The Kentucky Derby is front and center Saturday for the 141st time, bringing forth

random opinions from whizzes to washouts.

With Bob Baffert training the two morning line choices, American Pharoah and unbeaten Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund, this year’s Run for the Roses has a dominant Southern California panache, since both 3-year-olds are stabled at Santa Anita.

Following are thoughts from local horsemen:

Barry Abrams: American Pharoah. He’s the best horse.

Rafael Becerra: American Pharoah. I think he’s the real deal.

Ray Bell: The best value for the money is Firing Line, but I’ve never seen a Derby with more depth in my lifetime around horses, and that’s since 1975.

David Bernstein: Dortmund.

Jack Carava: American Pharoah. He’s the best horse.

Vladimir Cerin: The best horse since Secretariat is running–American Pharoah.

Keith Desormeaux: I’ve been impressed with what American Pharoah has done and it’s going to be interesting to see if he can control that speed in a 20-horse field.

Phil D’Amato: Firing Line. He’s done nothing wrong, he’s coming in fresh, he’s got a Hall of Famer aboard (Gary Stevens), and I’ve seen Gary out here in the mornings getting on him a lot and schooling him, so I think he’s a good contender.”

Caesar Dominguez: Dortmund, Mubtaahij, American Pharoah and Firing Line.

Neil Drysdale: American Pharaoh. I was super-impressed with him.

Peter Eurton: I’m rooting for Firing Line. I’d like to see (trainer) Simon (Callaghan) have some fun, but American Pharoah is in a position to stalk if he breaks clean.

Ron Ellis: There’s strength in California for sure, with Firing Line. American Pharoah and Dortmund.

Neil French: There’s quite a lot of speed in the race. American Pharoah does things so easy, it’s hard to say, but I’m leaning towards him.

Mark Glatt: It’s hard to go against American Pharoah, although the best horse doesn’t always win the Derby, but he’s the best horse by a long way.

Dan Hendricks: I’m going for the horse from Dubai (Mubtaahij).

Bruce Headley: Dortmund. He’s made for a mile and a quarter and he has a good post.

Karen Headley: Mubtaahij.

Jerry Hollendorfer: It looks like a tough race. I’d like to see a California horse win it, so I guess I’d have to root for the best chance Bob Baffert has. It looks like there are several horses that have a chance, but I like Bob’s horses.

Eric Kruljac: It looks like there’s a lot of pace in the race, but American Pharoah got a good post and should be in a good stalking position.

Craig Lewis: Either Baffert horse, whoever has the best trip. Both are very talented.

Mike Machowsky: It’s got to be Pharoah. He looks too damn good.

Ron McAnally: American Pharoah.

Sean McCarthy: American Pharaoh, but that’s subject to change in the post parade.

Steve Miyadi: Frosted. I liked his race in the Wood and I like his breeding.

Henry Moreno: I’m pulling for Pletcher. His parents sent him to live with me before he went to work for Wayne Lukas. Todd was the nicest young man I’ve ever been around in the racing business.

George Papaprodromou: American Pharoah wins by five. No, make it 10.

Jorge Periban: American Pharoah.

Mike Puype: I like the two Baffert horses but American Pharoah is a bit risky as a favorite. Anything can happen in a 20-horse field like the Kentucky Derby.

Gary Sherlock: Dortmund. He’s done nothing wrong.

Gary Stute: American Pharoah. I bet Corey Nakatani $100 horse for horse, and he’s got Dortmund.

Eddie Truman: Dortmund.

Dan Ward: I hope it’s California one-two-three, and in the Oaks, too. Dortmund’s already won on the Churchill Downs track.

Ted H. West: American Pharoah. He could be the next super horse.

Howard Zucker: American Pharoah is one of the most impressive winners I’ve seen. Watching him in the mornings, the way he gets around, he seems like a calm Seattle Slew.



            The countdown is closing in on zero for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby but you don’t have to be among the more than 100,000 at Churchill Downs to enjoy the extravaganza.

Fans can join the biggest Derby party west of Kentucky at Santa Anita on an afternoon filled with world-class racing, hat contests, mint juleps and live racing.

Festivities include an Infield Beer-fest with live music from Seedless, and a party in the Premium Gallop Out in the Club House East. Fans can purchase a Trackside Package for a prime seat and their first drink in a commemorative cup featuring Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund, plus all the fun and excitement of racing’s best 3-year-olds in the Kentucky Derby.

First post time Saturday is 11:30 a.m. Gates open at 7:15 a.m. Tickets can be purchased at



            Sammy Mandeville was impressive winning an overnight race by 6 ½ lengths at Santa Anita on March 6, then fired a dud finishing ninth and last in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap on April 11. Now the bay son of 2005 Santa Anita Handicap winner Rock Hard Ten is back in three weeks for Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Precisionist Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at a mile and 1/16.

“He never got a hold of the track,” trainer Doug O’Neill said of the 4-year-old colt owned by Glenn Sorgenstein and Josh Kaplan, who campaign as W.C. Racing.

“He’s kind of a hot-minded horse and shipping him we knew was kind of a challenge. Kent (Desormeaux) said he never got a hold of the track, was slipping and sliding all the way, so we’re putting a line through the race.

