- TRIPLE CHAMP BEHOLDER PREPS FOR ADORATION
- GALLAGHER HOPES TO SMELL ROSES WITH MAIDEN
- SADLER SENDS OUT PAIR IN OPENING DAY FEATURE
- FORMER TRAINER DONN LUBY PASSES AT 71
- TOP JOCK GONZALEZ RESUMES RIDING THURSDAY
- HOME RUN KITTEN FRESH FOR AMERICAN STAKES
- FREE SHUTTLE SERVICE FOR FANS AT SANTA ANITA
BEHOLDER DRILLS FOR 2016 DEBUT AT SANTA ANITA SUNDAY
Santa Anita Park, which showcased champions California Chrome, Nyquist, Runhappy and Songbird at its 2016 Winter Meet, hopes to focus on that same theme when it begins its 41-day Spring Meet on Thursday, May 5, two days before the 142nd Kentucky Derby, which fans can watch and wager on at The Great Race Place when the first jewel in racing’s Triple Crown is run next Saturday, May 7.
The reign of champions is expected to continue when three-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder, the gift that keeps on giving, begins her six-year-old campaign in the Grade III Adoration Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Sunday, May 8.
The daughter of Henny Hughes owned by B. Wayne Hughes and trained by Richard Mandella was a champion at two, three and five, and will be making her first start since winning the Grade I Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita for the third time last Sept. 26. Beholder is a remarkable 11 for 12 in her career at Santa Anita and 15 for 20 overall, with earnings of $4,436,600.
Beholder worked a mile in company Friday under Janeen Painter in 1:40 flat, with fractions of 26, 38.60, 51 and 1:28.40. Stablemate Atypique went seven furlongs in 1:29.40.
“I was happy. She looked good. It went a little slow the first part but that was because of a traffic jam,” said Hughes, on hand from his Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky. “The second half was perfect.”
Added Mandella: “It was a nice, steady mile. She went very good and everything’s in good shape.”
Hughes plans to head back to Kentucky Sunday and attend the Kentucky Derby a week from tomorrow. “Then we’ll fly home (in a private jet) the next day and bring Gary Stevens with us, so that he has to show up (laughing aloud). We’ll have him locked in the plane.”
Stevens, the regular rider of Beholder, seeks his fourth triumph in the Run for the Roses when he rides Mor Spirit in the mile and a quarter classic.
GALLAGHER SEEKS LUCK OF THE IRISH IN DERBY
Paddy Gallagher will be shooting for the moon when he sends out maiden Trojan Nation in next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, but, like everyone else, the 59-year-old trainer recognizes that you can’t win if you’re not in.
Trojan Nation punched his ticket to the Run for the Roses with a furious rally from last along the rail under Aaron Gryder to finish second by a head at 81-1 in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 9.
Thursday at Santa Anita, Trojan Nation worked six furlongs in 1:12.60, with fractional times of 25, 36.80, 48.80, 1:00.20 and a seven furlong gallop out time of 1:27.
“I ran one horse on my own before in the Derby, Domestic Dispute (10th in 2003) and Diazo (who ran fifth in 1993) when I worked with Bill Shoemaker,” said Gallagher, who rode as an amateur in his native Ireland.
“Trojan Nation leaves Monday for Kentucky and I’ll follow Tuesday or Wednesday. He worked well. His performance in the Wood was a very nice surprise.”
At Keeneland Friday, unbeaten Kentucky Derby favorite Nyquist worked a mile under Mario Gutierrez for Doug O’Neill in 1:41.01. “Very happy, beyond what we imagined,” O’Neill told Daily Racing Form. “He exceeded our expectations. He did it nice and easy.”
SADLER HAS TWO FOR THE MONEY IN ROYAL HEROINE
John Sadler plans to enter two horses in the Grade II, $200,000 Royal Heroine Stakes when entries are drawn Sunday for Santa Anita’s opening day feature next Thursday, May 5: Elektrum and Nancy From Nairobi.
Each mare is owned by Sadler’s principal client, the brothers Hronis, Kosta and Peter. Elektrum, a consistent Irish-bred daughter of 2002 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner High Chaparral, has been absent since finishing second in the Grade III Red Carpet Handicap at Del Mar last Nov. 21, but won the Grade II John C. Mabee at the seaside course last Aug. 8.
