- UNIQUE BELLA ODDS-ON FOR SUNDAY’S LAS VIRGENES
- O’NEILL HOPES TO ‘PASS GO’ WITH LEWIS MONOPOLY
- BUSY WEEKEND AS USUAL FOR TEAM HOLLENDORFER
- TEXAS RYANO SHOULD COME RUNNING IN SAN MARCOS
UNIQUE BELLA MEETS CHAMP IN GRADE II LAS VIRGENES
There are those who have mentioned Unique Bella in the same breath with her
stablemate, two-time Eclipse Award champion filly Songbird, although Jerry Hollendorfer likely would say that’s putting the cart before the horse, although he allows that Unique Bella is “a special filly.”
The daughter of Tapit tries two turns for the first time in Sunday’s Grade II Las Virgenes Stakes for three-year-old fillies at one mile, and is the 3-5 morning line favorite to succeed.
Unique Bella won the Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes at seven furlongs by 7 ½ lengths while geared down in her three-year-old debut, beating stablemate It Tiz Well. Competition is likely to be stiffer Sunday in the form of Eclipse Award champion two-year-old filly Champagne Room, who has been firing morning bullets for her three-year-old debut.
Trained by Peter Eurton, Champagne Room has not raced since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita on Nov. 5.
The Las Virgenes, race six of eight: Mopotism, Flavien Prat 6-1; Champagne Room, Mario Gutierrez, 5-2; Mistressofthenight, Corey Nakatani, 15-1; Unique Bella, Mike Smith, 3-5; and Miss Southern Miss, Kent Desormeaux, 6-1.
O’NEILL HAS THREE FOR THE MONEY IN ROBERT B. LEWIS
With three horses entered, Doug O’Neill has 60 percent in a field of five for Saturday’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes for three-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, but it’s not a personal record for the trainer, who won the Kentucky Derby twice in the last four years, with I’ll Have Another in 2012 and last year with champion two-year-old male of 2015 Nyquist.
“I remember having three in the Malibu in 2004 when Lava Man ran second (to Rock Hard Ten),” O’Neill said between intermittent rain drops that were not enough to cancel training Friday morning.
O’Neill also sent out Harvard Avenue to finish second and Perfect Moon to run third behind Rock Hard Ten, but accounted for only 30 percent of the field as there were 10 starters.
O’Neill has Oak Tree Juvenile winner Dangerfield, the maiden Irap, and Cecil B. DeMille winner Term of Art going in the Lewis, which offers 17 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, 10 to the winner.
“The pressure’s on,” O’Neill said with a chuckle, alluding to his Lewis majority. “Seriously, all three are doing well. They have the pedigree, they have the class, they’ve got the stride. They’ve all showed glimpses of being that kind of horse, so we’re optimistic.’
The field for the Lewis, which goes as the second event on a nine-race card that starts at 12:30 p.m.: Royal Mo, Victor Espinoza, 5-2; Irap, Mario Gutierrez, 3-1; Dangerfield, Kent Desormeaux, 7-2; Term of Art, Tyler Baze, 9-2; and Sheer Flattery, Mike Smith, 2-1.
HOLLENDORFER TARGETS THREE STAKES THIS WEEKEND
Jerry Hollendorfer has horses entered in six races this weekend, three of them stakes, so the Hall of Fame trainer and his assistant Dan Ward will be busy, as is their wont.
The 70-year-old Hollendorfer adheres to the U.S. Postal Service credo. Be it rain, sleet or snow, the mail must get through.
Hollendorfer has Ike Walker entered in the Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes for four-year-olds and up at six furlongs and Sheer Flattery in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, both on Saturday. Sunday, Unique Bella tries two turns for the first time in the Grade II Las Virgenes Stakes for three-year-old fillies at one mile.
Ike Walker sticks out like a sore thumb in the Palos Verdes, because on form, he doesn’t seem to fit. The five-year-old Bellamy Road gelding was claimed for $50,000 last out when he finished third on a wet/fast track at a mile Jan. 1. Prior to that, his previous 12 starts were all a mile or longer.
“The reason we nominated and are running is because we’ve been entering him in other races and they didn’t go,” Hollendorfer said. “I don’t just want to just keep sitting on him. I didn’t have a race picked out for him at Golden Gate, and we couldn’t get in here.
“We heard the Palos Verdes was going to come up short so we nominated and decided to run.
