- ECLIPSE AWARD WINNERS REIGN AT SANTA ANITA
- NYQUIST AND MOR SPIRIT DRILL FOR 2016 DEBUTS
- GENDER AGENDA GOES THE EXTRA MILE AGAIN
- SUNDAY RULES WORKS OUT FOR SANTA MONICA
- POPULAR DOLLAR DAY AT SANTA ANITA MONDAY
‘A WONDERFUL YEAR’ FOR AMERICAN PHAROAH’S TEAM
Perpetually blessed by Mother Nature, Santa Anita basked in another glorious morning Sunday, sun filtering through wispy clouds with temperatures refreshingly invigorating, less than 24 hours after Team Baffert, which makes The Great Race Place its second home, received the sport’s highest honor, Eclipse Awards for outstanding achievements in 2015.
“We swept all the awards, which is kind of what we hoped would happen,” said Jim Barnes, Bob Baffert’s trusted assistant who was minding the store at Santa Anita while the Hall of Fame trainer and his entourage were en route to California after participating in festivities at Gulfstream Park Saturday night.
“It was a wonderful year and it’s going to be hard to ever beat it, that’s for sure.”
Not only did American Pharoah become only the second horse in the 45-year-old history of the Eclipse Awards to receive every first-place vote for Horse of the Year, Baffert received an Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer; American’s Pharoah’s owner/breeder Ahmed Zayat was honored in those two categories; and Pharoah, who would go on to complete an unprecedented “Grand Slam” by capturing the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 31 before being retired to stud, was named top three-year-old male.
Victor Espinoza, who did not attend the ceremonies, finished a distant second to Javier Castellano as outstanding jockey, 184-70, even though he piloted American Pharoah to the first Triple Crown triumph in 37 years and also helped make the horse a household name thanks to numerous appearances at popular mainstream events.
Espinoza also was the regular rider of Stellar Wind, who earned an Eclipse Award as outstanding three-year-old filly.
But all that was trumped by Castellano’s record-setting year in money won by horses he rode, $28,120,767, and a total of 344 wins overall, 17 of them Grade I stakes.
“Castellano won more graded stakes than anybody else did,” noted Hall of Fame great Gary Stevens, an Eclipse Award winner himself in 1998. “The right rider won it. Victor would have been deserving, but the right rider won it. Castellano worked his ass off. He rode more races, he won more races. He had a phenomenal year.
“That’s my opinion, and that’s with full respect to Victor.”
NYQUIST, MOR SPIRIT WORK FOR SOPHOMORE DEBUTS
Nyquist, fresh from officially winning an Eclipse Award as outstanding male two-year-old of 2015, worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Sunday morning in 1:00.80 as the unbeaten son of Uncle Mo trained by Doug O’Neill for Paul and Zillah Reddam preps for his three-year-old debut in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs on Feb. 15.
“The work was as good as Doug likes to have it,” said assistant Leandro Mora. “He went out (six furlongs) in (one) 14 and galloped out (seven furlongs) in 1:28. It was very good.”
Also working for his three-year-old debut was Mor Spirit, winner of the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity. Under regular rider Gary Stevens, the son of Eskendereya owned by Michael Lund Petersen went five furlongs in 1:01 flat as he prepares for the Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 6.
“It was a good work,” said Bob Baffert assistant Jim Barnes. “Gary loved it.”
GENDER AGENDA BACK A MILE FOR MEGAHERTZ
Gender Agenda goes from a mile and an eighth victory in the Grade III Robert J. Frankel Stakes on Dec. 27 back to one mile in Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday feature, the Grade III Megahertz Stakes for older fillies and mares on turf.
“The basic makeup of the race will be a lot different from a mile and an eighth, but she’s won at a mile and run very well at the distance so this race seemed like a logical step,” noted Carla Gaines, who trains the five-year-old English-bred mare for Keith Brackpool, Alon Ossip and Tim Ritvo.
Gender Agenda has raced eight times at a mile on turf, winning three, but seeks her first stakes win at that distance in the Megahertz, which drew a full field of 14 but was down to 12 with the scratches of Sweet as a Rose and Oscar Party.
“More than anything else, it just shows that particular division is probably overloaded,” said Jim Cassidy, trainer of Oscar Party, who ran in yesterday’s Grade II La Canada. “I’m sure there are a few in the race that are taking a chance to see if they fit.”
The field: Circling, Tiago Pereira, 15-1; Glory, Mike Smith, 7-2; Beat of The Drum, Flavien Prat, 15-1; Theatre Star, Drayden Van Dyke, 6-1; Tiz a Kiss, Santiago Gonzalez, 20-1; Keri Belle, Alex Solis, 8-1; Gender Agenda, Tyler Baze, 6-1; Stormy Lucy, Kent Desormeaux, 4-1; Chaulk O Lattey, Rafael Bejarano, 6-1; Journey On, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1; Alexis Tangier, Gary Stevens, 10-1; and My Year Is a Day, Brice Blanc, 10-1.
FINISH LINES: Fans can feast on the cheap this Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when Santa Anita offers another of its Dollar Days, with draft beers, hot dogs and sodas available for just a buck. Santa Anita will be dark Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Live racing resumes Friday, Jan. 22, at 1 p.m. . . . Breeders’ Cup congratulations also are in order for Santa Anita-based Beholder (top older female of 2105 trained by Richard Mandella) and unbeaten superstar Songbird (outstanding two-year-old filly, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer) . . . Sunday Rules, prepping for next Saturday’s Grade II Santa Monica Stakes, worked five furlongs Sunday for Phil D’Amato in 1:01.80. The speedy California-bred daughter of the late Tribal Rule has won seven of eight career starts . . . Agent Brian Beach reports Victor Espinoza will be at the iconic Claridge Hotel in London Tuesday for the 2015 Longines World’s Best Racehorse Ceremony to receive an award . . . Simon Callaghan said that Taris came out of her smashing 5 ¼-length victory in Saturday’s Grade II La Canada Stakes “perfect” and will go on to the Grade I Santa Margarita Stakes on March 19 . . . The Board of Directors of the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) has voted to appoint Samantha Siegel to fill a vacancy on the board created by the recent resignation of George Todaro. Siegel, campaigning as JayEmEss Stable, is an active owner and breeder whose family has been involved in California Thoroughbred racing for more than five decades. Her late father, Mace, was a founding member of the Thoroughbred Owners of California. JayEmEss has had many stakes winners, including multiple Grade I winners Urbane, I Ain’t Bluffing, and Include Me Out, Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup winner Rail Trip, and 2004 champion male two-year-old Declans Moon. Siegel also is passionate about horse retirement and serves on the board of CARMA and is Treasurer of that organization. She resides in Beverly Hills. “We are very pleased to welcome Samantha and feel that, with her involvement and experience as an owner and breeder, she can offer a unique perspective to the TOC board,” said Chairman Mike Pegram. “I am excited to join the TOC board,” said Siegel, “and am looking forward to working toward the continued improvement of Thoroughbred racing in California.” . . . And this just in: maiden winner Crimson Giant has been retired. The seven-year-old California-bred Formal Gold gelding trained by Charles Stutts finished fifth at Golden Gate yesterday in his 86th and final career start. “He retired perfectly sound,” said owner Bryan Carney. “He’ll go to Orange County and be trained to be a jumper.” . . . Eric Kruljac won his second race from 12 starts this meet when Dive Down captured Saturday’s opener, but the trainer isn’t getting carried away. “All I’ve got at my barn are a bunch of canaries,” Kruljac said. “Cheap, cheap, cheap.”
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