- ELLIOTT RECALLS SMARTY JONES’ DERBY VICTORY
- HORSEMEN FANCY NYQUIST IN RUN FOR THE ROSES
- CLOCKER SAYS NYQUIST IS ‘NOT A WEAK FAVORITE’
- MELATONIN, STELLAR WIND TO BREEZE TOMORROW
ELLIOTT FAVORS NYQUIST, FIRST TURN CRUCIAL
Stewart Elliott’s signature victory came in the 2004 Kentucky Derby on Smarty Jones. Twelve years later, the Toronto native, now 50, is still doing what he does best, riding horses, now at Santa Anita, but his memories of the Derby triumph are as vivid as California sunshine.
“It poured right before the race,” Elliott said of the 2004 classic. “The storm was so bad, the race was delayed, and my horse had never run in the slop. We didn’t know what to expect.
“The key thing in the Derby is getting a good position going into the first turn. You’ve got 20 horses running into that turn and everybody’s trying to get a spot. That’s what won the race for me. Smarty Jones wasn’t a real big horse and he was in between horses that had him in tight, but I asked him to stay in there and he did.
“If he had hesitated on me, it would have been over just like that.”
As for Saturday’s Derby, Elliott said Nyquist has much in his favor.
“I think Nyquist has a good post (13),” he said. “It could have been worse. If he’d have gotten the one, it might have been a little tough, but with where he’s at, he’s the horse to beat.
“There are definitely other strong horses in there, but they’ve got Nyquist to beat.”
The 20-horse lineup for the 142nd Kentucky Derby: Trojan Nation, Aaron Gryder, 50-1; Suddenbreakingnews, Luis Quinonez, 20-1; Creator, Ricardo Santana Jr., 10-1; Mo Tom, Corey Lanerie, 20-1; Gun Runner, Florent Geroux, 10-1; My Man Sam, Irad Ortiz Jr., 20-1; Oscar Nominated, Julien Leparoux, 20-1; Lani, Yukata Take, 30-1; Destin, Javier Castellano, 15-1; Whitmore, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; Exaggerator, Kent Desormeaux, 8-1; Tom’s Ready, Brian Hernandez Jr., 30-1; Nyquist, Mario Gutierrez, 3-1; Mohaymen, Junior Alvarado, 10-1; Outwork, John Velazquez, 15-1; Shagaf, Joel Rosario, 20-1; Mor Spirit, Gary Stevens, 12-1; Majesto, Emisael Jaramillo, 30-1; Brody’s Cause, Luis Saez, 12-1; and Danzing Candy, Mike Smith, 15-1.
TRAINERS FANCY NYQUIST IN RUN FOR THE ROSES
At a race track, opinions are as plentiful as lost dog signs on street lamp poles in the San Fernando Valley. They’re everywhere.
That’s the case with the Kentucky Derby a heart beat away, as judgments from most Santa Anita-based horsemen in a random sampling centered on undefeated Nyquist trained by hometown boy Doug O’Neill winning the 142nd Run for the Roses, to wit:
Paul Aguirre: I’m a big Nyquist fan. I can’t go beyond him. I love that horse.
A.C. Avila: It’s wide open. It’s a jockeys’ race.
Alexis Barba: Nyquist, but if it rains I’d throw (Paddy) Gallagher’s horse (the maiden Trojan Nation) in there. A horse I trained, Make Music for Me, was a maiden at 30-1 when he ran fourth in the 2010 Derby over a sloppy track, beaten only five lengths (by Super Saver).
Ray Bell: You have to like Nyquist, with Exaggerator and Mor Spirit. Mo Tom has the right style at a price.
David Bernstein: I’m a Nyquist fan until they beat him. He’s got a good post.
Jim Cassidy: Nyquist, I guess.
Ben Cecil: (With a Cheshire cat smile adorning his face)–Do I have to say? Nyquist, and I genuinely like him, not just because I train for Paul Reddam (owner of the colt).
Vladimir Cerin: Nyquist.
Caesar Dominguez: Nyquist and Exaggerator, with Victor Espinoza (Whitmore) third.
Neil Drysdale: Nyquist, if all is well.
Michael Ewing: Nyquist is straightforward. If it’s an off track, Exaggerator can do it.
Jerry Fanning: Nyquist. The rest is wide open.
Victor Garcia: O’Neill.
Mark Glatt: Exaggerator. I liked the way he ran in the Santa Anita Derby and the pace probably sets up for him.
Jorge Gutierrez: Nyquist and Exaggerator.
Dan Hendricks: I’m leaning towards Creator.
Jerry Hollendorfer: Nyquist, and I hope he (O’Neill) wins the Oaks (with Land Over Sea, who finished second to unbeaten champion Songbird trained by Hollendorfer in five straight races).
David Hofmans: I’m pulling for Exaggerator. He’s trained by a small guy (nationally, Keith Desormeaux), but Nyquist is the real deal.
Steve Knapp: Nyquist. He’s done everything right.
Brian Koriner: I’m a hometown guy. I like Nyquist. Everyone says racing in California is no good, but come Derby time, it’s all right. (Southern California-based horses have won the Derby three of the last four years: I’ll Have Another, 2012; California Chrome, 2014; and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah last year).
