- STREET FANCY TAKES ON CHAMP SONGBIRD SATURDAY
- IMPERATIVE THE NEW CHOICE IN SAN ANTONIO STAKES
- OUTSIDE POST GOOD FOR UNCLE LINO IN ROBERT LEWIS
- McANALLY SEEKS TO ADD TO HIS SANTA ANITA RECORD
- BLINKERS BETTER LATE THAN NEVER FOR KOBE’S BACK?
- DAVID C. LOPEZ IMPRESSES HORSEMEN AT SANTA ANITA
- CHAMP NYQUIST TO WORK BEFORE FIRST RACE SUNDAY
STREET FANCY MAIN THREAT TO SONGBIRD
Phil D’Amato is not deluding himself when it comes to Street Fancy’s chances of defeating champion Songbird in Saturday’s Grade II, $300,000 Las Virgenes Stakes, but on the other hand, he’s not the meet’s leading trainer by accident.
Through 24 racing days, D’Amato held a 14-11 lead over runner-up Doug O’Neill, and had started 19 fewer horses. Making her first start this meet on Saturday will be Street Fancy, a daughter of Street Sense who won the Grade I Starlet at Los Alamitos Dec. 12, closing from seventh in a field of nine to win the mile-and-a-sixteenth race by a length under Mike Smith.
The Hall of Fame jockey has ridden Songbird in each of her four victories and will be aboard again on Saturday.
“Street Fancy is doing well and we’re going to see where we stand against the best filly in the country,” D’Amato said, speaking in glowing terms of unbeaten Songbird. “She’s a special filly. She might even be the best three-year-old in the country, male or female. But my filly’s not missed a beat since winning the Starlet. I think she’s moved forward and this will be a really good test or gauge to see where we stand.”
The field: She’s a Warrior, Flavien Prat, 20-1; Land Over Sea, Mario Gutierrez, 8-1; Street Fancy, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; Jade Princess, Martin Garcia, 10-1; Decked Out, Kent Desormeaux, 20-1; Songbird, Mike Smith, 1-5; and Merirosvo, Drayden Van Dyke, 30-1.
‘HAPPY’ IMPERATIVE SET FOR SAN ANTONIO
With Dortmund abstaining from Saturday’s San Antonio Stakes, chances for the opposition improved dramatically, specifically in the case of Imperative, who was made the 5-2 morning line favorite in the Grade II race at 1 1/8 miles with $500,000 in purse money.
“The absence of Dortmund certainly should help a little bit, but my horse is doing good,” said Richard Baltas, trainer of Imperative, who was a game second to 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome in the San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 9.
“We’re not going to be that far off (the pace). He was closer last time. The horse is happy. I’m looking forward to the race.”
The field for the San Antonio, race seven: Cat Burglar, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Donworth, Mario Gutierrez, 6-1; Cyrus Alexander, Martin Garcia, 6-1; Hard Aces, Joe Talamo, 10-1; Hoppertunity, Flavien Prat, 3-1; Blingo, Alex Solis, 20-1; Imperative, Mike Smith, 5-2; and El Kabeir, Gary Stevens, 6-1.
LUCKY SEVEN POST IN LEWIS FOR UNCLE LINO?
Both trainer and jockey are pleased with the draw for Uncle Lino in Saturday’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes for three-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.
“If I had to pick a post position, that would be it: seven of seven,” said Gary Sherlock, trainer of the son of Uncle Mo who tries two turns for the first time.
“Hopefully he’ll lay off some of the speed and put in a good finish.”
Added jockey Fernando Perez, who has ridden Uncle Lino in each of his three previous races, resulting in a maiden win and two photo-finish losses, a second and a third, each by a neck: “I don’t think he’ll be too wide with seven horses. I think it’s a good post position.”
The Lewis: Let’s Meet in Rio, Kent Desormeaux, 6-1; I Will Score, Mike Smith, 5-2; Dressed in Hermes, Rafael Bejarano, 6-1; Laoban, Tyler Baze, 12-1; Mor Spirit, Gary Stevens, 8-5; Path of David, Joe Talamo, 8-1; and Uncle Lino, Fernando Perez, 5-1.
McANALLY HOPES TO ADD TO LONGEVITY MARK IN SAN MARCOS
Ron McAnally has been at Santa Anita since 1948. He ranks fourth all-time in victories at The Great Race Place with 703, behind Bobby Frankel, 917, Charlie Whittingham, 869, and Bob Baffert, 751.
McAnally also is fourth in stakes victories with 113, and hopes to add to that number Saturday when he sends out Quick Casablanca in the Grade II San Marcos Stakes for older horses at 1 ¼ miles on turf.
“I’ve been here all my life,” said McAnally, who turns 84 on July 11. “The most dramatic change? Off-track betting. It hurt the live crowds, although originally they said the satellites would be 50 miles from here. Now it’s 20, at Pomona.
“But my horse is doing well. He should like the distance. He doesn’t want to go a mile. He wants a mile-and-a-quarter, a mile-and-a-half. He won at a mile-and-half in Chile.”
The San Marcos: Gaga A, Mario Gutierrez, 10-1; Class Leader, Kent Desormeaux, 10-1; Chiropractor, Drayden Van Dyke, 4-1; Southern Freedom, Martin Garcia, 12-1; Power Foot, Tiago Pereira, 15-1; Ganesh, Flavien Prat, 15-1; Flamboyant, Brice Blanc, 4-1; Hay Dude, David C. Lopez, 5-2; Abbey Vale, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; Quick Casablanca, Tyler Baze, 15-1; and Big Cazanova, Santiago Gonzalez, 15-1.
FRESH START FOR KOBE’S BACK IN BLINKERS?
