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March 24, 2010

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 24, 2010)—Two-time Academy Award winning actor Dustin Hoffman will soon be plying his trade at Santa Anita-a second career as a jockey is not in the cards, as he has instead been engaged to take on a lead role in the HBO pilot “Luck.” Hoffman will portray a paroled ex-con in the David Milch-produced pilot which is going to be directed by the internationally renowned Michael Mann.

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 24, 2010)—A group of Santa Anita-based jockeys will sign autographs and participate in a “meet and greet” gathering with special-needs youngsters provided by AbilityFirst, in Santa Anita’s famed Seabiscuit Walking Ring from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 1. The event is intended to raise public awareness of AbiltyFirst and to help promote Santa Anita’s Derby Day 5K Walk and Run on Saturday, April 3.

The Santa Anita Derby Day 5K is part of AbilityFirst’s Marathon Campaign, which is presented by Comerica Bank.

March 23, 2010

Lookin At Lucky, the West’s leading Kentucky Derby contender, is now listed as probable to stay home and run in the Gr. I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 3. A much-troubled winner of the Gr. II, 1 1/16 miles Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 13, Lookin At Lucky, who returned to trainer Bob Baffert’s Santa Anita base on March 18, was originally thought to be pointing for the Gr. I, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn on April 10.

“It depends on how he’s training,” said Baffert on Saturday morning. “If he’s training really well here, it (running in the Santa Anita Derby) would give him an extra week for the (Kentucky) Derby (on May 1). If he needed the extra week (following the Rebel), I’ll go to Arkansas. If he doesn’t need the extra week, I’ll stay here.”

Baffert has won the Santa Anita Derby five times, with Cavonnier (1996), Indian Charlie (1998), General Challenge (1999), Horse of the Year Point Given (2001) and Pioneerof the Nile last year. He has won the Kentucky Derby three times, but not since 2002, when War Emblem and Victor Espinoza posted a front-running tally at 20-1.

Probable for the Santa Anita Derby: Sidney’s Candy, Joe Talamo; Caracortado, Paul Atkinson; Lookin At Lucky, Garrett Gomez; Setsuko, Rafael Bejarano; Thomas Baines, Joel Rosario; Alphie’s Bet, Alex Solis; Posse Power, no rider; Skipshot, no rider; Cardiff Giant, Christian Santiago Reyes; and Who’s Up, Victor Espinoza.

To be run for the 73rd time on April 3, the Santa Anita Derby has produced 15 Kentucky Derby winners, including 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed. Last year’s winner, Pioneerof the Nile, would go on to a second-place finish to longshot Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby.

March 21, 2010

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 21, 2010) – Closely pursued the entire distance by Cat by the Tale, even-money choice Tuscan Evening proved her distance capability with an emphatic wire-to-wire triumph over 1 1/8 miles on turf Sunday in Santa Anita’s 43rd running of the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap for fillies and mares.

With leading rider Rafael Bejarano winning his fourth straight race on the program, Tuscan Evening shook off a bid by her pursuer turning for home, maintained a one length advantage through the stretch and widened to 1 ¼ lengths at the wire.

In scoring her ninth victory in her last 13 starts, the 5-year-old Irish-bred mare conceded six pounds to Cat by the Tale while becoming the first Santa Ana winner to carry 123 pounds since female turf champion Estrapade in 1985. She even overcame a pronounced stumble entering the stretch.

March 20, 2010

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 20, 2010) – Rapidly ascending Bourbon Bay strengthened his position as the West Coast’s preeminent marathoner Saturday when the 4-year-old gelding simply ran away with Santa Anita’s 59th running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Rey Handicap at 1 ½ miles on turf.

Rafael Bejarano coaxed the son of Sligo Bay to the lead nearing the far turn and the field of 10 dissolved into a one-horse recital as Bourbon Bay crossed the wire 2 ½ lengths ahead of 50-1 shot Romp while running the distance in 2:24.08.

It was only the fourth career victory in 12 starts for the bay gelding purchased with marathon distances in mind, yet it was his third straight dominating performance at 1 ½ miles on turf. He had won last month’s Grade II San Luis Obispo Handicap by 4 ¼ lengths and an allowance event at the distance by 3 ½ lengths at Santa Anita in January.

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 20, 2010)—Santa Anita’s $1 million St. Patrick’s Horseshoe Pitch nearly produced its second million dollar winner in three years as Kory Curtis of La Habra missed by just 5 5/8 inches from a distance of 47 feet following the seventh race on Saturday.

Curtis, 18, was the first of five contestants and was “closest to the pin” in Santa Anita’s annual horseshoe toss that enables all fans in attendance to fill out an entry blank and have a chance at having their names randomly drawn.

Two years ago, on March 15, 2008, John Placzankis of Rancho Cucamonga tossed a perfect ringer and thus became the first-ever winner of the $1 million contest.

For his efforts, Curtis will receive a check for $5,000 and three other contestants, Eddie Garcia of Long Beach, Mario Jauregui of Whittier and David Felix of La Puente will each receive checks of $1,000 each.

“It looked like it was dead-on,” said Curtis, who graduated from La Habra High School in 2009 and is currently an Electrical Engineering major at Cal State Fullerton. “Even though we didn’t get the million, this is very exciting. I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling.”

Curtis noted that the St. Pat’s Pitch competition is what brought him to Santa Anita. “We come once a year, to the infield for the St. Pat’s Pitch. I came today with my dad (David) and we’ve got a group of about 60 people.”

When asked if he’d practiced for the $1 million opportunity, he said, “No, I wish I did. We had a great day though and I might be back again before St. Patrick’s day next year.”

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March 19, 2010

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 19, 2010) – Sidelined since winning the Grade III San Simeon Handicap at Santa Anita last April, 6-year-old gelding Mr Gruff picked up where he left off Friday with a dominant triumph in Santa Anita’s $54,200 allowance feature over 6 ½ furlongs on turf.

March 18, 2010

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 18, 2010)—A Pick Six carryover of $74,546 awaits Santa Anita players on Friday, with the possibility of a total pool of $500,000 by third race post time.

Thursday’s Pick Six began in race three and it was won by Warren’s Tony R., who was ridden by Rafael Bejarano and paid $9.80 to win. Owned and bred in California by Benjamin Warren, the 4-year-old colt by Lake George is trained by Jorge Gutierrez.

Bejarano made it two-in-a-row in race four, winning with Face and an Ace, who is trained by Paco Gonzalez.

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 18, 2010) – A virtual money machine each time she runs, 6-year-old mare Welken expanded on her remarkable consistency Thursday with a neck victory over Hermione’s Magic in Santa Anita’s $52,800 feature for fillies and mares at one mile on turf.

Running the distance in 1:35.50 with Mike Smith aboard, 8-5 favored Welken bettered her record to 9-9-4 in 26 career races.

March 17, 2010

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 17, 2010) – After coming up a head short in a blistering comeback race, Jay Em Ess Stable’s Canonize accomplished his mission Wednesday in dominant fashion as the 4-5 favorite in Santa Anita’s $53,916 allowance feature at six furlongs.

While being geared down by jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. in the closing stages, the 4-year-old gelded son of Aldebaran defeated fast-closing Star Nicholas by 3 ¼ lengths while clocked in 1:08.44.

It wasn’t as rapid as his return on Jan.