- TO THIS VICTOR (ESPINOZA) GOES THE SPOILS
- ROUTINE MORNING FOR PHAROAH, BEHOLDER
- SADLER, SUVA HARBOR REUNITE ON SATURDAY
- SPEAKEASY IS EASIER FOR BLAMEITONTHELAW
- NYQUIST IN SHARP WORKOUT FOR BC JUVENILE
ESPINOZA, PHAROAH: A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
Perhaps it was part of history’s grand equation to have Victor Espinoza win the Triple Crown aboard American Pharaoh.
Perhaps any jockey could have accomplished the same feat, but not another horse, certainly not this year. The facts speak for themselves.
But it was Victor who rode the three-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile trained by Bob Baffert for Ahmed Zayat, and it was Victor who willingly and amiably rode across the bridge and into the mainstream with spots on hit television shows like ABC’s Dancing With The Stars.
Now, 15 days out and counting, American Pharoah seeks to become the first Triple Crown winner to capture the Breeders’ Cup Classic when he tackles the great mare Beholder and a cast of additional equine elites in the $5 million race at Keeneland on Oct. 31.
Espinoza is at the ready, although one might never know it. When not honoring public appearance commitments, he keeps a profile lower than someone in the Witness Protection program. No entourage for him.
He had his fling dancing in the limelight, but he is a rider extraordinaire first and foremost. He has won with six of 23 mounts at Santa Anita through 12 days, a 23 percent average, highest among riders with at least two wins this meet. He is as eager as the next guy to see American Pharoah run in the mile-and-a-quarter Classic, the colt’s final race before being retired to stud.
“Every time I see him, he looks like a Triple Crown winner,” Espinoza said.” Nothing has changed. He looks the same as before and I’m excited about the Breeders’ Cup because I think he’s going to run a big race.”
Pharoah’s athletic magnetism combined with Espinoza’s ready smile helped make the pair household names, at least during the Triple Crown run. They’ve been stars of stage, screen and social media.
“It’s been good for everybody,” Espinoza said of the wild ride choreographed by Baffert. “Bob’s entire team has done so much, and that’s what it takes to win a Triple Crown, a tight team effort. If you don’t have that, you can’t accomplish what we have this year.
“But it takes a horse like American Pharoah, because winning the Triple Crown is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“He’s one of the best horses I ever rode. He’s one of a kind.”
The stars were properly aligned in teaming Pharoah with Espinoza, who came within a fourth-place dead-heat last year of winning the Triple Crown on California Chrome, the 2014 Horse of the Year.
The California-bred horse returned to trainer Art Sherman Tuesday at his Los Alamitos headquarters where he will train for an expected start in the San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita on Jan. 9.
“Victor is probably the perfect personality to go through all this two years in a row, because he’s kind of a happy-go-lucky guy and nothing really gets him too upset, he doesn’t get too excited about anything, and that demeanor has served him well in dealing with all of this,” said his agent, Brian Beach.
“He’s handled it well and no doubt the crossover into the mainstream has been beneficial to horse racing. There are a lot of people who know more about racing and American Pharoah right now than they did even after the Kentucky Derby.”
Racing and show business riches aside, personal glory is an odds-on favorite for the 43-year-old Espinoza, a self-proclaimed “happy Mexican” whose induction into racing’s Hall of Fame now appears a fait accompli.
“You’d have to think he will be an early entrant into the Hall of Fame,” Beach said, “especially for someone who was winning his third (Kentucky) Derby and the first Triple Crown in 37 years.
“You would think that would be enough to get you into those hallowed halls.”
ROUTINE MORNING FOR AMERICAN PHAROAH, BEHOLDER
American Pharoah jogged once around the main track Friday while Beholder “just rode under tack this morning and will go back to galloping tomorrow,” Richard Mandella said.
American Pharoah video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKXZW0tQQXA
Asked how Beholder has matured through this, her five-year-old season, having won Eclipse Awards twice, at age two and again at three, Mandella said: “She’s become very professional in her races, but she still has her moments just getting around.
“She’s very nice at the barn but still is difficult schooling and doing a few things, but we’re happy to have her.”