Eric Kruljac: I’m rooting for all the California boys. I would love it if Cliff (Sise Jr., Danzing Candy) could win it. Talk about a comeback story.
Ian Kruljac: Nyquist.
Craig Lewis: Nyquist, but if Danzing Candy gets an uncontested lead, he can make it.
Mike Machowsky: Gun Runner. I was impressed with his win in the Louisiana Derby, and at least he’ll offer a little value. I like (Dale) Romans’ horse, too (Brody’s Cause).
Gary Mandella: Gun Runner.
Alfredo Marquez: Nyquist and Exaggerator.
Ron McAnally: I’ve got to go with The Genius (Bob Baffert and Mor Spirit). Either him or Asmussen (Creator).
Jeff Metz: Nyquist and Exaggerator.
Steve Miyadi: Sise (Danzing Candy) wire to wire.
Kristin Mulhall: Exaggerator.
Hector Palma: I have to like Nyquist. He never lost.
Dean Pederson: It’s hard to go against a horse like Nyquist that has a bunch of ones next to his name.
Mike Pender: Mo Tom. He was sawed off in his last three starts and had no chance. It’s time to show his colors.
Jorge Periban: Nyquist. He’s been running great.
Marcelo Polanco: Exaggerator. I like the way he won in the slop and he’s got a smart rider (three-time Derby winner Kent Desormeaux).
Mike Puype: The two California horses, Nyquist and Exaggerator.
John Sadler: I’ve got to pick Nyquist. I think he’s the best horse. For a longshot, Suddenbreakingnews.
John Shirreffs: Nyquist.
Gary Stute: Nyquist. He hasn’t done anything wrong yet.
Eddie Truman: Nyquist is not only my Kentucky Derby pick, he’s my Triple Crown pick. I’m going all in.
Tim Yakteen: Nyquist. I’m going with the favorite.
Howard Zucker: Nyquist.
CLOCKER GARY YOUNG: NYQUIST ‘NOT A WEAK FAVORITE’
Private clocker Gary Young, just back from Churchill Downs where he experienced first-hand the three-year-olds preparing for the Kentucky Derby, was front and center as is his wont when asked his thoughts on tomorrow’s Big Dance.
“Mor Spirit worked well for the race, Outwork looked good, Suddenbreakingnews could hit the board as a big longshot, depending on the pace, and I can’t knock Nyquist,” Young said Friday morning at Clockers’ Corner.
“A lot of people knock Nyquist, but he looked terrific yesterday in an open gallop. If I bet the race am I going to bet him at 3-1 when there are horses sitting up there at 12-1? No, because that’s not my nature, but that said, I don’t think Nyquist is a weak favorite.”
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.
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, when admission to the KROQ Beer Festival will begin. Approximate post time for the Kentucky Derby is 3:34 p.m. PDT.
For those wishing to spend Derby Day on the Trackside Apron, Santa Anita in partnership with KROQ will offer 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 KROQ Beer Festival or to purchase tickets online, please visit santaanita.com/events.
FINISH LINES: Trainer David Hofmans has Santa Anita Handicap winner Melatonin scheduled to breeze Saturday in pursuit of the Grade I, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita for three-year-olds and up at 1 ¼ miles on June 25 . . . Stellar Wind, who could meet Beholder in the Grade I Vanity Mile June 4, also is scheduled to work Saturday, five furlongs at 6:30 for John Sadler. Thus the Vanity could match a pair of champions, since Stellar Wind won an Eclipse Award as outstanding Older Female last year and Beholder, at age six, has three Eclipse Awards on her gaudy resume and Richard Mandella is on record as having the Vanity as a target for Beholder after Sunday’s Adoration Stakes. “Stellar Wind will have four works before the Vanity,” Sadler said. “She’s right on schedule.” Beholder is Jon White‘s 1-9 morning line favorite to win the Adoration against five rivals . . . With the NHL playoffs well underway, the Stanley Cup will arrive at Doug O’Neill’s Churchill Downs base Saturday morning where at 6:30 a.m. Nyquist will drink from the historic trophy at Barn 41. . . With several locally-based jockeys at Churchill Downs Saturday, agent Mark North, not to be confused with the comic strip character of yesteryear, Mark Trail, has Stewart Elliott named to ride in nine of the 11 races at Santa Anita tomorrow . . . Thursday was the first day of the Spring Meet and already there’s a Pick 6 carryover in the amount of $32,393. Friday’s total pool is expected to approach $250,000 . . . Frank Scatoni, author of Six Secrets of Successful Bettors, will be Tom Quigley‘s guest Sunday, 11:20 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Jockey David Lopez, having withdrawn his appeal of a suspension issued Feb. 5, will serve his time May 12, 13 and 14 . . . The date for the California Horse Racing Board monthly meeting has been changed from May 19 to May 26 at Santa Anita. The agenda for the session, including starting time, will be posted on the CHRB website by May 16 . . . Santa Anita offers a $300,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 pool every weekend during the Spring Meet, and a $500,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 and a $100,000 guaranteed Pick 6 every Saturday and Sunday.