- OWNER ZETCHER HOPES TO HAVE HIS DAY IN DERBY SUN
- NEW ZEALANDER SEEKS FIRST U.S. WIN IN SANTA BARBARA
- TRAINER NEIL FRENCH IS BACK AND ‘LUCKY TO BE ALIVE’
- HOT-RIDING TYLER BAZE ON A ROLL AS MEET NEARS END
ZETCHER EYES DERBY PRIZE WITH FIRING LINE
Many components drive racing, among the most important, the owners, who seldom
receive as much recognition as the horses, jockeys and trainers, but nevertheless, are an integral part of the game.
After all, they pay the freight.
Arnold Zetcher has enjoyed a good run as an owner and breeder, but like others in that category, still has designs on the game’s grandest prize, the Kentucky Derby. He hopes to fill that void come May 2 when his Firing Line goes in the 141st Run for the Roses.
Trained by Simon Callaghan and ridden by three-time Derby winner Gary Stevens, Firing Line worked five furlongs at Santa Anita last Saturday in 59.20. Callaghan plans to work the colt again tomorrow and ship him to Kentucky on April 26.
“He looked real good,” Zetcher said of the front-running winner of the Sunland Derby by 14 ¼ lengths. “He did it easy, he went in 59 and change and galloped out (six furlongs) in 1:12. It was exactly the time we were hoping for. Gary liked the way he did it, too.
“We’ve run two horses in the Derby, Midnight Interlude, after he won the (2011) Santa Anita Derby; he didn’t do well, and then Liaison, who came in sixth (in 2012). I think Firing Line could be our best opportunity.
“He had six weeks between the Robert Lewis (Feb. 7) and the Sunland Derby (March 22) and he’ll have six weeks until the Derby. That was the plan all along.
“We thought the timing was right. There are good 3-year-olds this year. Dortmund and American Pharoah from here, and Carpe Diem and Frosted from back east.
“The competition is stiff, but it’s exciting.”
HABIBI PRIMED FOR FIRST U.S. VICTORY IN SANTA BARBARA
Habibi, a winner of six of nine starts in her native New Zealand, seeks her first U.S. victory from three starts in Saturday’s Grade III Santa Barbara Handicap for older fillies and mares at 1 ¼ miles on turf.
She was third going a mile on grass March 22, her first race in nine months.
“She’s going well, she’s had her prep race, finished third going a mile, and by her form, it looks like she’d appreciate the mile and a quarter,” said Richard Mandella, who conditions the 6-year-old daughter of Ekraar owned by George Strawbridge’s Augustin Stable.
The field for the Santa Barbara: Three Hearts, Tyler Baze, 7-2; Tangelo, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1; Fanticola, Joe Talamo, 4-1; Queen of the Sand, Drayden Van Dyke, 9-2; Walk Close, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; Diversy Harbor, Gary Stevens, 3-1; Industrial Policy, Brice Blanc, 8-1; Habibi, Flavien Prat, 6-1; and Arethusa, Kent Desormeaux, 12-1.
FRENCH ALIVE AND WELL AFTER SEVEN-MONTH ABSENCE
Neil French has been at death’s door and is alive to tell the tale.
The 62-year-old trainer suffered a fractured left hip in a spill at his barn last September, had surgery on it, then in an unrelated procedure, had non-cancerous colon surgery. He was on life support for seven days at Arcadia Methodist Hospital, which at one point called his mother, Loretta, asking her permission to take him off.
She said no.
For four months, French was never out of bed once.
On Friday, French was back at Santa Anita, feeling fresh, fit and friendly even though he was getting around on a top of the line medical scooter that seemed to have everything on it but white wall tires.
“I’m feeling great and doing a lot of therapy,” said French, a trainer since 1976 who won the 1992 Wells Fargo California Cup Classic with June’s Reward. “I can walk some with a walker and I’ve lost about 70 pounds. I weighed around 265, 270 before the accident, but now I’m at 200.
“I’m down to one horse, but I feel good about the future. I’m lucky to be alive.”
Trainer Alfredo Marquez is but one member of the race track community who has come to French’s aid.
“They got rid of all his equipment, and I gave him some webbing and a stall for his horse,” Marquez said. “We met at Caliente when we were 10 or 12 years old, so we’ve known each other 50 years. I’m so happy to see him back.
