Pace makes the race, and with The Pamplemousse the lone speed in a prospective field of five for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on April 4, the son of Kafwain looms a solid early favorite in the West Coast’s major prep for the Kentucky Derby on May 2.

“He’ll definitely be the (morning line) favorite,” said Jeff Tufts, who has been providing program odds at Southern California tracks for some 30 years.

The Pamplemousse is unbeaten in three route races after losing his first two starts in sprints. The gray ghost trained by Julio Canani broke his maiden last Dec. 14 at Hollywood Park, winning by nearly three lengths going 1 1/16 miles. He captured the Grade III San Rafael Stakes at one mile next out Jan. 17 on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride, and came back with a wire to wire score by six lengths in the Grade III Sham Stakes at 1 1/8 miles Feb. 28.

Pioneerof the Nile, whose running style contrasts vividly from that of The Pamplemousse, figures to be the second choice, even though he has been favored in his last three races, each a stakes victory. Trained by Bob Baffert, Pioneerof the Nile was the 7-5 choice winning the Grade I CashCall Futurity by a nose over I Want Revenge last Dec. 20 at Hollywood Park; the 17-10 favorite when he won the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7; and the 3-10 choice winning the Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 14.

Chocolate Candy, the odds-on favorite winning his last two stakes at Golden Gate Fields, looms the third choice.

Probable for the 72nd Santa Anita Derby, one of five stakes to be decided on April 4: Chocolate Candy, Joel Rosario; Feisty Suances, no rider; Mr. Hot Stuff, Corey Nakatani; The Pamplemousse, Alex Solis; and Pioneerof the Nile, Garrett Gomez.
In other Santa Anita Derby news:
Bob Baffert reported Pioneerof the Nile was “very happy today” after working six furlongs on Pro-Ride Wednesday in a bullet 1:11.40.

Santa Anita will host a media post position draw breakfast, 10 a.m. at Clockers’ Corner next Wednesday, April 1, which happens to be April Fool’s Day. Baffert and Canani will be among a contingent of Derby horsemen participating.

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.

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.


Saturday marks a first in the career of Mike Mitchell. Barring the unexpected, for the first time in his career of more than three decades as a trainer, the 60-year-old Bakersfield native will send out three horses in a stakes race—almost half the field--that being the Grade III, $100,000 Tokyo City Cup handicap for older horses at 1 ½ miles on Pro-Ride.

“I think they can all get the distance,” Mitchell said when asked why Big Booster, Dynamalt and Fire Wood were entered. “I’m still trying to figure out Dynamalt. He trains like a bombshell, but he’s only won a maiden race. But again, I’m sure he and the other two can get the distance. It’s going to come down to how much class they have.”

Through Wednesday, Mitchell was tied with John Sadler for the training lead at 29 each.

The Tokyo City Cup is held in honor of the friendship agreement between Tokyo City Keiba and Santa Anita. An exciting and colorful Soma Nomaoi exhibition will be performed by costumed and armored Samurai horsemen, re-enacting traditional maneuvers boasting a history of more than 1,000 years.

Cultural exhibits and performances also will presented, in addition to Japanese culture and entertainment such as Kado, Karate, Koto, Origami, Shinkendo, Shodo, Taiko and tea ceremonies.

The field for the 53rd Tokyo City Cup, which was run as the San Bernardino Handicap prior to 2005: Big Booster, Rafael Bejarano, 119; Medjool, Michael Baze, 114; Dynamalt, Joel Rosario, 110; Stream Cat, Joe Talamo, 116; Zappa, Alex Solis, 117; Fire Wood, Mike Smith, 111; and Kizzy’s Chaos, Martin Garcia, 113.


Jack Carava hopes Beltene resumes her winning ways in Sunday’s Grade III Santa Paula Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs, after the daughter of Unusual Heat lost for the first time in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles.

Beltene raced evenly in sixth throughout in the Oaks, beaten only 2 ¼ lengths by champion Stardom Bound. “She wasn’t beaten that far and had some trouble in the race, too,” Carava said of Beltene. “She probably wasn’t fully prepared to run long. She’ll shorten back up Sunday. I know it’s a tough race, but she should run well.”
Beltene won her first three starts—all sprints—including the Sunshine Millions Oaks at 10-1, before falling victim to Stardom Bound.