Nancy From Nairobi, an English-bred daughter of Sixties Icon, seeks her first stakes win after winning her last two starts on Santa Anita’s grass course despite troubled trips.
“We think she runs pretty well on this course,” Sadler said of Nancy From Nairobi. “Elektrum was a Grade II winner last year. We gave her the winter off but she’s ready to start up again.
“Both are good quality horses, so it should be a good race.”
Sadler added that Stellar Wind, champion Older Female of 2015, is scheduled to work Sunday for her long-range goal, the Grade I, $400,000 Vanity Mile on June 4.
Probable for the Royal Heroine: Elektrum, Victor Espinoza; Glory, Mike Smith; Living The Life, Martin Garcia; Nancy From Nairobi, Abel Lezcano; Sharla Rae, Tiago Pereira; and Smoove It, no rider.
SANTA ANITA MOURNS PASSING OF DONN LUBY
The racing community at Santa Anita mourned the passing of former trainer and Santa Anita Stall Manager Donn Luby who died in his sleep Tuesday night due to complications from cancer at the Life Care Center in Bridgeton, Missouri, at the age of 71.
An avid golfer, Luby, who frequently had a tobacco pipe in-hand, was a well-respected horseman and friend to many in Southern California’s large racing community.
“He was a good guy,” said trainer Jerry Fanning. “He was a good stall man. He trained, did everything.”
An assistant to Gary Jones in the late 70s, Luby took over the training of Eleven Stiches in the spring of 1981 and sent him out to victory with Sandy Hawley aboard in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup that summer. Seven years later, he would go on to train Flying Julia, who won Santa Anita’s Grade I Santa Margarita Handicap under Frank Olivares in 1988.
Added octogenarian assistant starter Huey Barnes: “He was one wonderful person and a fair stall man. In that job, you have to be in the center of the road. You can’t help one man more than another. If he could do something for you, he would do it. He was a good man.
“You can’t play favorites and he didn’t. He was straight down the pike.”
Donna Luby, Donn’s wife of 45 years, said a viewing for family and friends would take place this week, prior to his being cremated. Donn Luby is survived by his wife, a son, Jason, who attended West Point on an academic scholarship, and two granddaughters.
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ EAGER TO RESUME RIDING
Jockey Santiago Gonzalez returns to the races at Santa Anita on opening day, after a six-week recovery from a non-displaced fractured jaw and an injured right knee suffered in a riding mishap on March 20.
“The doctor said it would be about six weeks,” said Santiago’s agent, former trainer Craig Stephen, who has enjoyed unexpected but welcome success with Gonzalez since taking his book in December of 2014. “He just can’t wait to be back. He’s happy just breezing horses right now. He wants to be out here and on horses.
“He’s been working with a personal trainer at the gym and they’ve never stopped since he got the go ahead. He always watches his diet, but he’s always been light and never has a problem with his weight.
“He’s been hiking mountains, bike riding, going to the gym and working out. He just wants to be on horses. That’s his thing.’
HOME RUN KITTEN IN STRIDE FOR AMERICAN STAKES
Home Run Kitten stretches out again when he runs in the Grade III American Stakes at one mile on turf Friday, May 6, second day of Santa Anita’s 41-day Spring Meet.
The five-year-old Kitten’s Joy horse owned by Tarabilla Farms was an eventful seventh breaking from the rail in the Joe Hernandez Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf Feb. 28, hopping when crossing the dirt portion of the course.
“He didn’t care for the track that day for some reason,” trainer David Hofmans said. “It’s the first time I ever saw him jump across the dirt. Something was bothering him. I don’t know what it was. He wasn’t the same. He got to the dirt, he just jumped over it.
“He didn’t fire at all. But I freshened him up, he’s training well and we’re hoping whatever it was, he’s over it.”
Home Run Kitten has four wins from 17 career starts with earnings of $342,645. He worked five furlongs last Sunday in a bullet 59.60, fastest of 39 drills at the distance.
FESTIVE DERBY DAY ACTIVITIES AT SANTA ANITA
Santa Anita will host the “Biggest Derby Party West of Kentucky,” the KROQ Kentucky Derby Beer Festival, in the track’s spacious Infield Area on Saturday, May 7.
