- ESPINOZA GOES WITH THE FLOW FOR TRIPLE
- ZINVOR SHARP FOR RICH SNOW CHIEF STAKES
- FILLY MAKES SANTA ANITA DEBUT IN MELAIR
- GOING SOMEWHERE HAS SOMEWHERE TO GO
- TEXAS RED WORKING TOWARDS HIS COMEBACK
ESPINOZA CONFIDENT IN TRIPLE CROWN PURSUIT
Victor Espinoza leaves on Monday, June 1, for New York and what he hopes is a date
with destiny when he pursues the Triple Crown aboard American Pharoah in the Belmont Stakes on June 6.
This will mark the second time in two years and the third time in his career he will try for the elusive Triple, having missed out on War Emblem in 2002 and California Chrome last year.
Usually readily accessible, this time around the indefatigable rider is attempting to maintain a relatively low profile with PR functions and accommodating the media, focusing as he should on the target at hand, winning the Triple Crown, which has not been won since 1978.
“Yesterday,” Victor said at Clockers’ Corner Friday morning, “I did so many interviews, I was tired.”
Espinoza and his agent, Brian Beach, will make certain Victor is a “fresh horse” going
into the Belmont, leaving that same objective for American Pharoah up to the colt’s trainer, Bob Baffert, who will be seeking the Triple Crown for the fourth time. He came close with War Emblem, Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet (1998).
Told American Pharoah looked like he was floating over Pimlico’s inundated sloppy track en route to his seven-length romp in the Preakness last Saturday, Victor was quick to respond. “Me too,” he said, laughing. “I was floating, too. My boots were full of water.
“It’s amazing how life is. I never thought I would win three Kentucky Derbies. After I won the first (on War Emblem in 2002), four or five years went by and I never dreamed I’d go back again, and then last year here comes California Chrome, the favorite for the Kentucky Derby, who won by daylight and came very close to winning the Triple Crown.
“Now we’re in position to do it again in a back-to-back situation with an amazing horse like American Pharoah. But let me tell you about the Preakness. I never rode a horse in my life in so much rain. That was my first time.
“But it was fun. Pharoah handled it very well. I was more concerned about the horse but he ran an unbelievable race and I’m here again. You never know what lies ahead or what the future holds.
“But I never get too caught up in the moment. I just keep working on my career, doing things normally, taking it one day at a time.”
As to the Belmont, Espinoza understandably feels “confident” about American Pharoah.
“I can’t look back and worry about the two times I lost the Belmont,” Espinoza said. “When I rode War Emblem, he stumbled really bad at the start and that was it. My chance was gone right away.
“California Chrome was tired going into the race and his energy wasn’t quite what it was. Also, another horse stepped on his foot and that happens when a horse doesn’t have the energy it should. They do things in slow motion, and that’s what happened.
“So again my chances went when the gates opened. Twice my chances were eliminated like that. But it’s different this time with American Pharoah. I know each horse is different and every time I’m there, I think differently, too.
“It’s all going to depend on Baffert and if he has the horse ready. Baffert knows how to train a horse to be ready for the Belmont, so that gives me a lot of confidence, as it does with other horses I ride in big races like this.
“If the trainer has his horse ready, then my job is easy. After that, I have all the confidence in the world.”
Espinoza celebrates his 43rd birthday tomorrow, but would patiently wait two weeks to receive a gift for the man who has everything.
“The Triple Crown,” he said. “That’s the present I need.”
ZINVOR IN GOOD SPOT FOR WIN IN SNOW CHIEF STAKES
Zinvor competes in his first stakes race Saturday when he runs in the $200,000 Snow Chief Stakes for three-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on turf. The gelded son of the late Tribal Rule has two wins on Santa Anita’s turf course, each at one mile.
“He’s doing really well,” trainer John Sadler said. “It’s a key race for him. It’s his conditions; California-bred, three-year-old, grass. It’s just perfect for him.”
The field for the Snow Chief, race eight of 10: Cardiac, Santiago Gonzalez, 8-1; Richard’s Boy, Fernando Perez, 7-2; Book Thirty Four, Felipe Valdez, 20-1; Zinvor, Victor Espinoza, 7-2; Grazen Sky, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; Chief of Staff, Tyler Baze, 12-1; Temple Keys, Drayden Van Dyke, 15-1; Neveradoubt, Flavien Prat, 20-1; Rocko’s Wheel, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Pulmarack, Corey Nakatani, 6-1; and Over Par, Mario Gutierrez, 30-1.
LA FIERA DEBUTS FOR HOLLENDORFER IN MELAIR STAKES
La Fiera, a newcomer to the Jerry Hollendorfer barn, makes her Santa Anita debut in Saturday’s $200,000 Melair stakes for three-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.
The daughter of Comic Strip has had five career starts, the last four at Golden Gate Fields where she won three times over the Tapeta surface.
“She’s doing well,” said Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward. “We’ve only had her here a few days. She went to the gate Wednesday, went to the paddock and galloped over the track.
“She’s a nice filly. She has good form; she’s very steady.”
The Melair: Barbara Beatrice, Tiago Pereira, 8-1; Thermodynamics, Gary Stevens, 3-1; Sheer Pleasure, Tyler Baze, 5-2; Niassa, Flavien Prat, 6-1; Ashley’s Baby, Mike Smith, 3-1; La Fiera, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; and Tribal Express, Alonso Quinonez, 15-1.
