- SANTA ANITA DERBY IS THE STRONGEST PREP
- RED HOT D’AMATO TRIES TO TOPPLE SONGBIRD
- NYQUEST DESERVING CHOICE FOR THE ROSES
- IT’S TEXAS RED RAIN OR SHINE COME SATURDAY
- KEITH STUCKI, TRAINER OF ANCIENT TITLE, PASSES
- McANALLY EYES SAN JUAN WIN ON CLOSING DAY
- THE BUCK STOPS AT 100 WITH MOTHER TRUMAN
IT COULD COME UP ROSES FOR SANTA ANITA DERBY WINNER
With all due respect to the Florida Derby and other so-called “Kentucky Derby preps,” Saturday’s Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby seems the saltiest so far.
So says trainer John Sadler, a Californian through and through, born in Long Beach and a resident of Pasadena, just a few furlongs from Santa Anita.
“The Santa Anita Derby looks like it will be the strongest of all the Kentucky Derby preps because of the depth of the field,” said Sadler, who also took time to note the achievements of Southern California-based horses racing worldwide, from the Middle East to the East Coast.
“I’m a lifelong Californian, so it’s no surprise to me that California horses are doing so well in places like Dubai and Kentucky and Florida, but it is kind of an amazing trend, really,” said the trainer of champion Older Female of 2015 Stellar Wind.
Horses based in Southern California have won the Kentucky Derby three times in the last four years and two have gone on to be named Horse of the Year, California Chrome (2014) and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (2015). The Santa Anita Derby has produced 17 overall Kentucky Derby winners.
“It seems like it’s happening every year now,” Sadler said. “We’re coming out with the stronger horses. We have great weather, no question, and Southern California is a great place to train.
“And it may not be readily acknowledged, but we’ve got a lot of accomplished trainers here in California, when you think about it.”
The Santa Anita Derby offers 170 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby: 100 to the
winner, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.
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; Rare Candy, Joe Talamo, 30-1; Diplodocus, Tyler Baze, 30-1; and Uncle Lino, Fernando Perez, 20-1.
Dressed in Hermes was scratched.
KENT DESORMEAUX FEARS NYQUIST IN KENTUCKY DERBY
Kent Desormeaux hopes to land his fourth Kentucky Derby if Exaggerator can win the Run for the Roses on May 7, but presently, like many others, he had a one-word response when asked who Exaggerator or any other Triple Crown hopeful would have to beat to win the mile-and-a-quarter classic on the first Saturday in May.
“I could say one name: Nyquist,” said Desormeaux, who captured the Run for the Roses in 1998 (Real Quiet), 2000 (Fusaichi Pegasus) and 2008 (Big Brown). “Nyquist only beat us a length and a half in the San Vicente (Feb. 15), so in retrospect, that speaks volumes.
“Exaggerator is a very, very good horse, and I’m hoping that the Mike Tyson punch he took from Nyquist at the quarter pole in the San Vicente was the reason he didn’t perform to the team’s expectations.
“It was a significant blow, but I’m excited to try again in the Santa Anita Derby. Knowing what I know and seeing what I’ve seen about the Kentucky Derby this year, we’re all going to have to catch Nyquist.”
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.
D’AMATO SEEKS UPSET OF 1-9 CHAMP SONGBIRD
Bellamentary is the second choice in Saturday’s Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks. Problem is, Songbird is 1-9, Bellamentary is 10-1, quite a disparity.
But as hot as trainer Phil D’Amato is these days, Bellamentary could be an overlay. The trainer has won five times in the last two racing days and holds a 37-33 lead over Doug O’Neill in a bid for his first-ever training title.
He is not bordering on delusional when assessing Bellamentary’s chances of upsetting Songbird, the champion two-year-old filly of 2015 who is unbeaten and untested in six starts.
“We’re just hoping we see where we stand against the best filly out there,” D’Amato said. “If we can be placed, that would be great. It would give us points for the Kentucky Oaks.”
The Santa Anita Oaks offers 170 points for the Kentucky Oaks, 100 to the winner, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.
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.
TEXAS RED RUNNING, WEATHER OR NOT
Texas Red, the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, is scheduled to make his four-year-old debut in Saturday’s Grade III Thunder Road Stakes for older horses at one mile on turf whether it’s run on grass or not.
“I think we’ll run whether it’s on or off the turf,” trainer Keith Desormeaux said Friday morning as an indecisive weather pattern held sway.
“The only way we wouldn’t run would be if the main track looks dicey.”
Texas Red has not raced since finishing fifth in the Grade I Travers at Saratoga last Aug. 29, and has never run on turf. His long-range goal, Desormeaux has said, is the Grade I, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 25.