In addition to the Run for the Roses, Santa Anita will offer fans a full card of live Thoroughbred action, with first post time at 12 noon. Admission to the KROQ Beer Festival will commence at 12 noon. Approximate post time for the Kentucky Derby is 3:40 p.m. PDT.
Those wishing to spend Derby Day on the Trackside Apron can partake of a Kentucky Derby Trackside Package that includes Club House admission, a drink voucher (must be 21 or over), a racing program and tip sheet, access to Trackside and reserved Grandstand seating areas and an American Pharoah Tote Bag.
For more information on the Derby Day KROQ Beer Festival or to purchase tickets online, please visit santaanita.com/events.
SANTA ANITA OFFERS FREE SHUTTLE SERVICE
Santa Anita will offer complimentary shuttle service every racing day during the Spring Meet that runs through July 10.
The operating times will be from 12 noon to 8 p.m. Regular first post time during the spring is 2 p.m.
On Kentucky Derby Day, Saturday, May 7, with a first post of 12 noon, two shuttles will be available from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday, May 8, Mother’s Day, the shuttle service will be available from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Service will be offered from the Metro Arcadia train station to the Infield Admission Gates, Club House Admission Gates, and the South Battery.
The shuttle will be picking up/dropping off every 25 minutes from all locations (subject to traffic delays).
FINISH LINES: Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, reports that unbeaten champion Songbird returns to the track early Sunday for the first time since a fever that struck after her Santa Anita Oaks win on April 9 forced her to miss next Friday’s Kentucky Oaks . . . Trainer David Hofmans has the Grade I, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita June 25 as a long-range goal for Santa Anita Handicap winner Melatonin, who was second last out in the Oaklawn Handicap on April 16. The trainer mentioned the Californian Stakes on May 22 as a possible prelude to the Gold Cup . . . Trainer John Shirreffs on champion mare Zenyatta being elected to the Hall of Fame: “It’s great to revisit all those memories one more time. I’m just so proud of what she’s accomplished.” The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in August . . . Jockey Martin Garcia is back stateside after visiting family and friends in Vera Cruz, Mexico, and rides Living The Life for Gary Mandella in the Royal Heroine on opening day. The Irish-bred mare was a troubled third in the Grade I Santa Margarita March 19 . . . Ohio seeks his second win from two starts in the U.S. when he runs in the Grade III American Stakes Friday for Paulo Lobo under Brice Blanc, who worked the Brazilian-bred son of Elusive Quality six furlongs on the training track April 24 in a bullet 1:14. “He went the last three-eighths in 35 flat,” pointed out an enthusiastic Aaron Hesz, agent for Blanc . . . Trainer Carla Gaines said Arcadia Stakes winner Bolo likely will pass the American in favor of the Grade I, $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Derby Day . . . Trainer Peter Eurton has multiple stakes-winning sprinter Kobe’s Back set to work around 9 o’clock Saturday morning before shipping to Kentucky Monday for the Grade II, $500,000 Churchill Downs Stakes at seven furlongs, also on Derby Day . . . Agent J.R. Pegram is delighted with the success he and Kent Desormeaux are enjoying since he took the Hall of Fame rider’s book in late March, two weeks before the Santa Anita Derby on April 9. “Everything’s going well,” Pegram said. “No complaints. Kent’s happy, he’s out working every day and winning races.” Desormeaux won with 10 of 21 mounts at Los Alamitos through the meet’s first eight days to lead all riders going into the final week. Desormeaux will seek his fourth Kentucky Derby victory when he rides Santa Anita Derby winner Exaggerator, trained by older brother, Keith, on Saturday. Kent leaves tonight for Churchill Downs where he will be aboard Exaggerator for his final major breeze tomorrow prior to the Derby . . . Roimes Chirinos, a 33-year-old rider from Venezuela, makes his Santa Anita debut on opening day. A two-time Triple Crown winner in his native country, Chirinos has ridden at Gulfstream Park and Pimlico and more recently Sunland Park. This year marks his first full-time campaign in the United States. His agent is Norberto Arroyo, who also represents Abel Lezcano. “Roimes (pronounced ROY-mes; but he’s called Roy) has been working horses for John Sadler and Richard Baltas,” said Arroyo.