GOING SOMEWHERE MAKES U.S. DEBUT IN WHITTINGHAM
Going Somewhere makes his first start in seven months when he makes his U.S. debut in Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 Charles Whittingham Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 1 ½ miles on turf, not necessarily ideal for a comeback, but Neil Drysdale’s choices are limited.
“Unfortunately, he has to start somewhere,” the Hall of Fame trainer said, “and there’s nowhere else more suitable.”
Drysdale, 67, was assistant to Charlie Whittingham for four years (1970-74) and won the race named for the late “Bald Eagle” multiple times when it was run at Hollywood Park.
Marathon grass races are nothing new to Going Somewhere, a 6-year-old Brazilian-bred horse who has not won in three years, since capturing the Group 1 Carlos Pelligrini at San Ysidro in Argentina on Dec. 15, 2012, a span of 14 races. He won twice at distances of a mile and a half and once at a mile and seven-eighths in South America in 2012.
Going Somewhere worked six furlongs on a firm Santa Anita turf course Sunday in 1:18.
The field for the Whittingham, race three of nine: Divine Oath, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; Crucero, Kent Desormeaux, 20-1; Ganesh, Flavien Prat, 5-2; Going Somewhere, Mike Smith, 7-2; and Ashleyluvssugar, Gary Stevens, 6-5.
WILD DUDE BACK AT SANTA ANITA FOR LOS ANGELES STAKES
Wild Dude returns to a track he fancies when he runs in the Grade III Los Angeles Stakes on Monday, Memorial Day, supporting feature of the Grade I Gamely Stakes that day.
The 5-year-old Florida-bred horse weakened to finish sixth in the Grade I Carter Handicap at Aqueduct on April 4, but has a 3-2-2 record from nine starts at Santa Anita, where he has a pair of Grade II stakes wins, the Palos Verdes and the San Carlos.
“He likes this track and he’s a runner,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said of the son of Wildcat Heir whose career earnings are just shy of $500,000.
Wild Dude worked six furlongs Sunday in 1:12.
The Los Angeles field: Five Palms, Martin Garcia; War Academy, Elvis Trujillo; Spirit Rules, Iggy Puglisi; Wild Dude, Rafael Bejarano; Distinctiv Passion, Edwin Maldonado; and San Onofre, Mike Smith.
BC JUVENILE CHAMP TEXAS RED WORKING TOWARDS RETURN
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red galloped a mile on Santa Anita’s main track Friday and is scheduled to breeze a half-mile Saturday as he prepares for his return to the races after missing the Triple Crown classics due abscess issues with his right front foot.
“He breezed three-eighths earlier in the week just to kind of let him stretch out, but we’ll let him pick it up a little bit tomorrow,” trainer Keith Desormeaux said. “He’s got a clean bill of health. If something else comes up, it’ll be just one of those things. But he looks good now. His legs are clean.”
As to his impressions of American Pharoah’s victories in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, Desormeaux said: “Like many others, I always thought American Pharoah was the best horse, but I had some question after the Derby when it looked like he had to reach the bottom of the tank to get the job done, so you wondered if that was all he had.
“But as the Preakness approached, I don’t know why, but it became more and more apparent that he was the best horse, and it may be because he reached the bottom of the tank for the first time (in the Derby).
“But he refueled, and it looks like he’s head and shoulders above everybody else.”
TREASURY, IRS URGED TO MODERNIZE TAX REGULATIONS
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) is encouraging members of the racing industry to request that the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service modernize tax regulations relating to withholding and reporting of winning pari-mutuel wagers.
This regulatory change would eliminate a high percentage of reporting and withholding tickets and could increase pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing by as much as 10 percent, or $1 billion in one year alone, according to Steve Crist of Daily Racing Form. Increased handle will lead to higher purses and added strength in the bloodstock markets.
According to the NTRA, the Treasury Department and IRS should be urged to authorize modernization of the tax regulations relating to withholding and reporting of winning pari-mutuel wagers because the current method is unfair and outdated.
The NTRA has created a simple, customized message to submit directly to the Treasury. Simply go to www.ntra.com/IRScomment to join others in supporting this cause.
FINISH LINES: For the record, Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, who won the 2009 Belmont Stakes on Summer Bird, rides Keen Ice for trainer Dale Romans in the final leg of the Triple Crown two weeks from tomorrow. Keen Ice finished a willing seventh in the Kentucky Derby under Desormeaux, beaten eight lengths despite an eventful trip . . . Richard Mandella has The Californian on tap May 30 for Precisionist winner Catch a Flight in advance of the Grade I, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita June 27 . . . Trainer Mike Machowsky is sitting on 499 career victories. “It’s a nice little milestone,” Machowsky said. “I’ve been training on my own for 24 years, something like that. I didn’t really know I was approaching 500 until a friend of mine pointed it out a few weeks ago.” As to venerable Caracortado, the old stakes winner is still around. “He’s still has the same old quarter crack BS (on his right front foot),” Machowsky said of the California-bred son of Cat Dreams, now eight. “I hope to get him back to the races at some point, but I have to do right by him. No time table. You know how horses are.” Caracortado last raced on Aug. 13, 2014, finishing fifth in the Green Flash at Del Mar. In 20 career starts, he has seven wins including the Robert B Lewis Stakes in 2013 when it was a Grade II race, and the Grade II Del Mar Handicap in 2011.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Thursday, May 21)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||43||7||4||5||16%||$276,518|