- DISTANCE, BLINKERS SIGNIFICANT IN SHAM?
- MAIDEN TO START IN GRADE II SANTA YNEZ
- HEALTHY FREE ROSE SET FOR SAN GABRIEL
LEWIS EXPECTS ‘HAPPY’ IMPROVEMENT IN SHAM STAKES
Here Is Happy is light years away in talent at this stage from 1995 Santa Anita Derby winner Larry The Legend, but trainer Craig Lewis, who conditioned the latter and now the former, hopes Here Is Happy moves forward in Saturday’s Grade III Sham Stakes, Santa Anita’s first steppingstone to the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 7.
“He’s going to improve from the gate,” Lewis said of the son Tale of Ekati, who has had excuses in each of his four starts, twice victimized by slow getaways and twice by being squeezed at the break.
“He’s just developing,” Lewis added. “He’s been gelded and he’ll have blinkers on him now, so I think he’ll be better in the gate. Nobody knows what the two turns are going to bring, although he acts like a two-turn horse, but sometimes they fool you.”
Owned by a partnership that includes Joe Caso, owner of one of the nation’s most successful auto dealerships, Frontier Toyota in Valencia, Here Is Happy broke his maiden at first asking Aug. 31. Off at 32-1 in an $80,000 maiden claiming race at five furlongs, Here Is Happy rallied from seventh and last after a slow start to win by a half-length.
The one-mile Sham will mark his first race beyond seven furlongs. Joe Talamo, who has ridden the Ohio-bred in all of his races, will once again be aboard.
Other Sham probables include City Plan, Mourinho, My Boy Jack and Shivermetimbers.
SPAWR HAS PROMISING MAIDEN FOR GRADE II SANTA YNEZ
It might be uncharacteristic for Bill Spawr to enter a maiden in a Grade II race, but this maiden is just two noses from being a winner.
She is Midnight Bisou, a daughter of champion sprinter Midnight Lute, set to run in next Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.
“The next jump she would have been in front,” Spawr said of her surging loss at Santa Anita going six furlongs last Oct. 27, and another nose setback after being bumped at the start running seven furlongs at Del Mar Nov. 18.
“She showed promise right from the start, and seven-eighths should be right in her wheelhouse,” Spawr said.
Also probable for the Santa Ynez are Allianna, Artistic Diva, Just a Smidge, Steph Being Steph, War Heroine, Win the War and Yesterday’s News.
Just a Smidge worked four furlongs Monday for Bob Baffert in a bullet 47.40, fastest of 33 drills at the distance, the average time of which was 49.30.
FREE ROSE FLOWERING FOR SAN GABRIEL STAKES
Free Rose makes his first start in seven months Saturday in the Grade II San Gabriel Stakes for four year olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
“He was almost ready to run before the Del Mar meet, but he came down with colic, had to go to the clinic, and we gave him 90 days after that,” trainer Richard Baltas said of the five-year-old Munnings gelding who last raced June 3, finishing fourth, beaten only two lengths, in the Grade I Shoemaker Mile.
Santa Anita newcomer Rajiv Maragh has the San Gabriel mount on Free Rose, who worked four furlongs Monday with Maragh aboard in 48.60. Also working Monday for the San Gabriel was the French-bred Itsinthepost, going four furlongs on the training track for Jeff Mullins in 49.80.
Other probables for what looms a full field in the San Gabriel include Bolo, Flamboyant, He Will, Isotherm, Monster Bea, Seattle Serenade, Tequila Joe and Win the Space.
Isotherm worked five furlongs Sunday for trainer Phil D’Amato in a minute flat under Flavien Prat, who rides in the San Gabriel.
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita will offer fans free parking and admission for “dark day” simulcasting this Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 3 & 4. Admission gates will open at 10 a.m., with Sirona’s Sports Bar and the Paddock Room open for both wagering and food and beverage service . . . Mike Machowsky ended 2017 by sending out back-to-back winners Sunday, each favored, Tiffany Diamond in the fourth race and Make It a Triple in the fifth. The 52-year-old trainer saddled his first winner 27 years ago today. “I sent out my first winner on Jan. 1, 1990,” Machowsky recalled Monday morning. “The horse was Bit o Dip. I was still an assistant with Richard Mandella at the time, but he gave me two horses to train on my own and that was one of them.” . . . Although obviously happy with Tyler Conner‘s 1 ½-length victory aboard 15-1 shot Tribal Dance in Sunday’s seventh race, trainer Mark Glatt says the 24-year-old native of Lancaster, Pa., a former leading rider at Penn National in Grantville, Pa., “is on the quiet side, but communicates well.” Tyler’s agent, Jim Pegram, is delighted with his rider’s two victories through the first four days of the Winter Meet. “We’re making headway and he’s got a super-positive attitude,” Pegram said. “Winning two races opening week is fantastic. People are starting to recognize his ability. I’m very pleased so far.” Conner registered his first Santa Anita win and his first graded stakes victory in the Grade III Eddie D. Stakes on 23-1 shot Mr. Roary for trainer George Papaprodromou last September. Mike Smith rides Mr. Roary in today’s $75,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes . . . Santa Anita will resume live racing this Friday, Jan. 5 at 1 p.m. Admission gates open that day at 11 a.m. . . . Santa Anita offers another Dollar Day on Monday, Jan. 15, when there will be holiday racing on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Sodas and beers will be a buck apiece . . . Start the New Year right and sign on with the Los Angeles Times horse racing newsletter. Authored by John Cherwa, it offers entries, charts and much, much more at the following link: http://www.latimes.com/newsletters/la-newsletter-racing-signup-page-htmlstory.html . . . Garrett Gomez would have been 46 today.