My son had to put his cat to sleep Friday night.

            It was a traumatic experience.

Anyone who has been through that knows it. There is an attachment, a bonding, a kinship that humans have with animals, which is why, specifically in horse racing, fans have connected so fervently with the likes of Zenyatta, American Pharoah and the most current active Thoroughbred through which they live vicariously, California Chrome.

Each of the aforementioned champions has been based in Southern California. Chrome ran for the first time in nine months yesterday when he captured the San Pasqual Stakes in expected workmanlike fashion, by a length-and-a-quarter over Imperative.

The 2014 Horse of the Year who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness that year was vanned back to his Los Alamitos headquarters Sunday morning, in relatively good order, except that understandably, he was “a little tired,” according to Alan Sherman, son of and assistant to Art Sherman, who trains the California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit, now bound for Dubai on Jan. 21 and another run in the $10 million World Cup on March 26, in which he was second last year.

“That was to be expected,” Alan added, speaking of Chrome’s minor post-race weariness. “We have options for his next race, but he will have one start before the World Cup.”

“Chromies,” meanwhile, could have to wait until Nov. 5 to see their hero in action at Santa Anita again. That’s the date of the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, expected to be Chrome’s final race before being retired to stud.

Then racing will be the poorer. The game needs its superstars on the track. So says Bob Baffert.

“Anytime a Kentucky Derby winner shows up, it attracts a lot of people,” reasoned the Hall of Fame trainer, who has won the Run for the Roses four times and directed American Pharoah’s Triple Crown successes last year with faultless aplomb. “It’s a very important race the mainstream readily connects with.

“It took Zenyatta about 15 wins before she started to get rolling and gathering a big fan base. Of course, the way she won, with her last-to-first running style, brought everybody on board, wondering if she could continue to do that.

“There are so many horses that run every day, it’s hard to follow them all, so fans latch on to one and that creates excitement. Pharoah had a little bit of a following when he won the Derby as the favorite, but he didn’t get a heavy following until after he won the Preakness. That’s when fans felt maybe he was the one to end the 37-year Triple Crown drought.

“Then after he did and made history, everywhere we went, it was pretty crazy, but it was a good crazy.

“California Chrome is really good for the sport, and when he wins like he did yesterday, it’s important for the fans. When Zenyatta left, there was a big void, and here comes Pharoah. Now he’s gone and there’s Chrome, but he’s leaving for Dubai, so that will quiet things down.

“But another horse will jump up. Every year, there’s a horse that will come along and generate fan interest. I think Santa Anita’s done a great job of promoting these horses and the races. It’s been a pretty good meet, considering you have to work around this (rainy) weather.”



Undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Nyquist worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Sunday morning in 1:14 flat as he prepares for his three-year-old debut in the San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 15.

“He worked great, he went super,” said Doug O’Neill, who trains the son of Uncle Mo for Paul and Zillah Reddam. “He went out seven-eighths in 1:28 and change.”

Breaking from the four furlong pole, Santa Anita clocker Dane Nelson caught Nyquist in fractional times of 24.40, 47.60 and 1:00.20.

Also working for his three-year-old debut in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 6 was Mor Spirit for Bob Baffert. Winner of the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity, under Gary Stevens Mor Spirit worked in company with Coach Q, the former going in 1:00.60 and the latter in 1:02 flat.

