- DERBY HELPS AMERICAN PHAROAH FOR PREAKNESS
- FLORES TO RESUME RIDING SHORTLY AT SANTA ANITA
- SUNDAY STAKES HONORS MEMORY OF LAZ BARRERA
- BALTAS ON A ROLL WITH PROMISING SPANISH QUEEN
DERBY SETS UP PHAROAH FOR PREAKNESS: ESPINOZA
Victor Espinoza likes his chances on American Pharoah in the Preakness. And why not? The easy-going Mexican native rode the son of Pioneerof the Nile to an efficient one-length victory in last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, a race Espinoza feels will only benefit the colt in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness at Pimlico Race Course on May 16.
“I think the Derby sets him up well for the Preakness; I think he needed that kind of race,” Espinoza said of American Pharoah, who had two easy wins prior to the Derby, including an eight-length romp in the Arkansas Derby.
“He really only had two races for the Kentucky Derby since coming off a layoff, and they were so easy that the Derby was a challenge, but it was a good experience for his next race.”
No less an authority than Richard Mandella had high praise for Espinoza, a nominee to the Hall of Fame this year.
“He’s a good athlete,” said Mandella, himself a Hall of Fame member. “He’s a good rider and he takes his business very seriously.
“He has a great personality so he’s very easy to like and he has a very good rapport with the horses–a connection. He’s serious and he gives you 100 percent in his races, every day.
“I think he’s good enough and the horse might be too (to win the Triple Crown) but I think he’ll have to be for Victor to get it done. You can’t do it without the horse.
“The most important thing is the horse, but Victor is one of the very best jockeys and if the horse can do it, Victor will get it done.”
Espinoza, who handled all the pre and post-race Derby hoopla with his usual carefree aplomb, looked a tad trimmer back at Santa Anita than he did before leaving for his Derby commitments. Did he lose weight?
Victor smiled and gave a one-word answer: “Stress.”
FLORES EXPECTS TO RESUME RIDING IN 10 DAYS
David Flores is expected to resume riding in about 10 days after the California Horse Racing Board granted him a jockey’s license yesterday. The 47-year-old Tijuana native had been disqualified for a year by Singapore racing authorities in late March.
Flores will be represented by agent Jim Pegram. The two have enjoyed much success in the past.
“I’m very happy,” Flores said Friday morning. “Uncle Buck (as Pegram is affectionately known by friends and associates) was the one who gave me a call when I was in Singapore the second day (after he had been given the year’s ban). I was down emotionally and took it as it was, and I’m thinking, ‘a year,’ but when he called me, there was hope.
“That’s what made me take the next step, to come back here and pursue my career again. We’ve got some history together,” Flores said, referring to Pegram, who had his book twice before, from 1993 to 1995 and 1996 into 2004.
During that time Flores and Pegram won two Breeders’ Cup races, the Juvenile on Action This Day in 2003 and the Juvenile Fillies on Tempera in 2001, not to mention the Kentucky Oaks on Keeper Hill for Bobby Frankel in 1998.
“We won about eight $1 million races together,” Pegram recalled, “including the two Breeders’ Cups.”
Flores has more good news pending. He and his wife, Dawn, are expecting their second child, a girl, within the next two weeks.
CROWLEY TO PRESENT LAZ BARRERA TROPHY SUNDAY
Alex Crowley left an orphanage in Mexico City, jumped a fence on the backside of a race track and eventually met up with Laz Barrera around 1957, forming a life-long friendship until Barrera died at the age of 66 on April 25, 1991.
“Three months after I met him, Laz got permission for me to work for him on weekends,” said Crowley, who has been in racing in various capacities for 40 years, many as a jockey agent.
“I would clean the stalls and take care of the ponies, things like that.”
Barrera, elected to the Hall of Fame in 1979 and an Eclipse Award winner as outstanding trainer four straight years from 1976 through 1979, conditioned the last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed, in 1978.
All this time later, for the second year in a row, Crowley will present the trophy to the winning connections of Sunday’s Grade III, $100,000 Lazaro Barrera Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.
The field for the Barrera: Yiannis, Victor Espinoza; The Man, Martin Garcia; St. Joe Bay, Elvis Trujillo; Forest Blue, Martin Pedroza; The Gomper, Rafael Bejarano; Serbian Syclone, Tyler Baze; and Kentuckian, Mike Smith.
BALTAS EYES GRADE I AMERICAN OAKS FOR SPANISH QUEEN
With five wins through eight days of Santa Anita’s Spring Meet, Richard Baltas sits one victory behind training leaders Doug O’Neill and Phil D’Amato, who have six each.
He hopes to add to that number come May 30 when he plans to run Spanish Queen in the Grade I, $400,000 American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1 ¼ miles on turf.
“She’s a little difficult to handle around the barn and in the stall, but she also has the will to win,” Baltas said of Spanish Queen, a California-bred daughter of the late Tribal Rule who won the Grade II Honeymoon Stakes by a length and a half on Sunday in only her third start.
“For a horse to win first out in a Cal-bred maiden race and a Grade II in her third start is a big deal,” said Baltas, who trains Spanish Queen for a partnership.
“She came out of the race good, so we’ll see how it goes for the American Oaks.”
On Big Macher, winner of the Grade I Bing Crosby who was unplaced in the Golden Shaheen in Dubai on March 30, and has had one breeze at Santa Anita since, Baltas said, “I’m taking my time with him. I’m letting him tell me when he’s ready. It seems like he was a little down after the Dubai trip.”
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FINISH LINES: Agent Tony Matos has taken the book of Martin Garcia, a mainstay in the Bob Baffert barn and regular rider of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern and Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund. Matos will continue to represent Corey Nakatani, who took off his two scheduled mounts today due to a muscle issue in his lower back . . . Services for E.W. (Buddy) Johnston will be held Tuesday, May 12, 1:30 p.m. at Forest Lawn, 1712 S. Glendale. The viewing will be Monday, May 11, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the viewing room at Forest Lawn. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Miraglo Foundation founded by Dr. Erminia M. Guarneri, P.O. Box 1270, La Jolla, CA 92038, and/or Scripps Health Foundation “Campaign for Cardiovascular Care,” 10666 N. Torrey Pines Rd., La Jolla, CA 92037. A major owner/breeder in California for decades, Johnston died Tuesday at the age of 77 . . . Jerry Hollendorfer reports that Santa Anita Handicap winner Shared Belief is now at the Pegasus Training and Equine Rehabilitation Center in Renton, Washington, recovering from an injured right hip suffered in the Charles Town Classic April 18. “He’s doing great,” Hollendorfer said . . . The Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) will host a free seminar, “Demystifying the Racing Office,” at Santa Anita on Saturday, June 13, at 10 a.m. Panelists will include Santa Anita Vice President Racing and Racing Secretary Rick Hammerle, and Del Mar Racing Secretary David Jerkens. The seminar will be hosted by Richard Scheidt, TOC’s Northern California Director of Operations, and will cover the basic operations of the Racing Office . . . Tom Quigley’s guests at 11:20 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens will be Daily Racing Form Western Ad Rep Jon Lindo, Saturday, and Santa Anita simulcast co-host Millie Ball, Sunday . . . There will be a special Preakness handicapping seminar in the Gallop Out following the races Friday, May 15. It is free to fans, who will receive free Preakness Stakes Thoro-Graphs.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Thursday, May 7)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||26||4||4||2||15%||$188,170|