· DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN: BEHOLDER IN SANTA LUCIA
· GRADE II KONA GOLD STAKES IS ALL IN THE FAMILY
· GO WEST MARIE ON THE GO FOR EXERCISE RIDER SALAS
· IT’S A HOME RUN FOR MORENO IF DORTMUND TRIPLES
· PATIENCE PAYS OFF FOR TRAINER JORGE PERIBAN
· FUNNY CAR OWNER/DRIVER WINS FIRST HORSE RACE
CHAMPION BEHOLDER RETURNS IN SANTA LUCIA
Trainers who entered in Friday’s $75,000 Santa Lucia Stakes might have been surprised to see Beholder in the race.
Embarking on the same path she took to start her 2014 campaign, the two-time Eclipse Award winner makes her 5-year-old debut in Friday’s $75,000 Santa Lucia Stakes for fillies and mares, four and up, at 1 1/16 miles.
The daughter of Henny Hughes began her season in a similarly clandestine fashion in last year’s Santa Lucia, tiptoeing into the restricted stakes she won by 5 ¼ lengths under Gary Stevens, who rides tomorrow. The champion 2-year-old filly of 2012 and 3-year-old filly of 2013 was supplemented to the race each time for $1,500, a paltry sum considering she has earned $3,368,300 thanks to 10 wins and three seconds from 15 starts for owner B. Wayne Hughes.
“I was lucky the race went,” said trainer Richard Mandella. “That was a big concern. It didn’t have to go. She’s doing well although I don’t think she’s up to her best tomorrow, but I think she’s ready to do what she needs to do.”
If all goes well, a logical progression beyond the Santa Lucia would be the Grade I Vanity Stakes on May 9 and the Grade I Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park on June 6.
Richard Baltas may have been one of those caught napping when he entered Melanistic, a durable campaigner who once ran for a $2,500 claiming tag at Los Alamitos in April 2012. The 6-year-old California-bred daughter of Ministers Wild Cat ran second in the restricted Dream of Summer Stakes on March 22, her 43rd career start. She has won 11.
Baltas, enjoying a solid meet with 17 wins through 60 racing days, also nominated Wild in the Saddle to the Santa Lucia.
“I’m just running Melanistic,” he said. “I want to take more time with Wild in the Saddle. Melanistic is doing well; she’s a very hard-knocking horse. We’re having a good meet. We’re holding our own against the big boys with the little horses.”
The field for the Santa Lucia: Backintheacademy, Tiago Pereira, 30-1; Tiz Midnight, Martin Garcia, 5-1; Melanistic, Tyler Baze, 20-1; Uzziel, Kent Desormeaux, 8-1; Gusto Dolce, Flavien Prat, 30-1; Beholder, Gary Stevens, 1-5; Oscar Party, Santagio Gonzalez, 10-1; and Sky Mega, Elvis Trujillo, 15-1.
KAREN HEADLEY HOPES TO CARRY ON TRADITION IN KONA GOLD
Santa Anita changed the name of the Potrero Grande Stakes this year and it wasn’t because it was hard to pronounce or hard to spell. It was a chance to honor 2000 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Kona Gold, trained by Bruce Headley
Headley long ago retired the Cup for winning the Kona Gold Stakes when it was run as the Potrero Grande through 2014. The 81-year-old trainer captured the race six times, twice with Kona Gold, in 2000 and 2001.
On Saturday, Bruce’s daughter, Karen, a trainer in her own right, will attempt to win the Grade II race at 6 ½ furlongs with the crack sprinter San Onofre, who has four wins and two seconds from six career starts, with earnings of $195,040 for owner Aase Headley.
She is the mother of Karen and the wife of Bruce. She campaigns as Matson Racing.
“This is a race I’ve wanted to win ever since it was changed from the Potrero Grande,” Karen said. “I galloped Kona Gold, my dad bought him, broke him, and the horse is up for the Hall of Fame this year.
“Alex Solis (who rode Kona Gold to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint victory in 2000) rides San Onofre and the horse is coming up to the race really well,” Karen added. “Everything is just right.”
Added Solis, a newcomer to the Hall of Fame: “It would be very special to win the first Kona Gold. The horse meant so much to us and did so many great things.
San Onofre blew out three furlongs Thursday in 36.40.
The $200,000 Kona Gold: Spirit Rules, Iggy Puglisi, 8-1; Caminetto, 8-1, Martin Garcia; Seeking the Sherif, Kayla Stra, 4-1; Sahara Sky, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; San Onofre, Alex Solis, 3-1; Masochistic, Tyler Baze, 2-1; and Ankeny Hills, Edwin Maldonado, 12-1.
BUCK STOPS WITH EXERCISE RIDER SALAS AT TRUMAN BARN
There is more than meets the eye when fans see smiling faces and high fives in the winner’s circle after a victory–much more.
No one recognizes that more than trainer Eddie Truman, who sends out Go West Marie in quest of her fourth straight victory Saturday in the Grade III Las Cienegas Stakes for older fillies and mares at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.
Truman credits exercise ride Joel Salas, who has been with him for 12 years, for turning the California-bred daughter of Western Fame into a win machine.
