- SUPER MARIO: DERBY IS EASIER SECOND TIME AROUND
- UNCLE LINO LEAVES TUESDAY AFTER PREAKNESS WORK
- BLINKERS STAY ON I WILL SCORE FOR THE LAZ BARRERA
- LUCKY BRYAN MAKES DEBUT FOR SADLER IN SINGLETARY
- BARNES HAS BIG DREAMS AS HE DEBUTS AT SANTA ANITA
CONFIDENCE RISES FOR GUTIERREZ WITH DERBY WIN
The Kentucky Derby was better the second time around for Mario Gutierrez, even though he won it both times.
The 29-year-old native of the city of Higo (population 25,000) in the Mexican state of Veracruz won the Run for the Roses on his very first mount, aboard I’ll Have Another, in 2012, an outsider at 15-1.
Four years later, just last Saturday, he won it again, this time on unbeaten favorite Nyquist. On each occasion, the horse was trained by Doug O’Neill for Paul and Zillah Reddam.
“It definitely was easier on me than it was in 2012 with I’ll Have Another,” Gutierrez said between greeting well-wishers at Clockers’ Corner. “This year I took time to enjoy it more. My wife, Rebecca, was with me, and it was amazing. It’s something I would never take for granted.
“Four years ago, it was like a dream come true, realizing all my hopes and aspirations. With Nyquist, it’s more of a personal victory. I was able to show trainers I’m a top rider who belongs at this level.
“I definitely know I do now. Four years ago I had my doubts. I’m 100 percent confident and trust myself knowing that I am riding better than before.
“I have much to enjoy. My wife is six months pregnant and we’re expecting a beautiful baby boy, so life couldn’t be any better at this point.”
Agent Tom Knust, who has represented Gutierrez the past two years, credits Canadian native Rebecca in large part for the rider’s current status.
“She’s been very instrumental in his confidence and establishing a regimen, working out, having a sports psychiatrist, a nutritionist, and having a positive affect overall,” Knust said. “With Rebecca and a baby on the way, Mario has a family and he’s matured through the years.
“I give credit to him for working hard and to his wife for having a major influence on him.”
UNCLE LINO BREEZES FOR PREAKNESS STAKES
California Chrome Stakes winner Uncle Lino worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Friday after the 6:30 renovation break in 1:00.80 under regular rider Fernando Perez for the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 21.
“It’s exactly what I wanted,” trainer Gary Sherlock said. “I wanted between a minute and 1:01. It’s good. He leaves Tuesday (for Maryland).”
Santa Anita clocker Dane Nelson had fractional times for Uncle Lino of 24.20, 37 flat and 48.80, with a six furlong gallop out clocking of 1:14.20.
Trainer Keith Desormeaux will van Kentucky Derby runner-up Exaggerator from Churchill Downs to Pimlico Sunday for the Preakness.
“I couldn’t get a flight on the day I wanted,” Keith explained, “so we’re just going to van him up there, which is not a big deal for me. It might be less pressure on him, less stressful in the long run to van. It’s about a 10 or 11-hour ride, pretty long, but I decided that the timing was better than waiting on the flight and arriving Tuesday night.
“This gives me two more days, but he’ll just gallop and jog into the race. I think that’s the right thing to do with a two-week turnaround, but I’ve seen trainers go both ways. Some give their horse a light breeze a few days out, but the recent trend has been to gallop into the race.
“That seems more sensible to me.”
I WILL SCORE RETAINS BLINKERS FOR LAZ BARRERA
I Will Score, second wearing blinkers in the Bachelor at Oaklawn Park April 15, will keep the shades on when he runs in Saturday’s Grade III Lazaro Barrera Stakes for three-year-olds at seven furlongs.
“His last race was his first in blinkers and he ran well,” said Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry
Hollendorfer, who trains the son of Roman Ruler for owner/breeder Hans Poetsch.
I Will Score has two wins from five starts. He was third behind Mor Spirit in the Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 6.
The Barrera, which goes as race six on an 11-race card starting at 2 p.m.: Bistraya,
Santiago Gonzalez, 15-1; Iron Rob, Stewart Elliott, 4-1; Mrazek, Mario Gutierrez, 7-2; Denman’s Call, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; Smokey Image, Victor Espinoza, 4-1; Westbrook, Tiago Pereira, 12-1; and I Will Score, Martin Garcia, 5-2.
LUCKY BRYAN MAKES FIRST START FOR SADLER IN SINGLETARY
Lucky Bryan makes his first start in seven months and his first under the tutelage of John Sadler when he runs in Saturday’s $75,000 Singletary Stakes.
“We bought him late last year, so this is his first start for us,” Sadler said of the son of Lookin At Lucky owned by Hronis Racing, LLC. “We gave him some time off after we got him but he’s trained very well. The one post is better going a mile (than the 10 in the Zuma Beach, where he finished fourth by 2 ½ lengths behind Dressed in Hermes last Oct. 10).
“That was a pretty productive race,” Sadler said of the Zuma Beach.