“He was supposed to be dead by now.”
‘EVERYTHING’S JUST CLICKING’ FOR TYLER BAZE
It’s mathematically impossible for Tyler Baze to catch Rafael Bejarano for the riding title, but that hasn’t stopped Baze from trying.
With three racing days left in Santa Anita’s 68-day Winter Meet, the 32-year-old Seattle native had 54 wins, 20 behind Bejarano, but had won on 15 of his last 34 mounts, including four yesterday and four last Saturday, not to mention three on Sunday. Since last Thursday, Baze has won 14 races in five days.
“It feels great,” Baze said. “Craig’s doing great, we’re working hard together, we’re working a lot of horses, and everything’s just clicking.” Baze was referring to his agent, Craig O’Bryan, who also represents Gary Stevens.
“My confidence is strong now,” Baze said. “When horses are running for you and you’re winning races, I think you ride with a lot more confidence. I thought I could win five yesterday; I won four. It’s been an unbelievable week.
“About a week and a half ago, I told Craig, ‘This is going to be our week,’ and it really was. I won one race last Thursday, two Friday, four Saturday, three Sunday and four yesterday.”
And it hasn’t been for lack of effort. With 341, Baze led all riders in mounts through Thursday, 32 more than runner-up Bejarano.
TALAMO, SWEET SWAP SEEK SAN SIMEON REPEAT SUNDAY
Joe Talamo and Sweet Swap will be out for back-to-back wins in Sunday’s Grade III, $100,000 San Simeon Stakes for older horses at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.
They led virtually throughout to win last year by a half-length as the 9-5 favorite for John Sadler and Hronis racing LLC.
“He’s run a bunch down the hill (12 times with five wins), so you’ve got to love that,” Talamo said. “He drew well, all the way on the outside, which is great down the hill. I know he’s got speed, but he’s a horse that can sit right off the pace, too.”
A 6-year-old Candy Ride horse, Sweet Swap has seven wins from 17 career starts with earnings of $390,529.
The San Simeon: Get Happy Mister, Tyler Baze, 8-1 Home Run Kitten, Gary Stevens, 5-2; Joes Blazing Aaron, Edwin Maldonado, 20-1; Outside Nashville, Drayden Van Dyke, 15-1; supplemental nominee Holy Lute, Mike Smith, 3-1; Pure Tactics, Kent Desormeaux, 7-2; U S Citizen, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; and Sweet Swap, Joe Talamo, 3-1.
FINISH LINES: Corey Nakatani has been given the green light by Dr. James Tibone and will resume riding at Santa Anita next Friday, according to his agent, Tony Matos. Nakatani, 44, nominated to the Hall of Fame this year, suffered a fractured left collar bone when his mount clipped heals in a race on March 15 . . . The race for leading trainer could go down to the wire. With three days remaining in the Winter Meet, Jerry Hollendorfer holds a 32-31 lead over Peter Miller. Hollendorfer has had 178 starters, Miller 170, and each is winning at an 18 percent clip . . . Bolo, bound for the Kentucky Derby, worked five furlongs for Carla Gaines Friday morning in 1:00.20, while Santa Anita Oaks winner Stellar Wind, ticketed for the Kentucky Oaks on May 1, went five furlongs for John Sadler in 1:01 under regular rider Victor Espinoza. Gaines was pleased with the work and said Bolo would leave Santa Anita for Kentucky on April 26 . . . Espinoza’s agent, Brian Beach, will be Tom Quigley‘s guest handicapper Saturday in the East Paddock Gardens, while TVG host/analyst Mike Joyce will do the honors Sunday, each day at 11:20 a.m. . . . Payoff bonanza? Santa Anita will offer mandatory payouts for the Pick 5 and the Pick 6 on Sunday, closing day of the Winter Meet . . . The dates for two monthly meetings of the California Horse Racing Board have been changed. The meeting scheduled May 14 has been changed to May 21 at Santa Anita. The meeting scheduled June 18 has been changed to June 25 at Los Alamitos Race Course.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Thursday, April 16)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||230||23||28||26||10%||$1,511,663|
|J. Eric Kruljac||62||8||7||9||13%||$379,140|