“She just made the turnaround this year when we got her to settle down,” Truman said. “Now she can do anything, win at a mile or 6 ½. When Joel first got her, she’d run off or lug out in the mornings.
“He got her going so good and that’s when we decided she could wait and not have to be on the lead. He’s done a great job.”
Bred by Summer Mayberry for owner Peter Redekop, Go West Marie has six wins from 18 starts with earnings of $462,520.
The chestnut filly came from well off the pace twice in two races prior to taking the Irish O’Brien last out, overcoming a nightmarish trip in deep stretch to get up by a half-length.
The field for the Las Cienegas: Theatre Star, Drayden Van Dyke, 8-1; Home Journey, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Living the Life, Flavien Prat, 9-2; Salsita, Felipe Valdez, 50-1; Blingismything, Elvis Trujillo, 4-1; Go West Marie, Gary Stevens, 2-1; Unforgettable U, Edwin Maldonado, 20-1; and Heavens Stairway, Tyler Baze, 5-2.
IF DORTMUND WINS TRIPLE CROWN, ISIDRO MORENO WINS $1 MILLION
At 17 hands and roughly 1,200 pounds, Bob Baffert’s undefeated Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund is obviously big on stature and long on talent. Dedicated racing fan Isidro Moreno is hoping the striking chestnut colt by Big Brown has coattails as well, as Moreno, his wife Maria Blanca, and their three children are counting on him to win racing’s Triple Crown and carry them to a $1 million bonus in the second annual Santa Anita Derby Millionaire Contest.
A resident of Pacoima, Moreno, who is a full-time groom at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, took the day off of work and celebrated his 42nd birthday by attending the races last Saturday with his wife and youngest daughter, Mariah.
Upon arriving at the track, he entered the Santa Anita Derby Millionaire Contest, whereupon he drew favored Dortmund, while five other fans had their individual hopes pinned on his competition. With $1,000 win bets provided by Santa Anita in-hand, the six contestants watched the 78th Santa Anita Derby intently from the Winner’s Circle as Dortmund dusted the competition by 4 ¼ lengths and improved his record to a perfect six for six.
Off at 3-5, Dortmund paid $3.20 to win and thus provided Isidro with a tidy birthday profit of $1,600. Santa Anita will provide Moreno with a $7,500 win ticket on Dortmund in the Kentucky Derby on May 2, and if he wins there, an additional $10,000 win wager in the Preakness Stakes on May 16. And, if Dortmund becomes the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, Moreno will win the $1 million Santa Anita Derby bonus on Belmont Stakes Day, June 6.
When asked what he would do with a million dollar pot of Derby gold, Moreno responded, “We wouldn’t buy a car or take a fancy trip. We have three kids and we’d like to buy a house.” Moreno’s daughter, Mariah, quickly stated that she wanted her dad to “buy a puppy.”
The Santa Anita Derby Contest, which was initiated last year, was nearly hit, as Eddie Espinoza of Whittier followed California Chrome through victories in the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness before meeting defeat with a fourth-place dead-heat run in the 2014 Belmont.
Here’s hoping the Isidro Moreno family gets the house they’ve always wanted–and a puppy in the window as well.
TIME, PATIENCE PAY OFF FOR TRAINER PERIBAN
Jorge Periban is on a roll these days, a far cry from his plight last summer at Del Mar, when he was down to only three horses.
The affable 57-year-old trainer has won with five of his last seven starters and sent out 5-2 morning line chance Preordained to finish second in today’s first race and had 5-1 Oh Brother Go in the eighth.
“I had five wins and two thirds,” Periban said. “I won three races from five starts at Del Mar, and I only had three horses. Now, thanks to the opportunity given to me by my owners, I have 12 horses, some I had before.
“Things are coming around. You just need time and patience.”
FINISH LINES: Steve Gasparelli is a newcomer to Thoroughbred racing but not Funny Car racing. The 50-year-old Monrovia native won his first race Sunday when Hawkedon took the sixth by a length and a quarter for trainer Mike Puype. It was Gasparelli’s first win from only his third starter. He has been with Puype for a year, and has nine horses in training. “Sunday’s win was pretty exciting,” said Gasparelli, a 1982 graduate of Monrovia High School who owns medical disposable plants in Chino and Singapore. “I own and drive Funny Cars and we race at Pomona here in Southern California, but we also race all over the country. I’ll be driving at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend.” . . . Rafael Bejarano, having withdrawn his appeal of a three-day suspension issued on March 22, will serve his ban on April 18, 19 and 24 . . . Streaking stakes winner Warren’s Veneda, ticketed for the Grade I Vanity Stakes on May 9 and a possible meeting with Beholder, is scheduled to breeze Friday. Looking ahead to the Vanity, it brought to mind memories of the 1995 Santa Anita Derby, when Larry the Legend, trained by Lewis, hung a head defeat on 7-5 favorite Afternoon Deelites, trained by Richard Mandella, who also Beholder . . . David Flores, going through litigation contesting a one-year suspension issued recently by racing officials in Singapore, was a Clockers’ Corner visitor Thursday morning . . . On Sunday, April 19, Santa Anita celebrates Hispanic music and culture with a Latin music festival in the Infield. Enjoy Los Ramones and other top musical acts. For concert admission of just $5. Parking is free through Gate 6.