“It’s probably a bad spot, but if you just keep training them, they can get hurt.”
As to Sheer Flattery, who won a maiden allowance race by a nose on a sloppy track Dec. 31, Hollendorfer said, “We think he’s been training well and if he can transfer the race he ran last time to this one, he should have a fairly good chance.”
The Palos Verdes, race three: Ike Walker, Flavien Prat, 8-1; Distinctive B, Tyler Baze, 7-2; St. Joe Bay, Kent Desormeaux, 8-5; Ocho Ocho Ocho, Santiago Gonzalez, 7-2; and Moe Candy, Victor Espinoza, 2-1.
DISTANCE NO PROBLEM FOR TEXAS RYANO
Texas Ryano has a win and a second at a mile and a quarter on turf at Santa Anita.
Jockey Joe Talamo hopes the horse’s fancy for those conditions is in tact for Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Marcos Stakes for four-year-olds and up at 1 ¼ miles on turf.
“He kind of got backed up in his training with all the rain, like everyone else, but he’s been working very good and the distance is good for him, although to me, he’s a true mile and a half horse,” said Talamo, who has ridden the six-year-old Curlin horse eight times, winning twice, including the Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup last out on Nov. 25.
“If you look at his races at a mile and an eighth and a mile and a quarter, he kind of comes running, but the farther the better with him,” Talamo said. “He’s doing well enough where he can try and run ’em down.”
Trained by Carla Gaines for owner/breeder Warren Williamson, Texas Ryano boasts a 5-3-3 record from 18 starts with earnings of $438,355.
The San Marcos, the last of nine races: A Red Tie Day, Corey Nakatani, 15-1; Flamboyant, Brice Blanc, 4-1; Itsinthepost, Tyler Baze, 12-1; Blue Tone, Martin Garcia, 12-1; Texas Ryano, Joe Talamo, 3-1; Power Ped, Stewart Elliott, 20-1; Perfectly Majestic, Kent Desormeaux, 10-1; Isotherm, Flavien Prat, 6-1; Hi Happy, Altair Dominguez, 10-1; Twentytwentyvision, Mike Smith, 6-1; and Frank Conversation, Mario Gutierrez, 6-1.
Gustnado, Conquest Daddyo and Some in Tieme were scratched.
FINISH LINES: Happy Birthday wishes are in order for the Voice of Santa Anita, Michael Wrona. A native of Brisbane, Australia, Wrona was foaled 51 years ago today . . . Midnight Storm, a multiple graded stakes winner on both turf and dirt, remains ticketed for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 11. “Absolutely,” trainer Phil D’Amato said. “That’s what we’re planning. We’re going to breeze this weekend and keep him on that schedule all the way into the race.” Marathoner Big John B. worked five furlongs Thursday in 1:02. “He’s doing great,” D’Amato said. “I missed the San Marcos with him, but we’ll probably hit the next one (San Luis Rey at 1 ½ miles on turf March 25) or the Tokyo City Cup (at 1 ½ miles on dirt April 2), which he won last year.” Also scheduled to work Saturday is three-year-old filly champion of 2015 Stellar Wind for John Sadler . . . Suspension City: Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, third in the standings with 14 wins, has been suspended three days (Feb. 12, 16 and 17) for careless riding aboard Aotearoa in Sunday’s ninth race; Martin Garcia has been banished the same three days for careless riding on Senator Robert in Sunday’s fifth race, resulting in a disqualification from second to fifth; Flavien Prat is banned Feb. 9, 10 and 11 for careless riding on Run Macho Run in the second race Feb. 2; and the CHRB has denied Norberto Arroyo Jr.’s appeal from last October, suspending him six days (Feb. 9, 10, 11, 12, 16 and 17) . . . There was one winning Pick Six ticket Thursday worth $319,148, bought through TwinSpires.com for $648 . . . On Sunday, the day of The Big Game, live racing at Santa Anita begins at 11 a.m., allowing fans to watch three-point favorite New England against Atlanta at Sirona’s Sports Bar after the races or to be home in time to see it. Sirona’s will offer $5 drink specials all day. General admission to the track that day is only one dollar.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Thursday, Feb. 2)|
|Norberto Arroyo, Jr.||64||9||5||4||14%||28%||$458,830|
|J. Keith Desormeaux||19||7||2||4||37%||68%||$406,275|