SUVA HARBOR RETURNS TO SADLER FOR AUTUMN MISS
Suva Harbor is back with John Sadler after a tour in the Northwest where the gray daughter of Rockport Harbor fared well in four stakes at Emerald Downs, finishing second once and third three times, but never catching the brass ring.
Saturday she tries for a victory in the Grade III Autumn Miss Stakes for three-year-old fillies at one mile on turf.
“I had her last year, then we sent her up to the Northwest for the summer,” Sadler said. “We won an allowance race with her at the Big Meet. She was a little unlucky in Washington, but was knocking on the door in some stakes.
“She broke her maiden going a mile on turf at Del Mar. She’s a good, hard-knocker.”
Suva Harbor has a 3-3-3 record from 13 starts, with earnings of $166,218. Her lone stakes win came in the Island Fashion at Sunland Park last Feb. 22.
The field for the Autumn Miss: Majestic Heat, Gary Stevens, 4-1; Hundi, Victor Espinoza, 12-1; Dreamologist, Mike Smith, 7-2; Belle Hill, Leslie Mawing, 8-1; Princess Charm, Santiago Gonzalez, 8-1; All Star Bub, James Graham, 20-1; Paulina’s Love, Tyler Baze, 4-1; supplemental entry Miss Boom Boom, Martin Garcia, 12-1; Singing Kitty, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; and Suva Harbor, Fernando Perez, 15-1.
BACK TO SQUARE ONE FOR BLAMEITONTHELAW
Blameitonthelaw finds himself in a much softer spot when he runs in Sunday’s $70,000 Speakeasy Stakes for two-year-olds at six furlongs. The bay colt trained by John Sadler for owner Richard Templer of Chicago who races as Doubledown Stables was in close attendance to the pace before finishing fifth by 9 ¼ lengths in the Grade I FrontRunner Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 26.
“We’re shortening up and just taking a step backwards,” Sadler allowed. “We had him on the fast track but we’re going to take a step back and hopefully get him straightened out. We thought he was really nice. He was third in the (Grade I Del Mar) Futurity, but didn’t fare well in the FrontRunner.
“This is a little bit easier spot so we’ll see how it goes.”
The field for the Speakeasy, race two of nine: Blameitonthelaw, Tyler Baze; Street Vision, Rafael Bejarano; Big Finish, Ry Eikleberry; Xingontothebone, Edwin Maldonado; and Toews On Ice, Victor Espinoza.
FINISH LINES: Undefeated FrontRunner Stakes winner Nyquist worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track after the 6:30 a.m. renovation break in 1:01.80 for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Regular rider Mario Gutierrez was aboard. “He worked great,” trainer Doug O’Neill said of the son of Uncle Mo owned by Reddam Racing. “I got him the last eighth in 12 (seconds). We’re super-happy.” Nyquist was given fractional times of 36 4/5 and 48 4/5 by Santa Anita clocker Dane Nelson, who also gave O’Neill trained Chandelier Stakes runner-up Land Over Sea splits of 23 3/5 and 47 2/5 for her five furlong drill in 59.80. . . Unbeaten Chandelier winner Songbird, due to work Sunday for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, is mature beyond her years says Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer. “She’s easy on herself and it makes our job easier,” Ward said of the $400,000 daughter of Medaglia d’Oro. Songbird and Sprint contender Wild Dude ship Oct. 25 for Kentucky . . . Santa Anita Oaks winner Stellar Wind is set to work “probably six or seven (furlongs)” at 7:45 a.m. Saturday, for John Sadler . . . Drayden Van Dyke has been suspended two days (Oct. 22and 23) for excessive use of his riding crop in Monday’s first race on Picasso’s Mandolin, who finished second. Joe Talamo has been suspended three days (Oct. 22, 23 and 24) for causing interference on Diablo Caballero in Monday’s ninth race, resulting in a DQ . . . There is a two-day Pick Six carryover into Friday of $195,894. The pool is expected to near $750,000 . . . The Dodgers may not blame the classic Abbott & Costello routine of “Who’s on First?” for last night’s loss to the Mets that will go down in infamy, but they’ll forever be asking themselves, “Who’s on Third?” Call it Murphy’s Law.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Thursday, Oct. 15)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||25||4||4||3||16%||$357,810|
|J. Eric Kruljac||16||2||2||3||13%||$67,080|
|J. Keith Desormeaux||16||2||2||2||13%||$151,500|