“He worked with Alex Solis the other day, Alex got along with him great, so we’re looking to rebound here.”

Meanwhile, trainer Ted H. West is hoping for further dividends in the Precisionist from recent $40,000 claim Motown Men, who won by 7 ½ lengths in his first start for his new connections on April 10.

“He couldn’t be going into the race any better,” West said. “His last two works were exceptional. He was training pretty well before his last race and that was a pretty tough field. After handicapping that race, I didn’t think we could win it, even though the horse was doing so well, but he sure did.”

Asked why he claimed the 6-year-old Decarchy gelding: “He seemed consistent, he was hitting pretty hard at that level. I thought maybe he’d like the dirt a bit more than the turf.”

The field for the Precisionist, race 10 of 11: Sammy Mandeville, Alex Solis, 6-1; Fury Kapcori, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Rousing Sermon, Corey Nakatani, 8-1; Appealing Tale, Edwin Maldonado, 15-1; Catch a Flight, Flavien Prat, 5-2; Mystery Train, Santiago Gonzalez, 8-1; Blue Chip, Abel Cedillo, 3-1; Magic Mark, Fernando Perez, 15-1; and Motown Men, Tyler Baze, 6-1.



Trainer Jim Cassidy is hoping for smooth sailing when Prize Exhibit runs in Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 Honeymoon Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

The English-bred daughter of Showcasing owned by Don Pearson of Valencia, who campaigns as DP Racing LLC, had a very troubled outing finishing fourth in the Grade III Providencia Stakes on April 4.

“She was just everywhere,” Cassidy said in summing up the eventful excursion, in which she was beaten only three lengths despite steadying twice through the stretch.

“The distance is good for her,” Cassidy said. “She’s doing fine now.”

Prize Exhibit won an overnight race by three-quarters of a length in her U.S. debut on Jan. 25 despite being forced out and going wide in a one-mile grass test under Mike Smith, who regains the mount Sunday.

The field for the Honeymoon, the final of eight races: Screaming Skylar, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; Spanish Queen, Brice Blanc, 3-1; Havanna Belle, Rafael Bejarano, 12-1; Lutine Belle, Corey Nakatani, 15-1; Sharla Rae, Drayden Van Dyke, 15-1; Prize Exhibit, Mike Smith, 7-2; Star Via Strada, Tiago Pereira, 20-1; Entrechat, Flavien Prat, 5-2; Spirit of Xian, Joe Talamo, 7-2; and Singing Kitty, Tyler Baze, 8-1.



Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. has announced the appointment of Hall of Fame jockey Alex Solis to the California Horse Racing Board. This followed the resignation of Bo Derek, who served nearly seven years on the Board, most recently as 1st Vice Chair.

CHRB Chairman Chuck Winner expressed high praise for both.

“I’m very pleased that the Governor appointed Alex to the Board. Having a rider will bring a new dimension to our process that has been missing,” Winner said. “I’ve known Alex since he began riding in California. He’s a terrific jockey and a man of integrity, who is well respected throughout the industry.”

“I’m looking forward to adding another perspective to the Board,” said Solis. “I have 34 years of experience in the racing industry. I’ve been on top of horses and I’ve been in the backside. I’ve associated with many great horsemen. I feel that I have a good understanding of the industry.”

Chairman Winner continued, “Vice Chair Bo Derek has been an outstanding commissioner. She has worked tirelessly as a leading advocate for the health and safety of the horse and the rider. I personally learned a great deal from working with Bo on the Board and as a member of her committee that dealt with equine medication and track safety. There can be no doubt that the horses, the riders, and the industry are much the better because of the work of Bo Derek.”

As a commissioner since July 15, 2008, and chair of the Medication and Track Safety Committee, Ms. Derek helped insure the health, safety and welfare of horses and riders by leading efforts to improve the construction and use of riding crops; require riders to wear improved safety helmets and safety vests; greatly restrict the use of a wide range of medications, such as anabolic steroids; implement the process for voiding claims (purchases) of horses that demonstrate unsoundness following their races; and insure that every racetrack and approved training facility has immediate access to ambulances and paramedic services.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been able to work on welfare and safety issues from the inside of the sport I love,” she said. “And I’m thrilled that Alex Solis is joining the Board. He has so much to offer.”


FINISH LINES: Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer on the status of Santa Anita Handicap winner Shared Belief, currently recovering at Golden Gate Fields from an injury suffered in the Charles Town Classic on April 18: “He has no surgical issues whatsoever. He tweaked his right hind leg coming out of the gate so it’s going to take some time to heal, but hopefully not a lot of time. I would expect him to be 100 percent recovered.” . . . Agent Vic Lipton is two-for-two with his new rider, Alex Solis, who captured Thursday’s fourth race for trainer John Shirreffs aboard Smart Transition by 2 ¼ lengths at a $3.40 win payoff. Solis is named on five horses Saturday . . . Jockey Saul Arias has been suspended three racing days (May 10, 14 and 15) for failing to maintain a straight course on Bella Breeze in Sunday’s second race.