, (3) I Want Revenge, (4) Quality Road, (5) The Pamplemousse, (6) Friesan Fire, (7) Patena, (8) Papa Clem, (9) Dunkirk, (10) Chocolate Candy.

Prior to the Gotham, I Want Revenge had finished third behind Pioneerof the Nile and Papa Clem in Santa Anita’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 7.

“The way I Want Revenge ran in the Gotham, I’d say that it certainly makes Papa Clem look better,” White added. “It will be very interesting to see how Papa Clem runs on the dirt for the first time in the Louisiana Derby (next Saturday).”

White and Gary Stevens will be at the Fair Grounds to cover the Louisiana Derby for HRTV.


Laffit Pincay Jr.’s book-signing session this weekend got off to a rousing start Saturday. Fans were lined up more than 50 deep in the East Paddock Gardens area from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon to buy the Hall of Fame jockey’s biography, “Laffit: Anatomy of a Winner,” authored by Madelyn Cain and selling for $28. The session ran again today.

“One woman was first in line at 7:30 Saturday morning,” said Chris Crocker, proprietor of Champions! Gift Shop, where the book is on sale. “We sold 186 books on Saturday, and Laffit couldn’t have been more accommodating and gracious,” Crocker said. “Not only did he sign each book, when fans asked him to pose for a picture with them, he was happy to do it.”

FINISH LINES: Helen Pitts-Blasi, who became the first woman trainer to win the Santa Anita Handicap when she saddled Einstein to win the track’s marquee race yesterday, had 34 congratulatory messages on her cell phone before reaching the mezzanine steps en route to a post-race press conference in the Director’s Room . . . Colonel John, the 9-2 morning line favorite for the Santa Anita Handicap who was scratched due to a fever, had recovered by Sunday morning. “His temperature is normal, but we have no plans (for his next race),” trainer Eoin Harty said . . . Probable for next Sunday’s $125,000 Irish O’Brien Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf: Bel Air Sizzle, Garrett Gomez; Swiss Diva, Alex Solis; and Unusual Spirit, Victor Espinoza. Swiss Diva worked five furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Sunday in 1:02.80 for trainer Kathy Walsh, who had 10 wins from 29 starters at Santa Anita through Saturday, a winning average of nearly 30 percent . . . Santa Anita will present its St. Pat’s Pitch next Saturday, March 14, with $1 million awarded for tossing a ringer. Last year, one fan did just that . . . Clinton Potts will make his first trip to Dubai to ride Black Seventeen for Brian Koriner in the $2 million Golden Shaheen on March 28. “I’m going to take my mom with me,” Potts said . . . Former Thoroughbred owner Richard J. Holland, who had horses with Jack Van Berg and Wesley Ward, died at the age of 70 of ALS on March 4 at his Hollywood home. Holland, a physicist, musician and writer, also attended the Arizona Race Track Industry Program, completing his studies in December, 2008. He and his wife, Mary, were married at Santa Anita in 2006. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Holland’s name to the California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation or the Muscular Dystrophy Association
. . . There were 832 players alive in ShowVivor II entering Sunday’s races . . . Inquiries regarding ticket information for the 2009 Breeders’ Cup at Oak Tree next Nov. 6 and 7 should be directed to one of three websites (,, or for online registration. Each site now links to the Breeders’ Cup ticket registration page established to coordinate all ticket requests into one master data base. Registered patrons will be notified when online ticket sales begin in May. Call 626-574 6315 with any questions . . . Santa Anita overnights are now available to be e-mailed automatically on a daily basis as soon as they’re available. To sign up for this free service, go to