The Singletary, which goes as third race: Lucky Bryan, Victor Espinoza, 7-2;
Arcature, Flavien Prat, 8-5; Mr. Roary, Stewart Elliott, 10-1; Tristan’s Trilogy, Brice Blanc, 2-1; Unapologetic, Santiago Gonzalez, 8-1; and Opportunistic, Drayden Van Dyke, 6-1.
ANGELS FLIGHT A SOFTER RACE FOR BELLAMENTARY
Bellamentary lands in a prohibitively softer spot than her last race when she runs in Sunday’s $75,000 Angels Flight Stakes for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.
Last out, the chestnut daughter of Bellamy Road owned by Little Red Feather Racing or RM Racing was fifth by 10 lengths behind undefeated champion Songbird in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track April 9.
“I wanted to find an easier spot to get her back on track,” said Phil D’Amato, fresh from winning his first training title at Santa Anita’s Winter Meet that concluded April 10. “This spot came up perfect, there are some nice horses in there, but we drew well and I expect her to run a big race.”
After running second at Del Mar last Sept. 6 in her first start, Bellamentary won two straight before falling to Songbird, no disgrace there.
“I’m optimistic about this meet, but I just keep the training title stuff in the back of my mind,” D’Amato said when asked about prospects for the Spring Meet that runs through July 10. “I just focus on my horses, and if it happens again, it will be great, but I’m just kind of focusing on winning races.”
The Angels Flight, race eight of nine with a 2 o’clock first post time: Kay Kay, Alonso Quinonez, 12-1; Fervent Femme, Kent Desormeaux, 15-1; Forever Darling, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; Evergreen, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Mitzi Winks, Mario Gutierrez, 12-1; Kiss N Scat, Drayden Van Dyke, 10-1; Lucky Folie, Flavien Prat, 9-5; and Bellamentary, Martin Garcia, 5-2.
APPRENTICE HOPES TO MAKE BIG IMPACT AT SANTA ANITA
Jose Barnes has heard all the jokes about his height, or lack thereof: “coming up short, being a little behind, and facing a tall order” come to mind.
But he can deal with it. At a compact four feet seven and tacking 108 pounds, the 20-year-old, seven-pound apprentice rider from Trevor Denman’s hometown of Durban, South Africa, is a giant when it comes to thick skin.
Barnes, who is represented by agent Brandon O’Bryan, makes his Santa Anita debut in Saturday’s 11th race aboard Plus Perfect for trainer Hector Palma. Barnes won his first race in the United States last Saturday at Golden Gate Fields when he piloted 11-1 shot Two Steps Of Glory to a nose victory for owner Gary Barber and trainer Steve Miyadi in the seventh race, a $4,000 claiming event with an $8,000 purse.
Overall, Barnes has won 28 races and rode overseas for European training stalwarts such as Michael de Kock and Michael Stoute.
The rider is used to the ribbing on his Lilliputian appearance.
“The low weights are what prompted me to come to the U.S.,” said Barnes, whose aunt and uncle, Ayesha and Luke Ogle, live in Palmdale. “Jockeys ride at 135 pounds in South Africa. I came here to live the American Dream and chose Santa Anita because it’s the best and most competitive racing.
“I’m probably the shortest jockey in the country, probably the shortest ever to win a race in North America.”
(Although veteran horseplayers might contend the late William Stallings may have checked in at or below “four-seven”).
FINISH LINES: Multiple graded stakes winner Obviously could return to the races in the Grade I, $400,000, “Win and You’re In” Shoemaker Mile on grass June 4, according to Phil D’Amato. “We’ll see,” the trainer said. “He’s getting ready, he’s doing well, but he’s eight years old and I don’t need to run him in a Grade I if I don’t have to, but it’s a possibility.” . . . Mokat, second to Songbird in the Santa Anita Oaks but 13th in the Kentucky Oaks, has been turned out at Bobby Mitchell‘s Bonnie Acres Ranch in Hemet until Del Mar, Richard Baltas said. “She had a nuclear scan and it looked good, but we’ll give her 45 to 60 days.” . . . An Irish-bred colt named John F. Kennedy is scheduled to make his U.S. debut in Sunday’s sixth race for three-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on turf. He was eligible to be named after the 35th U.S. President because he was bred and registered overseas. The Jockey Club’s rule F7 prohibits horses using “Names of persons no longer living unless approval is granted by The Jockey Club based upon a satisfactory written explanation submitted to the Registrar.” John F. Kennedy last raced in Ireland on Sept. 12, 2015, and is trained by Paulo Lobo . . . There was one winning ticket in Thursday’s Pick 6 that paid $30,840.20 purchased through TVG for only $12 . . . Hall of Fame jockey and three-time Kentucky Derby winner Gary Stevens is scheduled to be on the “Doctor in the Dugout” radio show on KLAA 830 at 12 noon June 4. Dr. Alan Beyer hosts . . . The Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) will partner with trainers Jim Cassidy, Matt Chew, Eddie Truman and Howard Zucker in offering a FREE “Conformation Clinic” at Santa Anita tomorrow. The informal workshop is intended to help participants develop an eye for a horse. Attendees will visit the trainers’ barns, where they can view horses to identify their conformation strengths and weaknesses. Participants can assemble at Clockers’ Corner starting at 9:30 a.m.