- NYQUIST HAS TEAM O’NEILL CAUTIOUSLY EXCITED
- RACE STRATEGY FOR OBVIOUSLY REMAINS OBVIOUS
- DISTANCE SHOULD BENEFIT KYRIAKI IN SANTA MARIA
- SANTA ANITA JOCKS FACE HOLY ANGELS BOYS TONIGHT
NYQUIST SET FOR SAN VICENTE; BAFFERT EYES 10TH WIN
Monday is D Day for Nyquist and Team O’Neill, “D” as in the three-year-old “debut” for the undefeated two-year-old male champion of 2015, who runs in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs.
It will mark the first race for Nyquist since he captured the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last Oct. 31, his fifth victory for owners Paul and Zillah Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill.
“I think just getting him back to competition is mandatory, obviously, so we’re all exited and pumped the way he’s coming into it,” O’Neill said, “but the bottom line is, you can’t say too much until he runs the race. Hopefully, he runs big.”
A short field is expected for the San Vicente. Electrifying, one of seven horses Bob Baffert has nominated to a race the Hall of Fame trainer has won a record nine times, worked five furlongs in company Wednesday in 1:02. Stablemate Big Red Rocket went in 1:02.80.
Baffert won the San Vicente last year with Lord Nelson. His other winners were Silver Charm (1997), Exploit (1999), Kafwain (2003), Fusaichi Rock Star (2005), Too Much Bling (2006), The Factor (2011), Drill (2012) and Shakin It Up (2013).
In addition to the attractive racing card, Santa Anita will celebrate Presidents’ Day with another of its popular Dollar Days. Draft beers, hot dogs and sodas will be available for a buck apiece. First post time is 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.
YOUNG AT HEART OBVIOUSLY KEEPS ON GOING
At the ripe old age of eight, Obviously just keeps rolling along.
The Irish-bred gelding has one way of going: speed, speed and more speed. In 22 starts in the United States, Obviously has been on the lead at some point in the race 19 times.
The late Mike Mitchell, who previously campaigned Obviously for owners Anthony Fanticola or Joe Scardino, did not attempt to change his running style, nor does Phil D’Amato, who conditions the bay now.
“He’s the same,” D’Amato said of Obviously, who drew post position six in a field of seven in the Arcadia, which should enable him to get the jump on his major rival, Om, another speedster, who drew the rail.
“Obviously runs his race all the time,” said D’Amato, the meet’s leading trainer through 27 days with 15 wins, three more than runners-up Doug O’Neill and Bob Baffert.
“Even though he’s eight, he’s lightly raced and he trains in the morning like he’s still four, so I don’t think he knows he’s eight.”
Obviously will have a new rider in Mike Smith, taking over for Joe Talamo, who had ridden the gelding in his last 19 consecutive starts, winning eight, including the Grade I Shoemaker Mile twice.
“I’m just trying to mix something up,” D’Amato explained. “Joe’s been a great pilot for years and will still be. He hasn’t won on him in a little while and has always ridden some big races for us, obviously. The owners conceived doing something different might get us in the Winner’s Circle.”
The Arcadia field: Om, Gary Stevens, 7-5; Cape Wolfe, Rafael Bejarano, 6-1; Yes Yes Yes, Brice Blanc, 20-1; Big Cazanova, Joe Talamo, 20-1; Bolo, Flavien Prat, 4-1; Obviously, Mike Smith, 6-5; and Prospect Park, Kent Desormeaux, 4-1.
SANTA MARIA DISTANCE MORE SUITABLE FOR KYRIAKI
Trainer Peter Eurton expects an improved performance from Kyriaki in Saturday’s Grade II Santa Maria Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles after the six-year-old Scat Daddy mare faded to eighth in the Grade II Santa Monica Stakes at seven furlongs on Jan. 23.
Victorious longshot Lost Bus set rapid fractions of 44.80 and 1:09 flat in the Santa Monica, discouraging Kyriaki. “Seven-eighths is not her cup of tea; the fractions are too fast,” Eurton said. “She likes a much easier pace where she can get in her comfort zone. Trying to run with them as fast as they went in the Santa Monica fried her.”
