- ‘MOR’ FOR THE RECORD IN SANTA ANITA DERBY?
- UNBEATEN CHAMP SONGBIRD ON RAIL FOR OAKS
- D’AMATO HAS HIS ‘PHIL’ WITH 10 ON DERBY DAY
- SANTA ANITA DERBY 5K RUN & WALK SATURDAY
- BEHOLDER WORKS FOR HER SIX-YEAR-OLD DEBUT
STEVENS EYES BIG PICTURE WITH MOR SPIRIT
Gary Stevens hopes to add to his record of nine Santa Anita Derby victories when he rides Mor Spirit for Bob Baffert in the 79th edition of the West Coast’s major steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby on May 7.
While signs may point to another triumph in the Grade I, $1 million race for three-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles, Stevens is looking at the big picture, which would culminate with the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.
“Bob’s stepped the horse’s training up a notch, he’s had four great workouts, I just saw him come back to the barn and he looks great,” Stevens said between working Beholder and Kobe’s Back Thursday morning. “All we have to do now is lead him over there on Saturday and get the job done.
“Winning the Santa Anita Derby nine times can be attributed to a combination of good horses, good riding and good luck. You always have to have luck on your side, but that said, if you don’t have the horse, you’re not going to get it done.
“This is a whole different year and I’m not thinking about that record at all. I just want to have a good race in him to set us up for the Kentucky Derby. That’s always been my goal.
“Yeah, the Santa Anita Derby is a million dollar race and I want to win it, but we need a good race out of him I and don’t want to have to go to the well to do it.”
Stevens has this going for him: the Santa Anita Derby has produced 17 winners of the Kentucky Derby.
Mor Spirit worked four furlongs Monday in 47 seconds, breezing.
The field for the Santa Anita Derby, race eight of 12: Denman’s Call, Rafael Bejarano, 15-1; Exaggerator, Kent Desormeaux, 4-1; Danzing Candy, Mike Smith, 9-5; Mor Spirit, Gary Stevens, 8-5; Smokey Image, Victor Espinoza, 15-1; Iron Rob, Stewart Elliott, 12-1; Dressed in Hermes, Flavien Prat, 15-1; Rare Candy, Joe Talamo, 30-1; Diplodocus, Tyler Baze, 30-1; and Uncle Lino, Fernando Perez, 20-1.
TRAINER SEES NEED FOR LEAD WITH DANZING CANDY
Cliff Sise Jr. made no bones about strategy for front-running San Felipe Stakes winner Danzing Candy for the Santa Anita Derby, despite the presence of other speed horses, such as Iron Rob, winner of the six furlong San Pedro Stakes on the front end.
“Strategy? We’ll go to the front,” the trainer said. “If we were outside, we could sit off the speed, but coming out of the three hole, we’ll go to the lead. The horse is doing great.”
The local weather forecast calls for rain starting early as Thursday and into Saturday, but an off track wouldn’t bother Sise.
“I hope it’s sloppy,” he said. “I hope it’s raining when the race is run, because you can get to the bottom (of the surface) better. I don’t know. He might not even like the slop, but I think he would. He’s got great action for it.”
THOROUGHBREDS members at Santa Anita Saturday can receive free an exclusive Santa Anita Derby T-shirt with paid admission while supplies last.
Also Saturday, there will be a Derby Day Infield Brewfest offering delicious food and craft beer at a day-long party. Packages are available at santaanita.com/events.
First post time Saturday is 12 noon. Admission gates open at 10 a.m.
RAIL SHORTEST WAY AROUND FOR 1-9 SONGBIRD
Songbird, unbeaten and untested in six victories, three of them Grade I’s and each seemingly easier than the last, drew the No. One post position for Saturday’s Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles. No concern for Team Hollendorfer.
“It’s the shortest away around there,” said Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, trainer of the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro for Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms. “Today she stood in the gate and we’ll school her during the races today and tomorrow, and we’ll be ready.”
Songbird worked four furlongs Monday in 46.80, breezing, and appears to be a “free square” in the Pick Six, which starts with the Oaks as race seven.
The field for the Oaks: Songbird, Mike Smith, 1-9; She’s a Warrior, Gary Stevens, 15-1; Jade Princess, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; Kay Kay, Alonso Quinonez, 30-1; Forever Darling, Martin Pedroza, 10-1; Mokat, Flavien Prat, 12-1; and Bellamentary, Rafael Bejarano, 10-1.
FOUR MORE STAKES BOLSTER SATURDAY CARD
Four other stakes supplement the Grade I Derby and Oaks on Saturday, the Grade III Providencia Stakes, the Grade III Thunder Road Stakes, and the Echo Eddie Stakes and the Evening Jewel Stakes, the latter two offering a $200,000 purse for horses bred or sired in California.
Phil D’Amato, with a 35-32 lead over Doug O’Neill in quest of his first training title, has 10 horses entered Saturday, including Nodiac in the Providencia; Papacoolpapacool in the Thunder Road; Tough It Out in the Echo Eddie; and Shy Carmelita in the Evening Jewel.
“All the horses have legit shots,” said D’Amato. “They’re all well-meant.
“Running 10 horses is definitely a record for me in one day,” D’Amato said. “I think I’ve run seven or eight, but this is definitely a record.”
