- CHROME WELL-SCHOOLED FOR THE SAN PASQUAL
- IT’S EARLY (SONG)BIRD THAT CATCHES THE WORK
- RAIN DOESN’T DAMPEN ENTHUSIASM FOR TRACK
- TRAINER SEEKS STALKING TRIP IN SHAM STAKES
- BURGER & BREWFEST SATURDAY AT SANTA ANITA
COUNTDOWN ON FOR CALIFORNIA CHROME IN SAN PASQUAL
After more than five inches of rain inundated Santa Anita four straight days from Monday through Thursday, Friday morning the sun was out, the weather was dry and temperatures dipped into the 30s.
In other words, life in LaLa Land was back to normal, especially for California Chrome, the 2014 Horse of the Year who will make his first start in nine months Saturday when he runs in the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes for older horses at a mile and one-sixteenth.
“He stood in the gate, galloped a mile and a half, and schooled in the paddock,” said Alan Sherman, deputizing this morning at Santa Anita for his father, trainer Art Sherman, who was overseeing activities at Los Alamitos. “The track’s fine. We have no issues with that.”
Ditto from Richard Baltas, who has Imperative entered in the San Pasqual.
“The track was really good yesterday,” said the meet’s leading trainer with five wins from 14 starters through eight days. “For the amount of rain we had (precisely 5.2 inches), I thought he (Track Superintendent Dennis Moore) did a great job. Obviously, we didn’t get to train on it, but that was the right thing to do.
“It looks like we’re going to get lucky with the weather and it should improve all weekend, so I feel really good about the race track. I think it’s going to be better today than it was yesterday, and it should be better tomorrow than it was today.”
The field for the San Pasqual, race eight of nine: Alfa Bird, Tyler Baze, 20-1; Blingo, Alex Solis, 20-1; Point Piper, Rafael Bejarano, 10-1; California Chrome, Victor Espinoza, 4-5; Hoppertunity, Martin Garcia, 5-2; Hard Aces, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Mystery Train, Mike Smith, 30-1; and Imperative, Mario Gutierrez, 6-1.
Jerry Hollendorfer was realistic about the chances of Point Piper, who seeks his first graded stakes win in the San Pasqual and could have greener pastures down the road.
“It is a big step up, but he’s been doing well and he’s been working well,” Hollendorfer said of the six-year-old Giant’s Causeway horse. “He had a real nice seven-eighths work here the last time we worked him (1:25.80 on Jan. 3).
“Hoppertunity and Chrome are going to race out of town after the San Pasqual, so that’s going to leave some of the races around here a little bit easier, like the San Antonio (a Grade II event at 1 1/8 miles offering a $500,000 purse on Feb. 6).”
SONGBIRD FIRES BULLET IN DRILL OVER ‘GREAT’ TRACK
Undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Songbird, who will be named champion two-year-old filly of 2015 when Eclipse Award winners are announced on Jan. 16, worked five furlongs in a bullet 58.20 Friday morning under regular rider Mike Smith after the 7:45 renovation break.
It was the fastest of 52 drills at the distance, the average time of which was 1:00.81. Santa Anita clocker Dane Nelson had fractional times for Songbird of 34 flat and 46.20, with a six furlong gallop-out time of 1:11.40.
The work had been scheduled to take place around 12 noon today, prior to the first race, but with the track in prime condition despite recent heavy rains, Jerry Hollendorfer called an audible.
“The track is in great shape,” the Hall of Fame trainer said in explaining why he altered plans for the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms.
“She just did everything real easy. She has a good mind. Mike knows her and has been on for most of her works. I’m satisfied.” Songbird is scheduled to make her three-year-old debut in the Grade II, $300,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile on Feb. 6.
GUILLOT EXPECTS LAOBAN TO ADVANCE IN SHAM
Laoban was “caught late” after holding a five-length lead into the stretch in a maiden allowance race at one mile Dec. 5 at Los Alamitos, but trainer Eric Guillot hopes a change in tactics lands the son of Uncle Mo in the winner’s circle in Saturday’s Grade III Sham Stakes for three-year-olds at one mile.
“The horse ran to my instructions,” Guillot said of the Kentucky-bred colt. “I told my other owners that if we wanted to see if he was a good horse, we’d have to stay here with him. In his first race, he got left and kind of hesitated and propped coming out of the gate at Del Mar. He made a little run and then got tired.
“Last time, he opened up five down the lane, going 46 and one (for the half mile) and there’s no reason he should have to do that. That took him completely out of his element. He should be able to stalk.
“He’s a big colt and he’s had two breezes here since I shipped him from Los Alamitos. He’s a monster; he’s a pretty nice horse . . . This will be an acid test for him.”
The field for the Sham: Rare Candy, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Dressed in Hermes, Mike Smith, 7-2; Let’s Meet in Rio, Kent Desormeaux, 6-1; Found Money, Mario Gutierrez, 6-1; Semper Fortis, Kieren Fallon, 8-1; Laoban, Tyler Baze, 15-1; I’malreadythere, Rafael Bejarano, 5-1; Sorryaboutnothing, Flavien Prat, 15-1; and Collected, Martin Garcia, 3-1.
FINISH LINES: With a two-day Pick Six carryover fanning the pari-mutuel flames, yesterday’s total Pick Six pool exceeded $2.5 million. There were 71 winning tickets, each worth $22,015 . . . Santa Anita hosts a Burger & Brewfest Saturday. Fans can enjoy their repast while watching Thoroughbred racing at its best on the trackside apron. Visit www.santaanita.com/events for package and pricing information . . . On Monday, Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Santa Anita offers another of its popular Dollar Days, with draft beers, hot dogs and sodas on sale for just a buck . . . Trainer Dan Hendricks has the Grade II Arcadia Stakes Feb. 13 at one mile on turf next up for Mathis Brothers Mile winner Om, who would go on to the Grade I Kilroe Mile March 12 if all goes well . . . Phil D’Amato has a similar agenda for crack miler Obviously, who suffered yet another tough beat in the 1 1/8-mile San Gabriel Stakes Jan. 2, leading most of the way before being overtaken by 46-1 shot Flamboyant in the final stride. “I’m pointing him towards the Arcadia,” the trainer said. “He came out of the race in great shape and ready to go. I tried something different with the idea of campaigning him in races towards the early part of the year, and it seems to be working out right now. He’s fresh and on his toes and ready to take them on in the Arcadia.” . . . Tommy Massis, 2015 BCBC Tournament Champion who won $345,000, and Ken Kirchner, manager of the Breeders’ Cup wagering & simulcast operations, will be Tom Quigley‘s guests Saturday and Sunday, respectively, 11:20 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens.
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