The field for the Santa Paula: Beltene, Joel Rosario, 118; Empressive Lady, Alex Solis, 116; Pinkarella, Martin Garcia, 114; Carlsbad, Tyler Baze, 116; Ultra Blend, Jose Valdivia Jr., 116; and Heartless Vixen, Rafael Bejarano, 116.


Advance full card wagering on Saturday’s Dubai World Cup races will be available Friday at Santa Anita. On Saturday, Early Bird wagering will be available starting at 8:30 a.m. HRTV’S coverage Saturday will begin at 6:30 a.m.
HRTV will play an important role in the world feed from Dubai when the network once again provides live coverage of Dubai World Cup Day from Nad Al Sheba Racecourse.

HRTV's on-air tandem of Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens and Scott Hazelton will be reporting from Dubai. In addition, Jeff Siegel and Carolyn Conley will also contribute coverage on location at Santa Anita throughout the card.

The 14th running of the Dubai World Cup program offers seven stakes races with a combined $21 million-plus in purse money. The highlight of the day is the $6 million Dubai World Cup at 1 1/4 miles. Early favorites are Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and Donn Handicap winner Albertus Maximus, Asiatic Boy, Casino Drive and Well Armed. Post time for the World Cup is expected to be 10:30 a.m.

FINISH LINES: Rafael Bejarano was nine wins behind leader Garrett Gomez in the race for Santa Anita’s riding championship. With 19 racing days remaining in the 84-day meet, and with Gomez committed to riding regularly at Keeneland when the Kentucky track opens on April 3, Bejarano has a chance to capture the title, which would be his sixth consecutive on Southern California’s major venues: Santa Anita winter/spring, Hollywood Park spring/summer, Del Mar, Oak Tree and Hollywood Park autumn. Through Wednesday, Gomez held a 78-69 lead over Bejarano. “For me, it’s important to win all the time, and winning this one means a lot,” Bejarano said. “The competition here is very tough. The riders are very good. (Joel) Rosario (third in the standings with 65 victories) is going to stay through the end of the meet, so winning the title won’t be easy, but it’s something I’d love to do.”. . . There’s still feint hope that Square Eddie can make the Kentucky Derby on May 2, even though the runner-up in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile just started back last Sunday after being sidelined more than a month with shin issues. “It’s just kind of week to week,” said Dennis O’Neill, brother and associate of Doug O’Neill, who trains Square Eddie for owner J. Paul Reddam. “His shins are perfect and he’s sound,” Dennis continued. “I think the Derby is a possibility. I know this; I booked a room (in Louisville for the Derby). Doug gets back (from Dubai) Sunday night, so Square Eddie will work again Monday, probably a half (mile), and we’ll go from there. The horse is very fit, because we’ve had him on the Aquatred (an underwater equine treadmill).” . . . Chantal Sutherland plans to move her tack to Woodbine following next Wednesday’s races at Santa Anita. “She’s had a real good run here,” said agent Tommy Ball. “It could have been better, it could have been worse, but she’s ridden some real good horses and it’s been very successful.” Sutherland had 16 wins through Wednesday, good for 11th in Santa Anita’s standings . . . Patrick Husbands, with seven wins through Wednesday in an abbreviated first tour at Santa Anita, leaves for Woodbine for its opening day on Saturday, in quest of his sixth consecutive title there, agent Craig O’Bryan said . . . Ladies’ Classic champion Zenyatta worked four furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Thursday in a bullet :47.80, breezing, for John Shirreffs . . . Progeny of Unusual Heat have 25 wins at Santa Anita this meet, one shy of the record set last meet, according to Harris Auerbach, “defacto manager” of the stallion’s stud schedule
. . . Tomorrow is another in a meet-long series of Free Fridays at Santa Anita. In addition to free general admission and free box seats while supplies last, hot dogs, soda, beer, popcorn and coffee will be $1 each . . . Steve Andersen of Daily Racing Form and HRTV’s Kurt Hoover will be Jack Disney’s guests at Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:15 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens . . . There were three participants alive in Santa Anita’s popular on line handicapping contest, ShowVivor II, going into Thursday’s races.