Santa Anita News
Jeff Siegel's "Added Money"
Colonel John’s little brother Mr. Hot Stuff might finally be coming around for trainer Eoin Harty, and while he hasn’t done anything quite yet to make him a serious contender for the Santa Anita Derby, he at least is starting to move in the right direction. An uninspiring third in a nine furlong maiden affair on turf in mid-January, the son of Tiznow returned to the main track in Sunday’s 5th race and produced a good late kick to graduate going away like a colt whose light switch had just been turned on. Colonel John won the 2008 Santa Anita Derby and eventually the Travers at Saratoga as well, so it’s more than likely that Mr. Hot Stuff will continue to improve with experience and maturity. Who knows how much and how fast he’ll come, but at least Harty and owner WinStar Farm are in the game again. In Sunday’s 8th race, the Julio Canani-trained Miss Silver Brook overcame a slow start to rally between horses and finish a willing fourth, beaten two lengths, in the downhill La Habra Stakes. Since she actually went off as the favorite, the performance could be viewed as a bit of a disappointment but Canani still should remain optimistic that he has an exciting prospect on his hands. As a daughter of Cozzene from a Turkoman mare, Miss Silver Brook won’t likely show her best form until tried over a distance of ground and we suspect she’ll soon get that opportunity – and make the most of it. The winner of the La Habra turned out to be the Irish-bred Pasar Silbano, who set or pressed a very hot pace and found something extra late to win in very brave fashion. However, she may have distance limitations and she’s likely a turf-only type runner, so trainer Jim Cassidy may not really have many attractive options for her in the coming weeks. When Devil Cat M D won Saturday’s first race, a competitive starter’s allowance sprint, the victory had to make Joe Carl look pretty good in the 2nd race, right? Joe Carl had earned a good speed figure when finishing second to Devil Cat M D in a fast maiden claimer Dec. 27, and when that gelding came back to frank the form just 30 minutes earlier, Joe Carl had to look pretty good against a rather modest band of M40,000 milers. That Joe Carl was able to win wasn’t surprising, but his closing 9-1 odds certainly was. The winner now goes to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and could run him back going long in starter’s allowance company or perhaps shoot for the same condition up north. The favorite in this race turned out to be Haughty Topper, whose 10-hole post and sprint pedigree made him a tad suspect at this distance (he was claimed by Matt Chew, who’ll likely shorten him up) while the second choice, Defense King, also flattened out after being forced to steady repeatedly while rank in the earlier stages and probably just go mad after that. He may be worth another look next time. Sweet Thoughts, the first foal from champion 2-year-old and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly winner Sweet Catomine, had trained like a star prior to her racing debut and was bet accordingly in Saturday’s 4th race. Making her debut over a mile on turf, the John Shirreffs-trained daughter of A. P. Indy relaxed nicely while trailing the field to the turn, then commenced her rally into the lane. However, the big late kick that we were waiting for never really materialized, and Sweet Thoughts wound up a non-threatening sixth, although she was beaten just over two lengths. She seems sure to improve – especially over the main track – and still has plenty of time to develop into an important member of the 3-year-old filly division. At the risk of sounding a bit too critical, I wasn’t overwhelmed with Ventura’s win in the Gr. 1 Santa Monica Handicap, the 7th race on Saturday. Devastating in her victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint under identical conditions in her most recent outing, the Bobby Frankel-trained mare had just stable mate Jibboom and four other overnight runners to beat following the defection of Indian Blessing, and while the issue was never really in doubt, she had to make hard work of it to secure the win by only a length. There was nothing fancy about the Beyer figure, either. I’ve always believed that a rather blatant rally-wide bias existed during the two Breeders’ Cup programs at Oak Tree and Ventura’s victory that day may not have been as emphatic as it looked. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if Bob Baffert had kept Indian Blessing in the Santa Monica, she would have won. You don’t often see a trainer use a $500,000 race as a prep for a $70,000 event but that’s pretty much what John Sadler said he did after wheeling back Dawn After Dawn with just a week’s rest in the 8th race on Saturday, the Wishing Well Handicap. Dawn After Dawn had a right to be a bit rusty the previous weekend in the Sunshine Millions Distaff Handicap (her first start since August) and wound up a no-factor eighth, but the short turnaround and the turn back to a downhill sprint was all she needed and the result was a 12-1 surprise by the versatile Florida-bred mare. Many handicappers view short rest as a negative, but I suppose each case varies and when a high percentage trainer like Sadler (or, say Richard Dutrow in the East) tries the maneuver, it often times works. The Ron Ellis-trained Rail Trip made it three-for-three lifetime by showing he could carry his speed a distance of ground in the 7th race on Friday, and remains one of the more intriguing prospects on the grounds. He’s a 4-year-old gelding by Jump Start so he’s obviously had his issues, but Rail Trip does things so effortlessly that he could become an important member of the handicap division before too long. His latest score came on the front end through fairly soft splits, but he’s won from off the pace sprinting and has dealt with hot fractions as well, so this was not just another impressive soft trip win. Ellis has been conservative so far, and likely will remain so until he runs out of conditions. But, so far, Rail Trip looks every bit the part. The main track was, for whatever reason, playing extremely slow during the Wednesday and Thursday programs but I didn’t notice any dramatic shift in track bias. If I had to characterize the main track so far this meeting, I’d say its kind to the rally-wide types and extremely tough on contested speed, especially over a distance of ground. But “lone f” runners can and do win at all distances.