The Thunder Road: Poshky, Tiago Pereira, 15-1; Si Sage, Mario Gutierrez, 12-1; Cool Green, Abel Lezcano, 30-1; Papacoolpapacool, Mike Smith, 12-1; Decisive Edge, Brice Blanc, 15-1; Twentytwentyvision, Flavien Prat, 5-1; Texas Red, Joe Talamo, 4-1; Finnegans Wake, Victor Espinoza, 9-2; De Treville, Fernando Perez, 15-1; Soul Driver, Tyler Baze, 12-1; Play Hard to Get, Alonso Quinonez, 15-1; and Ohio, Gary Stevens, 4-1.
McHeat was scratched.
KEITH L. STUCKI, TRAINER OF ANCIENT TITLE, PASSES AT 96
Keith L. Stucki, trainer of one of the greatest California-breds of all-time, Ancient Title, passed away at his home in nearby Bradbury this past Tuesday at age 96, according to his granddaughter, Shannon Hinkley.
“He lived a full 96 years, believe me,” said Hinkley. “He shared the same birthday as John Wayne, May 26, and he was always so proud of that. He met John Wayne on the backside here at Santa Anita many years ago. My grandpa would have been 97 next month.”
Stucki, patriarch of a fun-loving racetrack family that included three daughters and two sons, was born May 26, 1919, in Paris, Idaho. The son of a trainer, Stucki aspired to be a jockey and his first “big time” racetrack experience, according to Hinkley, came at Longacres, near Seattle.
Stucki then gravitated to Southern California, where he galloped the immortal Seabiscuit for trainer “Silent” Tom Smith.
Selected for induction into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2008, Ancient Title, a dark bay or brown gelding by Gummo, was foaled on April 19, 1970. He would go on to become a multiple stakes winner on turf and dirt, both sprinting and routing.
Undefeated lifetime at seven furlongs, Ancient Title first garnered national acclaim in 1975, when at age five, he won the Grade II, seven furlong San Carlos Handicap, the Grade I, 1 1/16 miles Californian (at Hollywood Park), the Grade I, 1 ¼ miles Hollywood Gold Cup, and, in a performance that proved pivotal in eventually persuading voters of his Hall of Fame worthiness, the Grade II, 1 1/8 miles Whitney Handicap at Saratoga.
Media savvy and quick with a quip, Stucki often referred to “Title,” with his hands stretched out to frame his face, as “The best horse who ever looked through a bridle.” Although Ancient Title retired with 24 wins from 57 lifetime starts, with earnings of $1,252,791, Stucki opined that his best-ever performance may’ve been a third place effort in the 1977 Oak Tree Invitational, run at Santa Anita over 1 ½ miles on turf.
Ridden by Darrel McHargue, Ancient Title forced the issue with champion Crystal Water every step of the way through splits of 24.20, 47.20, 1:11.60, 1:36.80 and 2:01 .60 and was coming back on at the wire to be beaten a neck and a nose, by Crystal Water and Vigors, with the final time reading 2:26.40.
Preceded in death by his wife, Lillian, sons Keith L. (K.L.) Jr. and Kevin, Keith Stucki is survived by his daughters Gaylord, Golly and Veronica (Charlie) and several grandchildren, including former World Champion Speedway (motorcycle) racer, Billy Hamill. Plans are for him to be buried in Idaho.
McANALLY EYES ‘JUAN’ MORE WIN SUNDAY
Ron McAnally knows his way around Santa Anita, having been at The Great Race Place since 1948.
While not in Charlie Whittingham’s category, he knows his way around the San Juan Capistrano Stakes, too, having won Santa Anita’s traditional closing day feature twice, with Horse of the Year John Henry in 1980 and Amerique in 1998.
Whittingham holds an insurmountable record with 14 victories in the San Juan Capistrano.
The 84-year-old McAnally will try to reduce Whittingham’s margin by one on Sunday when he runs Quick Casablanca in the Grade III San Juan scheduled for about a mile and three quarters on turf.
Quick Casablanca rallied three wide to be second in the Grade II San Luis Rey Stakes at 1 ½ miles on turf March 13.
“Turning for home Tyler (Baze) had to swing him out, but the horse has been training very well,” McAnally said. “I don’t know how a wet track would affect him or if it will be taken off the turf or what, but we’ll take it as it comes.
“The added distance should be a benefit. In the San Luis Rey he kept coming even after he got in trouble turning for home. He was still closing and wasn’t beaten that far.”
In 27 career starts, the eight-year-old Chilean-bred horse has a 4-8-6 record with earnings of $689,160. Quick Casablanca has run 15 times in the United States, all but two in stakes, and was second in the San Juan in 2014.
McAnally didn’t have a Senior Moment in analyzing Sunday’s marathon.