SANTA ANITA DERBY 5K RUN TAKES PLACE SATURDAY
The 22nd annual Santa Anita Derby Day 5k run/walk Saturday will kick off a world-class day of racing at Santa Anita. More than 6,000 runners and walkers are expected to enjoy one of Southern California’s most picturesque and unique courses that include a romp through the LA Arboretum and a tunneling into Santa Anita’s manicured Infield capped by a photo finish captured on the Infield big screen.
A race with a rich 22-year history has attracted many followers over the years. Always a crowd favorite with runners, walkers and racing fans, Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza will be leading the way through the LA Arboretum, while Chantal Kruse has been a perennial favorite in the jockey’s division for years.
A unique aspect to this year’s race will be the 150-plus participants over the age of 70. Included will be 93-year-old resident of Azusa, Margaret Davis.
At 92, Davis won her age group in 2015 with a blazing time of 45:56 for 5k, averaging 14:46 per mile. Davis barely missed the American Age group record despite a challenging finish on the dirt track.
This year’s elite field of runners will include members of Pasadena’s “Run with US,” running club, including Mark Bartres (29:24 10K PR), Rosario Castenada (18:12 5k PR) and Natalie Miano (17:37 5k PR).
The event has experienced a steady growth since its inception, due to the passion of Santa Anita’s Special Projects Director, Pete Siberell. It has been embraced by a team of fabulous sponsors, including Methodist Hospital, which expects to field a team of over 300 employees, friends and family.
Westfield Santa Anita, the LA Arboretum, Yoobi, Run with US and Saucony will be represented as well.
Registration is available online at derbyday5k.com, at Westfield Santa Anita tomorrow or the day of the event at Santa Anita’s Gate 3, starting at 6:30 a.m. For more information, call Kinane Events at (760) 434-5255, or email email@example.com.
BALDWIN AVE. CLOSED MORNING OF SANTA ANITA DERBY
On Saturday, Baldwin Ave. will be closed to vehicular traffic between the 210 Freeway and Huntington Drive from 7:30 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. in order to accommodate foot traffic related to Santa Anita’s annual Derby Day 5K Run and Walk.
Accordingly, Santa Anita’s Gate 8, which adjoins the Westfield Shopping Mall on Baldwin Ave., and Gate 7, at the track’s northwest end, will also be closed to vehicles during the same time frame.
Those wishing to visit Clockers’ Corner on Derby Day morning will be able to enter the track on Santa Anita’s northeast perimeter, through Gate 5, or on the track’s southern perimeter, through Gate 3. Gates 3 and 5 will be open for easy access to Clockers’ Corner beginning at 5 a.m. and will remain open throughout the day. Santa Anita’s main track will be closed for training at 7:30 a.m.
Gate 3 is located at the intersection of Holly Ave. and Huntington Drive. Gate 5 is located at the confluence of Colorado Place and Huntington Drive.
For additional information, fans are encouraged to visit santaanita.com/events, or call (626) 574-RACE.
FINISH LINES: Three-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder worked six furlongs Thursday for Richard Mandella with Gary Stevens aboard in a bullet 1:12.60. “She couldn’t be doing better,” said Mandella, who is likely to start her back in the Grade III Adoration Stakes on May 8. Stevens also worked Palos Verdes and San Carlos winner Kobe’s Back four furlongs for Peter Eurton in 48.80, breezing . . . With a natural “Hat Trick” of three straight wins Sunday (Adair in the sixth race, Beach Patrol in the seventh and Big John B in the eighth, the Tokyo City Cup), Phil D’Amato moved three ahead of Doug O’Neill in Santa Anita’s Winter Meet training race, 35-32. A title would mark the first for D’Amato . . . Leandro Mora, a key player on Team O’Neill, reports that undefeated champion Nyquist is doing well at Keeneland as the impressive winner of the Florida Derby prepares for the Kentucky Derby on May 7. “I spoke with Jack (Sisterson, also a member of trainer Doug O’Neill’s crew), and he said the horse ate well and is very happy in his stall, like nothing is going on, so that’s a great sign,” Mora said . . . Trainer David Hofmans said Santa Anita Handicap winner Melatonin departs next Wednesday for Arkansas where he runs in the Oaklawn Handicap April 16 . . . Point Piper wears blinkers for the first time when he runs in the Oaklawn Handicap under Martin Garcia for Jerry Hollendorfer. Garcia rides I Will Score for Hollendorfer in Oaklawn’s $150,000 Bachelor at six furlongs on Friday, April 15 . . . Steve Byk, host of At The Races on XM Radio 206 and Sirius Radio 220 Monday through Friday 6 to 9 a.m. Pacific Time, will air his broadcasts this week from Clockers’ Corner at Santa Anita . . . If wet weather prevents Sunday’s San Juan Capistrano Stakes from being run at its scheduled distance of about a mile and three-quarters on turf, which would include crossing the dirt turning into the homestretch, it will be run at a mile and seven-eighths on turf, eliminating the need to go over the dirt . . . Santa Anita’s 63-day Winter Meet ends Sunday. Live racing returns to The Great Race Place May 5 and runs through July 10.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Sunday, April 3)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||178||18||18||27||10%||35%||$1,098,102|