FINISH LINES: Santa Anita will be dark tomorrow through Wednesday, but starts a five-day week of live racing Thursday through Monday, Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day when Santa Anita will offer another of its popular Dollar Days, with draft beers, hot dogs and sodas on sale for just a buck . . . Agent Nelson Arroyo reports that Stuart Elliott will begin riding regularly at Santa Anita the week of Jan. 21. “He’s recently in from Keeneland and has been working horses here and at San Luis Rey Downs,” said Arroyo, who also represents Abel Lezcano . . . Trevor Denman wasn’t here to call the races Saturday, having recently retired from The Great Race Place, but Michael Wrona ably did the honors when Denman’s Call, a three-year-old Northern Afleet colt making his debut, bounded home a 3 ¾-length winner at 22-1 under Mario Gutierrez in the fourth race. The Kentucky-bred chestnut was named for Denman, who retired after an indelible 33-year run at The Great Race Place. “We all know where we were when Trevor made his ‘un-be-lieve-ab-le’ call on Zenyatta when she won the Breeders’ Cup Classic here in 2009,” said Glen Sorgenstein, who owns a share of Denman’s Call and named the colt. “I certainly do, and I remember every stretch call he made on a horse I owned a share of, Goldencents,” the 2013 Santa Anita Derby winner and back-to-back winner of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in 2013 and 2014 . . . Ocho Ocho Ocho worked five furlongs Sunday for Jim Cassidy in a bullet 58.60, fastest of 117 works at the distance, the average time of which was 1:01.49. “Right now, I’m looking at the Clockers’ Corner for him,” the trainer said. The $75,000 race at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf will be run Jan. 24 . . . ESPN’S Kenny Mayne will call a race at Santa Anita next Saturday or Sunday for a piece he’s doing on SportsCenter. Mayne grew up in the shadow of defunct Longacres race track in the state of Washington and is a long-time racing enthusiast . . . Fans might have missed Justonemorething when the four-year-old Sea of Secrets gelding won Saturday’s ninth race by a half-length, the horse is that small. “He only weighs 850 pounds and is 14.3 hands,” trainer Eric Kruljac said of the California-bred owned and bred in part by Melissa Ford. “But it’s not the size of the horse that matters, it’s the size of the heart in the horse.”


(Current Through Saturday, Jan. 9)
Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% ITM% Money Won
Rafael Bejarano 52 12 12 4 23% 54% $610,680
Santiago Gonzalez 57 12 8 4 21% 42% $469,900
Joseph Talamo 40 6 7 3 15% 40% $322,180
David Lopez 27 6 2 6 22% 52% $170,270
Edwin Maldonado 34 6 1 4 18% 32% $178,890
Mario Gutierrez 42 4 7 4 10% 36% $231,294
Flavien Prat 32 4 2 6 13% 38% $205,452
Mike Smith 23 4 2 2 17% 35% $381,540
Tyler Baze 48 3 8 9 6% 42% $228,118
Alonso Quinonez 18 3 5 1 17% 50% $125,270
Martin Garcia 25 3 3 6 12% 48% $260,044
Martin Pedroza 27 3 1 1 11% 19% $59,060
Gary Stevens 16 3 1 0 19% 25% $360,080
Trainer Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% ITM% Money Won
Richard Baltas 22 6 3 1 27% 45% $375,430
Bob Baffert 27 5 3 5 19% 48% $359,310
William Spawr 9 4 2 0 44% 67% $101,350
Peter Miller 30 4 1 1 13% 20% $129,880
Philip D’Amato 24 3 6 7 13% 67% $283,600
Peter Eurton 16 3 6 2 19% 69% $116,930
Doug O’Neill 37 3 3 8 8% 38% $181,082
Steven Miyadi 11 3 3 1 27% 64% $75,980
Kristin Mulhall 9 3 1 1 33% 56% $133,800
Patrick Gallagher 10 3 1 1 30% 50% $206,684
Karen Headley 4 3 0 0 75% 75% $127,450
Jerry Hollendorfer 31 2 4 4 6% 32% $157,872
Mark Glatt 18 2 1 1 11% 22% $53,060
Jeff Bonde 9 2 1 0 22% 33% $64,860
Vladimir Cerin 4 2 0 2 50% 100% $57,840
Steve Knapp 9 2 0 1 22% 33% $48,630
Jorge Gutierrez 4 2 0 0 50% 50% $32,410
Jack Carava 7 2 0 0 29% 29% $32,500