- SUNDAY RULES ONE TO CATCH IN SANTA MONICA
- CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ ECLIPSES EXPECTATIONS
- LOUISIANA NATIVE BONNET FULFILLS AMBITIONS
SUNDAY RULES SEEKS EIGHTH WIN IN NINE STARTS
When it comes to axioms, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” readily applies to Sunday Rules, a speed-proficient mare out to win her eighth race from nine starts when she runs in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes for older fillies and mares at seven furlongs.
The five-year-old Tribal Rule mare bred in California by owner Nick Alexander won the restricted Kalookan Queen Stakes last out, going to the front at the start of the 6 ½ furlong test and widening to finish 4 ¼ lengths on top at the wire under Mike Smith, who has ridden her three times, each resulting in victory.
“I just leave it up to Mike,” said leading trainer Phil D’Amato when asked if Sunday Rules could harness her speed should the occasion arise. “He gets along with her really well. She’s a much bigger, stronger filly than she was as a two-year-old. She’s more mature.
“Mike can sit second if need be, but her speed is so devastating, to utilize that and for her to carry it like she does, that’s what makes her a special filly.”
“You wouldn’t want to change too much,” the Hall of Fame rider said. “You just want to let her get away in good order and be happy wherever she’s comfortable.
“She’s so naturally quick, she’s usually up on the lead with a really high cruising speed and doing it well within herself. She’s doing great right now, so whatever she’s doing, we’ll keep doing it, and try not to change too much.”
Sunday Rules worked five furlongs Sunday in 1:01.80.
Probable for the Santa Monica: Ben’s Duchess, Joe Talamo; Kiss at Midnight, no rider; Living the Life, Flavien Prat; Prize Exhibit, Santiago Gonzalez; and Sunday Rules, Mike Smith. Trainers Peter Eurton and Jerry Hollendorfer are each considering either the Santa Monica or the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic in Texas on Jan. 30 for their respective horses, Kyriaki and Tara’s Tango.
Ben’s Duchess worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Monday in 1:00.20 with Talamo aboard. Trainer John Sadler called the drill “perfect.”
Tara’s Tango went five furlongs Monday in 1:00.40.
CALIFORNIANS DOMINATE ECLIPSE AWARDS
American Pharoah, Beholder, Nyquist, Songbird, Stellar Wind and Bob Baffert are or were each based full-time at Santa Anita, in addition to Ahmed Zayat, who has a distinct California connection since he is the owner and breeder of American Pharaoh.
All were honored with Eclipse Awards at the 45th annual ceremony Saturday at Gulfstream Park in Florida. Now, it’s back to business as usual at Santa Anita.
“We’re really, really happy, and I’d like to thank all those who voted for her,” said John Sadler, trainer of Stellar Wind for the Hronis brothers, Kosta and Peter.
“You really don’t get much time to say all you want when you accept the Eclipse Award, due to time constraints, because it is a long program, but I did want to again thank the voters.
“I’m very proud of how we all did at the Eclipse Awards. California dominated.
“Stellar Wind has had her break (since the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Oct. 30), she’s back with me here at Santa Anita and looking good. I’ll figure out the exact calendar (for her races), but we’re kind of working backwards from the Breeders’ Cup (Distaff at Santa Anita on Nov. 4), which is our goal this year, obviously.
“We’ll be looking more seriously at the later races leading to the Breeders’ Cup, but she should definitely race here this meet if all goes well.”
“It was humbling just to be associated with a two-year-old male champion,” said Doug O’Neill, who conditions undefeated Nyquist for Paul and Zillah Reddam. “It was a wonderful experience at Gulfstream’s Sport of Kings Theatre. It’s the perfect venue for an event such as the Eclipse Awards.
“It was a beautiful night, a lot of fun and we’re very grateful to be part of Team Nyquist.”
Nyquist is scheduled to make his three-year-old debut in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs on Feb. 15. From there, if all goes well, it would be on to the Florida Derby, with the ultimate goal the Kentucky Derby on May 7.
In a Homer Simpson “Doh!” moment, one voter did not have unbeaten superstar Songbird on his ballot, but, in a foregone conclusion, the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro trained by Jerry Hollendorfer was named champion two-year-old filly.
Beholder captured her third Eclipse Award by being voted top Older Dirt Female. The daughter of Henny Hughes trained by Richard Mandella previously won at two and three.
NEWCOMER BONNET HAPPY TO REALIZE HIS DREAM
Chester Bonnet hopes to join a long line of successful Louisiana natives who have gone on to fame and glory in the Sport of Kings: Eddie Delahoussaye, Kent Desormeaux, Craig Perret, Randy Romero and Ray Sibille come readily to mind.
“I’ll be riding eight years come April,” said the 29-year-old Bonnet (pronounced bon-NET, with the accent on the last syllable), who hails from a little town called Cankton, about 15 miles from Lafayette.
“I had been riding in Louisiana, but my girlfriend, Catherine Williams, is from Lancaster right here in California. She got homesick so we moved back here and now rent a house in Duarte, right near the track.”
Long (5-7) and lanky and tacking 116 pounds, Bonnet hails from a family of horsemen, among them his father, Chester Colligan, Sr.
“My father didn’t want me to ride,” Chester said. “He got hurt real bad when he was riding, so it had an impact on him. But it’s something I enjoy.
“The riding styles here are pretty much the same as what I experienced in Louisiana. The big difference is, you’re going against the best jockeys. They’re world-class riders.
“When I was a kid back in Louisiana, I watched races on TV from Santa Anita and always wanted to ride here, so this is a dream come true for me.”
Ken Huth is the agent for Bonnet, who has also been riding at Los Alamitos where he has three wins from 19 mounts.
FINISH LINES: More honors for Bob Baffert: The conditioner of Triple Crown king American Pharoah was named an Achiever of the Year by Success Magazine. His story can be read on www.success.com . . . Congrats to trainer Phil D’Amato and jockey Brice Blanc on their $22.20 upset win in Sunday’s Astra Stakes . . . Santa Anita will be dark tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday. Live racing resumes Friday, Jan. 22, at 1 p.m.
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