- O’NEILL, PRAT STEAM TO TAKE SPRING HONORS
- THE BEAT GOES ON FOR BAFFERT AND JUSTIFY
- APPRENTICE ESPINOZA A TEENAGE SENSATION
- MASSIVE MANDATORY EXOTIC PAYOUTS TODAY
O’NEILL & PRAT BRING LOFTY NUMBERS INTO CLOSING DAY
Congratulations are in order for Doug O’Neill and Flavien Prat, as both have clinched titles in their respective categories.
O’Neill, who coming into today had saddled by far the most horses of any trainer, 136, through 40 racing days, enjoyed a five-length advantage over both Phil D’Amato and Peter Miller with 31 wins. O’Neill thus celebrates his seventh overall meet title at Santa Anita dating back to the 2004-05 Winter Meet. In the stakes-won category, O’Neill bagged a pair, two behind Bob Baffert’s leading total of four coming into closing day.
A 50-year-old native of Dearborn, Michigan, O’Neill relocated to Southern California with his family at age 10 and quickly developed a love for racing as a result of frequent pilgrimages to Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar with his late father and brothers.
Known for his unflagging optimism and approachable method of operation, O’Neill is always quick to defer credit to his owners and “Team O’Neill” members that include his brother Dennis and assistants Leandro Mora and Steve Rothblum.
As for Prat, a 25-year-old native of Melon, France, he continues to ascend the ranks of America’s top riders as he’s clinched his third Santa Anita riding title with 37 wins coming into today from 140 mounts–good for a lofty 26 percent win quotient and nine clear of Geovanni Franco’s 28 victories.
In the all-important stakes-won category, Prat also ranked first, with five added money wins, two clear of Victor Espinoza, Mike Smith, Joe Talamo, Franco and Gary Stevens.
Fluent in both French and English, Prat’s business is on the rise not just here in Southern California, but nationally as well, evidenced by the fact he and his agent, Derek Lawson, will be traveling to ride in New York full-time prior to the Del Mar opener on July 18.
Readily accessible, fiercely competitive, a great judge of pace and naturally light, Prat appears to have a limitless future.
BAFFERT SLEEPS EASY AFTER PARADING JUSTIFY
Basking in the afterglow of rock star treatment accorded Justify at Santa Anita yesterday, Bob Baffert was back on the beat Sunday morning, the throes of the Triple Crown sweep and its accompanying commitments standing in bold relief.
“I finally slept,” Baffert said. “I thought it was pretty cool, everybody really enjoyed him and they had a good crowd,” the Hall of Fame trainer said of Justify parading before his adoring fans prior to Baffert fielding a myriad of questions from ever-curious media members.
“Mike Smith signed all those autographs (on attractive posters depicting Justify’s victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, given to fans with paid admission). He must have signed 3,500 or something like that.”
As for Justify, Baffert is on record as saying he won’t publicly commit to the undefeated son of the late Scat Daddy’s next race until the chestnut colt has his first workout since winning the Belmont on June 9. He held firm on that Sunday.
Presently at his home base of Santa Anita, Baffert ultimately will head to Del Mar for the meet that starts July 18, and Justify “will go with me, wherever I go.”
PUBLIC ASKED TO SUBMIT PICTURES WITH JUSTIFY
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association is asking fans and horsemen to submit their personal photos with Triple Crown winner Justify for inclusion in a video montage to be shown during the 48th Annual Eclipse Awards ceremony next January.
Submissions can be made on Twitter by using the hashtag #JustifyandI or by tagging @NTRA or posting an image to the wall of the official NTRA page (Facebook.com/1NTRA).
The Eclipse Awards will be held Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019, at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Hallandale Beach, Fla.
APPRENTICE ASA ESPINOZA ON FAST TRACK TO SUCCESS
Asa Espinoza is far and away the meet’s leading apprentice rider, and with 21 victories, is tied for fifth overall at the Spring Meet which ends today.
Not bad for an 18-year-old kid who doesn’t even have his driver’s license yet.
“He’s done really well for a guy who started from scratch here in February,” said his agent, Brian Beach, who also represents Asa’s uncle, Hall of Fame member Victor Espinoza.
“Usually it’s not advisable for an apprentice to start out at Santa Anita. Generally they come here with a couple hundred mounts under their belt, so from where he started to where he is now is remarkable.
“Victor’s helped him a lot, and Asa is good at listening to advice from veteran riders like Kent Desormeaux, Martin Pedroza and Tyler Baze who also have helped him.
“He still doesn’t have his driver’s license. He takes his test in two weeks.”
FINISH LINES: There are mandatory payouts today on the early and late Pick Five, the Pick Six, and the Super High Five. There is a massive Pick Six carryover of $821,858 and a guaranteed Late Pick Four pool of $500,000 . . . Former jockey Jerry Truman was at Clocker’s Corner Sunday morning, fresh from Florida to visit his brother, trainer Eddie, and other family members. Like his 78-year-old sibling still an avid bicyclist, 71-year-old Jerry last rode in 1959 after being injured the year before, but memories of yesteryear remain fresh. “I rode with Shoe (Bill Shoemaker) and Eddie Arcaro,” Jerry recalled. “I remember riding at Washington Park and was down on the inside, and Arcaro didn’t want to let me get by him, but he did. “I wasn’t going to win the race,” he later told me, “because I didn’t have horse. But if I did, I wouldn’t have let you through.” . . . Dept. of Good News: Longtime Santa Anita press box concierge and former boxer Cuco Talamantes, who has been sidelined for the past few months due to surgery and chemotherapy treatments, was a press box visitor yesterday and by all accounts, looked tremendous. Although he’s lost some weight, Talamantes vowed to be back on the job for the Autumn Meet in September . . . Despite rehabbing in the hospital after surgery on his left ankle, veteran turf writer Art Wilson of the Southern California News Group keeps up with the news through the Stable Notes and has been able to connect off-track on two longshots, Faversham ($36.40) and Michael Mundo ($25.60).
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Saturday, June 23)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||116||20||20||16||17%||48%||$1,160,040|