The Santa Maria: Star Act, Tyler Baze, 15-1; Gas Total, Flavien Prat, 6-1; Birdatthewire, Mike Smith,5-2; Big Break, Edwin Maldonado, 20-1; Kyriaki, Rafael Bejarano, 12-1; Living the Life, Gary Stevens, 6-1; Yahilwa, Joe Talamo, 7-2; and Tara’s Tango, Martin Garcia, 2-1.
SANTA ANITA JOCKEYS’ CHARITY GAME TONIGHT
The 49th annual Santa Anita Jockeys vs. Holy Angels Elementary School Charity Basketball Game will be played tonight at La Salle High School in Pasadena, with proceeds to benefit Holy Angels athletic program, the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) and the Eye on Jacob Foundation.
Sponsored by Thoroughbred owner J. Paul Reddam’s CashCall and Santa Anita Park, tip off is scheduled for 7:15 p.m., with admission doors opening at 6:15 p.m.
Hall of Fame jockeys Kent Desormeaux, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Mike Smith, Alex Solis and Gary Stevens will all be available at center court for an autograph signing session beginning at 6:30 p.m.
With Pincay serving as honorary team captain, a number of active riders, including: Saul Arias, Tyler Baze, Rafael Bejarano, Brice Blanc, Desormeaux, Victor Espinoza, Martin Garcia, Santiago Gonzalez, Mario Gutierrez, Abel Lezcano, Kayla Stra, Chantal Sutherland, David Lopez, Edwin Maldonado, Gonzalo Nicolas, Martin Pedroza, Geena Lattanzio, Fernando Perez, Tiago Pereira, Flavien Prat, Iggy Puglisi, Alonso Quinonez, Joe Talamo, Drayden Van Dyke and perhaps others.
When asked who he thought would lead the jockeys in scoring this year, Smith opined: “It’s between Drayden (Van Dyke) and Kent (Desormeaux). I’d have to give it to Drayden, maybe with 12 to 15 points. Kent’s more of a facilitator these days, moving the ball around. (He and I) are getting a little older, so I don’t think he’ll be scoring like he did 20 years ago.”
TVG’s Kurt Hoover will be coaching the jockeys for his 15th consecutive year, and while his stewardship has produced mixed results, Hoover is confident in his “Big Two.”
“We’ve got Desormeaux back and that’s really all we need,” said Hoover. “And the way Van Dyke played last year, we should be very tough to beat with those two guys alone. I’d make us a 7 ½ point favorite.”
PRESS BOX STRAW POLL: Santa Anita Jockeys, 37, Holy Angels Boys, 26.
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita resumes its lucrative guaranteed pools today, tomorrow and this weekend, as follows: Thursday and Friday, $300,000 Late Pick 4; Saturday and Sunday, $150,000 Pick 6 and $500,000 Late Pick 4; and Monday, $300,000 Late Pick 4 . . . For the first time in Santa Anita history, two female riders were on the morning line favorites in the same race, Rosie Higgins aboard Blue Law (5-2) and Geena Lattanzio on My Ole Bud (3-1) in today’s second race . . . Line of the meet likely came in Sunday’s fifth race, the Super Bowl Starter Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Following is Jon White‘s morning line on the 11 starters, with the closing odds in parentheses: 7-2 (7-2); 15-1 (40-1); 9-2 (9-2); 20-1 (30-1); 8-1 (16-1); 4-1 (2-1); 10-1 (11-1); 6-1 (7-1); 15-1 (25-1); 8-1 (10-1); and 12-1 (12-1) . . . Tom Quigley‘s handicapping guests this weekend at 11:20 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens will be clocker for www.nationalturf.com Andy Harrington Saturday; Toby Turrell of the Winners’ Card Yellow Sheet Sunday; and private clocker Gary Young Monday . . . Nancy Dollase, spokesperson for the Holy Angels Boys Basketball Team, informs Liana Bartolome, a 10-year-old fifth grader at Holy Angels who is known to her classmates as “Leyonce,” will sing tonight’s National Anthem, and popular public address announcer Pat Wickhem will emcee basketball festivities tonight at La Salle High in Pasadena.
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