“I’m not going to set any records,” he said, “because Charlie Whittingham won it 14 times, but I hope I live that long. I’m still above ground.”
The San Juan field: A Red Tie Day, Mario Gutierrez, 6-1; Cardiac, Fernando Perez, 20-1; Energia Fribby, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Kenjisstorm, Edwin Maldonado, 8-1; Bourbon Soul, Flavien Prat, 6-1; Generosidade, Tiago Pereira, 4-1; Blingo, Alex Solis, 6-1; Quick Casablanca, Tyler Baze, 7-2; Life’s Journey, Kent Desormeaux, 20-1; and Generoso, Martin Pedroza, 20-1.
TRUMAN FAMILY AND RACING LOSE BIGGEST FAN
The Truman family not only lost its matriarch, racing lost one its biggest fans last Saturday when Maxine Truman died only one day after her 100th birthday.
She was the mother of trainer Eddie Truman, 69, and brothers, Dale, 77, and Jerry, 76. All three are former jockeys, avid bicyclists and devoted to their family. They would bring their Mom to the winners’ circle after a victory, wheelchair and all.
“Jerry had come up from Florida for her birthday,” Eddie said. “We were going to take her to the races, which she loved. She wasn’t feeling well but she hung in there and I believe was waiting for Jerry to get here for her birthday.
“One day later, she died. I just think she waited and then she let go. I guarantee you she would have died four or five days sooner if she didn’t know Jerry was coming to join his grandson and the rest of the family to celebrate her 100th birthday.”
Eddie got a call with the fateful news at 6:35 a.m. April 2 from the Royal Oaks Manor in Bradbury where Maxine was a resident. Maxine will be buried April 16 in Mulvane, Kansas, southwest of Wichita.
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita’s main track was closed for training Friday due to inclement weather. Track Superintendent Dennis Moore had the track sealed after Thursday’s last race, but reported only “a couple-hundredths” of an inch of rain as of 9 o’clock Friday morning. There were 37 recorded workouts on the training track . . ..Pasadena Stakes winner Dress in Hermes was scratched Friday. “He got loose today and I don’t want to take a chance running him until I can check him out,” trainer Janet Armstrong said by phone from her headquarters at San Luis Rey Downs . . . Bob Baffert is set for a live interview 4:30 today on KLAC 570 AM Sports Radio on the Petros and Money Show . . . Reports of an elevated white cell blood count on Kentucky Derby favorite Nyquist were a matter of opinion, according to Leandro Mora, assistant to trainer Doug O’Neill. “One lab had it high, but another had it normal,” Mora said at Santa Anita Friday. “The horse is kicking down his stall at Keeneland.” . . . Alan Sherman, at Santa Anita where he will saddle Mucho Chrome for father Art in Saturday’s 12th race for three-year-old California-bred maiden allowance horses, says California Chrome is “just standing up to his knees in grass and relaxing” at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky after his dramatic win in the Dubai World Cup on March 26. “He looks great there. He’ll probably be back in California the first week in May, right around Derby time.” . . . Judy Weinstein of Marketing is the 3-1 favorite to win the Women’s Division of Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby Day 5K run, while Steward Scott Chaney is 1-9 (Songbird?) in the Men’s Division. The top three finishers in each category receive medals . . . Baldwin Ave. will be closed to vehicular traffic tomorrow 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 the 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 Derby Day morning can 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 at the confluence of Colorado Place and Huntington Drive . . . Edwin Maldonado (Sunday Rules for Phil D’Amato), Drayden Van Dyke (Birdatthewire for Tom Proctor), Martin Garcia (Enchanting Lady for Baffert) and Alex Solis (Super Majesty for Steve Asmussen) have those respective mounts in Saturday’s Grade I Madison at Keeneland. Garcia also rides Donegal Moon for Todd Pletcher in the Blue Grass . . . Agent Tora Yamaguchi has leading rider Rafael Bejarano booked on American Pioneer for Wayne Catalano in next Saturday’s Arkansas Derby and on Santa Margarita winner Tara’s Tango for Jerry Hollendorfer in next Friday’s Grade I Apple Blossom at Oaklawn . . . Trainer Gary Stute was happier for jockey Matt Garcia than he was for himself Friday after they teamed to win their first race of the meet when Stir Fry, a three-year-old daughter of stakes-winning Papa Clem which Stute trained, scampered home first by nearly two lengths as the odds-on favorite in Thursday’s fifth race. “It was great, good to see him win a race,” Stute said of veteran Garcia, recently returned from major injuries that had him sidelined several months. “I thought he rode the horse perfect and everything worked out well.” . . . Gaming Today handicapper Richard Saber will be Tom Quigley‘s guest Saturday at 10:50 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens . . . 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 Thursday, April 7)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||182||18||18||30||10%||36%||$1,117,842|