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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN, THURSDAY, APRIL 9TH, 2009
STEINER ‘WORKS’ HIS WAY TO KENTUCKY DERBY WITH PIONEEROF THE NILE
Joey Steiner never won the Kentucky Derby. Never rode in it, as a matter of fact. But on May 2 of this year, the former jockey could enjoy a vicarious victory, if Pioneerof the Nile wins the 135th classic at Churchill Downs.
Steiner is the regular exercise rider for the son of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, who has captured four consecutive stakes races, including the Grade I Santa Anita Derby last Saturday. Trainer Bob Baffert has employed Steiner on his efficient work team for some seven months. During that span, Pioneerof the Nile has developed into one of the favorites for the Run for the Roses.
“We use (two-way) radios when we work our horses, and Joey’s been instrumental in keeping the lines of communication open when every move is important,” Baffert said. “His experience as a jockey is very beneficial.”
Since retiring as a jockey three years ago, Steiner has enjoyed the challenge, and as the one who spends more time on Pioneerof the Nile’s back than regular rider Garrett Gomez, knows every nuance of the long-striding colt owned by avid racing enthusiast Ahmed Zayat.
“The colt is really learning how to calm down,” said the 44-year-old Steiner, who makes his home in nearby Monrovia. “He was more high strung when I first started breezing him, but now he seems more mature, and he’s relaxing more. The pace in his recent races has been slow, and he’s been on the bit. He’s still got to learn things in the afternoon, and we’re working on them.”
With the late scratches of expected pacemakers The Pamplemousse and Z Day from the Santa Anita Derby, Gomez again found himself in a restraining position sooner than he wanted aboard Pioneerof the Nile, making the lead at the half-mile marker in the mile and one eighth race.
“It will be a lot more helpful if there’s a pace he can run at, “ Steiner said. “If someone sets a nice, decent pace and he can settle into stride off that, it would be key. He showed he can get the distance (of a mile and a quarter in the Kentucky Derby). He can keep going, and that’s the good thing. But if he can relax more the first part of the race, that could help him.”
As for Steiner, he’ll be cheering from the sidelines come May 2. “Oh, yeah, it will be a thrill,” he said, “even though I won’t be on his back. It’s just nice being part of the whole package.”
QUINONEZ MAKES QUICK WORK OF 2-YEAR-OLD DASH AT $51.80.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but that rule is often blurred when a jockey rides an inexperienced 2-year-old making his racing debut in a two-furlong dash. Young horses, perhaps more so than their elders, have a mind of their own.
“It’s a thoroughly different experience riding in a straightaway sprint, as opposed to a longer race around turns,” said jockey Alonso Quinonez, who guided first-time starter Simply Ms. Sassie to a three-quarter length upset in Wednesday’s first race. The gray daughter of Souvenir Copy trained by Jorge Periban paid $51.80.
“First, it’s important to get a good break, but at the same time you push on them to run, you have to take a hold of them so they stay in the bridle and try harder,” said Quinonez, a 25-year-old native of Mexico whose business is handled by agent Richie Silverstein. “If you give them their head, they fall apart, because they’re 2-year-olds, and they don’t know what to do. If you give them the bridle, they just get lost.
“The two-furlong races are over fast. You have to go, and there’s little margin for error. My filly ran well. I’d been working her the last two or three times, and she’d been doing well. Jorge is a very good trainer. He’s very polite, has a lot of class, and takes good care of the horses.”
BRUCE MEYER OF MINNESOTA WINS SHOWVIVOR II
Bruce Meyer, a dedicated 43-year-old racing fan from Prior Lake, Minnesota, won ShowVivor II Wednesday when his selection, Union Scale, won the fifth race, while his rival, Donald Abrams, of Fulton, Missouri, tabbed Kulinski Rose, who finished fifth in the sixth race. Meyer outfinished a field of 6,930 that started in Santa Anita’s popular on-line handicapping contest on March 27.
Meyer won first prize of $3,000, two nights at the Las Vegas Hilton, and roundtrip air fare on Southwest Airlines. Abrams took second prize of $1,500
“I'm thrilled to win the contest,” Meyer said. “It was very exciting and nerve-wracking once there were only about 30 players left. That's when I started thinking I might have a chance to finish in the top three. When there were only six players left, it was pretty tense watching the races. That day all six of us picked different horses so it was a wide open card! Three of us survived and three did not.
“I’ve been playing the horses fairly regularly since 1985 when Canterbury Park opened in Shakopee, Minnesota. I do a bit of blogging on the Canterbury Park website and also do selections for the Canterbury live racing program two days per week. Horse racing is really a hobby for me, not a career. I am an audit manager for a government program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“I was very fortunate to get good trips with all my selections except one, and that was Ashton Girl on March 28 in a 6 1/2 furlong turf sprint. (Alex) Solis had some trouble with her on the inside but managed to get third for me. My closest call to being eliminated was when Stardom Bound narrowly won in that blanket finish (in the Santa Anita Oaks). I admit I just picked her on the blind that day as she had been so dominant previously. I might have gotten away with one there.”
SANTA ANITA SHOWS APPRECIATION TO FANS NEXT TWO SATURDAYS
This Saturday is Super Saturday at Santa Anita. Fans will receive free gifts, including sports bags, beanies, umbrellas, wallets, beach towels, waste baskets and more. It’s your choice, while supplies last, with paid admission.
“We’re also going to have Fan Appreciation Day next Saturday (April 18),” said Santa Anita Vice President of Marketing Allen Gutterman. “It’s an opportunity we welcome to show our gratitude for our patrons’ solid support throughout the meet.”
Next Saturday, all fans in attendance will receive a free Santa Anita Park baseball cap with paid admission while supplies last, courtesy of San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino.
SANTA ANITA FANS COULD WIN MORTGAGE-FREE MONTH OF MAY
Fans coming to Santa Anita on the meet’s final two Sundays—April12 and 19—could have their mortgage or rent paid for the month of May (up to $3,500).
Interested fans should enter the Santa Anita Stimulus drawing at any admission gate. One name will be selected each Sunday immediately following the sixth race. Sponsored by Westside Rentals, the winner’s mortgage or rent for the month of May, up to $3,500.
FINISH LINES:. Agent Craig O’Bryan has booked Aaron Gryder, racing’s “Six Million Dollar Man,” on Captain Cherokee for trainer Steve Asmussen in Saturday’s $1 million, Grade II Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Rafael Bejarano rides Papa Clem for trainer Gary Stute in the 1 1/8-mile prep for the Kentucky Derby on May 2. Old Fashioned is the 9-5 morning favorite, while Win Willy, who handed Old Fashioned his first defeat in the Rebel Stakes, is the 7-2 second choice. Papa Clem is 6-1 and Captain Cherokee is 20-1 in the field of 10 . . . With one win Wednesday, Bejarano closed to within two of leader Garrett Gomez, 86-84 . . . Mike Mitchell and John Sadler each won a race Wednesday, allowing Mitchell to maintain a three-victory lead, 37-34, in the trainers’ race . . . Clinton Potts, who had 10 wins from 130 mounts at Santa Anita this meet, has moved his tack to Delaware Park where he begins riding today . . .Tomorrow is the next-to-last ‘Free Friday’ at Santa Anita. General admission is free, as are box seats, while supplies last. Hot dogs, soda, beer, popcorn and coffee are $1.