Kobe’s Back, who gets out of the gate slower than a Sumo wrestler, will wear blinkers for the first time in 17 career starts when he runs in Sunday’s Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes for older horses at six furlongs.
“He deserved a little freshening,” trainer Peter Eurton said in explaining why the five-year-old gray son of Flatter has not raced since finishing seventh of 14 in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland Oct. 31. “That’s the only reason he got the time off.
“He’s not a nervous horse in the gate; he just gets pretty complacent. I hope the blinkers will help Sunday. This will be the first time he’s worn them in a race, but he’s had them on for every work since the Breeders’ Cup, in fact, almost every day in his training.
“He does seem to be on the bridle more and getting underneath himself better. His works have been stronger, he’s showing more desire and interest, so we’ll see.
“I may say after the race that it’s something I should have done sooner. Let’s hope so.”
Owned by the C R K Stable of Lee and Susan Searing, Kobe’s Back won the Grade II San Vicente Stakes in 2014 and the Grade III Commonwealth last April, in addition to a maiden victory. He has earned $652,250.
The Palos Verdes, race six of eight: Kobe’s Back, Gary Stevens, 5-2; Salutos Amigos, Rafael Bejarano, 2-1; Mystery Train, Tyler Baze, 12-1; Pulling G’s, Victor Espinoza, 7-2; Rocket Heat, Edwin Maldonado, 9-2; and Cautious Giant, Santiago Gonzalez, 4-1.
APPRENTICE LOPEZ LIVING A DREAM AT SANTA ANITA
Apprentice jockey David C. (for Charles) Lopez is one of the best-kept secrets in Santa Anita’s riding colony. Through 24 days of the Winter Meet, the 26-year-old native of Puerto Rico who was raised in The Garden State and is “a Jersey boy at heart” ranked third in the standings with 18 wins from 89 mounts, a respectable 20 percent average.
It doesn’t appear Lopez will slow down anytime soon, since he doesn’t lose his five-pound apprentice allowance until March 7. The next day, he will ride as a full-fledged journeyman,
“Originally, I came out from Monmouth Park,” said Lopez, who is represented by agent J.R. Pegram. “I was raised in Long Branch, right next to Monmouth Park (in Oceanport). I went on a break for a while just galloping horses since 2011, then came back late 2014, early 2015 to Turf Paradise, got going a little, then went to Golden Gate with agent Dennis Patterson, and he got me rolling right off the bat. I think I won three the first week there.
“It’s all been clicking. I never dreamed I’d be doing this well at Santa Anita, ever in my life. I just wanted to make a living at any track I was at, and I came here and everything’s been like a dream, really.
“I’ve been galloping seven years and racing professionally about a year-and-a-half.”
Lopez comes from a family of racetrackers, as does Pegram. David’s father, C.C. Lopez, still rides at Penn National at 53; his brother, Erick Lopez, 28, rides at Golden Gate; and his cousin, Jose Ferrer, rides at Tampa Bay Downs.
“My grandfather, Carlos Lopez, also was a jockey,” David points out.
Agent Jim Pegram is the father of J.R. and agent Brad Pegram. Owner/breeder Mike Pegram is Jim’s brother.
One important horseman Lopez has impressed is leading trainer Phil D’Amato.
“I think he’s definitely shown he can compete with the big boys on the Southern California circuit,” said D’Amato, who saddled two winners Thursday.
“David’s got great hands and is one of those riders horses just run for. He reminds me of a version of Pat Day. He’s got light hands, finesse, and seems to get better each week.”
FINISH LINES: Undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion Nyquist will work five furlongs under regular rider Mario Gutierrez at 10:15 a.m. Sunday before the first race at 11 a.m. as he prepares for his three-year-old debut in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs on Monday, Feb. 15 . . . Bob Baffert on Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund missing Saturday’s San Antonio: “He’s been training but I lost some time with him. I was trying to get him back, but he’s not quite like the Dortmund we know. Kaleem (owner Kaleem Shah) said whatever you need to do, don’t run him until you’ve got him perfect.” . . . Baffert spent Thursday being escorted through Super Bowl’s Media Center and Radio Row in the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco under the supervision of NTRA Media Relations Director Jim Mulvihill. Ever the good sport, Baffert even dove into a pit filled with foam squares when he tried to catch a long pass. NTRA posted the video on its Facebook page and suggested he “stick to training.” . . . Multiple stakes winner Toews On Ice worked six furlongs from the gate for Baffert in company Friday for the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 15. The son of Archarcharch was clocked in 1:14.20, while stablemate Speed Check went in 1:13.80 . . . Congratulations to Santa Anita’s popular on-track TV analyst Michelle Yu and her husband, trainer Ryan Hanson, on the birth of their seven-pound, four-ounce baby girl, Olivia Rein Hanson, at 5:10 p.m. Tuesday in Orange County. “She was born on American Pharoah‘s birthday,” Yu pointed out. “Her hobbies include eating and sleeping, both of which she does very well.” . . . Favored in all four lifetime starts, Donworth makes his first start for new trainer Doug O’Neill in Saturday’s San Antonio Stakes since winning the Stanton Stakes by 11 lengths at Delaware Park last June. A 4-year-old colt by Tiznow, out of the Street Cry mare Temple Street, Donworth was purchased by Dennis O’Neill, Doug’s brother and stable consultant, at Keeneland’s breeding stock sale in November for $550,000, making him the sales topper. Donworth was purchased out of the Regis Farms dispersal handled by Three Chimneys for owner Paul Reddam. “We’re very excited,” said Doug when asked about Donworth. “Mario (Gutierrez) worked him for us last week and he loved how he felt. With Dortmund out, we believe he has a good chance to win.”
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Thursday, Feb. 4)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||67||7||7||9||10%||34%||$431,329|
|J. Keith Desormeaux||23||5||1||6||22%||52%||$147,390|