- NYQUIST: HOMETOWN BOY MAKES GOOD IN FLORIDA
- IT’S SONGBIRD VS. THE WORLD IN SANTA ANITA OAKS
- SANTA ANITA DERBY 5K RUN AND WALK ON SATURDAY
NYQUIST ‘LOOKS GREAT’ AFTER FLORIDA DERBY ROMP
California is on a roll, and we’re not talking sushi here.
American Pharoah, Beholder, California Chrome, Songbird, Stellar Wind and now
Nyquist, recent champions all, six of them based at Santa Anita and all in Southern California.
The Golden State glittered even more after Nyquist turned Saturday’s touted Florida Derby match with previously unbeaten Mohaymen and eight others into a victory almost as one-sided as Villanova’s 44-point Final Four destruction of Oklahoma.
At 8:30 Pacific Daylight Time Sunday morning, Nyquist was about to leave Ft. Lauderdale for Keeneland, where the undefeated son of Uncle Mo trained by Doug O’Neill for Paul and Zillah Reddam will do the majority of his training prior to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7.
“My crew said he looks great,” O’Neill said by phone from his home in Santa Monica Sunday morning. “So far, so good. He’ll train at Keeneland and ship to Churchill about a week before the Derby.”
Nyquist won the Florida Derby under regular rider Mario Gutierrez by 3 ¼ lengths for his seventh and richest victory. In addition to earning the winner’s share of $589,000, he picked up a $1 million bonus offered by Fasig-Tipton to any graduate of its 2015 sale at Gulfstream Park that went on to win the 2016 Florida Derby.
Earnings for the $400,000 bay colt now stand at $3,322,600, but more important, Nyquist stamped himself as a clear-cut favorite in the 142nd Run for the Roses.
“You’re always surprised when your horse wins as easy as he did,” O’Neill said. “But as quick as he broke and with an easy run to the first turn, we were very optimistic at that point.
“It unfolded perfectly, and 100 percent credit for that goes to Mario and Nyquist. Horses came to him, challenged him and definitely went at him. It was no pedestrian trip, but all that should help us down the road when there’s a full field in the Kentucky Derby.”
Tom Knust, the agent for Gutierrez, obviously has a vested interest, but the former Racing Secretary and a race tracker for 48 years cited three reasons for the dazzling performance by Nyquist in the Florida Derby.
“He’s a great horse, Doug did a great job training him up to the race, and I thought Mario rode a great race,” Knust said. “You can’t ask for any more, that’s for sure.
“This next five weeks will be real exciting. Paul and Zillah Reddam are really good sportsmen. They had no problem going to Florida to run. Mohaymen is a great horse and probably had his excuses Saturday.”
Mohaymen finished fourth, beaten 8 ¼ lengths as the 4-5 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile race.
“Hopefully,” Knust said, “he’ll make it to the Derby and they can face each other again.”
BALTAS HAS TWO FOR THE MONEY AGAINST SONGBIRD
Horsemen who hope to win next Saturday’s Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks have to accomplish something no one has ever done: defeat unbeaten champion Songbird.
That said, Richard Baltas plans to double-team last year’s Eclipse Award winner as the best two-year-old filly, sending out Forever Darling and Mokat, who have been prepping well for their assignment in the prestigious 1 1/16-mile race.
“They worked separately last week and finished up good,” Baltas said. “We’re going against a special horse in Songbird, but I’m happy with how they’re doing.
“You know you’re up against it, but both times I shipped Forever Darling out of town, she didn’t run well, so my owner and I decided to stay here and try for second. She’s two for two at Santa Anita.”
The chestnut daughter of Congrats broke her maiden at Santa Anita by nearly two lengths last Sept. 26, and won the Grade II Santa Ynez by a half-length on Jan. 2.
She was beaten nearly 18 and 19 lengths, respectively, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland Oct. 30 and the Grade II Rachel Alexandra at the Fair Grounds Feb. 20.
“Mokat has a different style,” Baltas said. “She’ll probably come from way off the pace, make one run and hopefully we can get a piece of it.”
SANTA ANITA DERBY 5K RUN ON SATURDAY
Next Saturday, the 22nd annual Santa Anita Derby Day 5k run/walk will kick off a world-class day of racing at Santa Anita. Organizers expect to have over 6,000 runners and walkers enjoy one of Southern California’s most picturesque and unique courses that include a romp through the LA Arboretum and a tunneling into Santa Anita’s manicured Infield capped by a photo finish captured on the Infield big screen.
A race with a rich 22-year history has attracted many followers over the years. Always a crowd favorite with runners, walkers and racing fans, Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza will be leading the way through the LA Arboretum, while Chantal Kruse has been a perennial favorite in the jockey’s division for years.
A unique aspect to this year’s race will be the 150-plus participants over the age of 70. Included will be 93-year-old resident of Azusa, Margaret Davis.
At 92, Davis won her age group in 2015 with a blazing time of 45:56 for 5k, averaging 14:46 per mile. Davis barely missed the American Age group record despite a challenging finish on the dirt track.
This year’s elite field of runners will include members of Pasadena’s “Run with US,” running club, including Mark Bartres (29:24 10K PR), Rosario Castenada (18:12 5k PR) and Natalie Miano (17:37 5k PR).
The event has experienced a steady growth since its inception, due to the passion of Santa Anita’s Special Projects Director, Pete Siberell. It has been embraced by a team of fabulous sponsors, including Methodist Hospital, which expects to field a team of over 300 employees, friends and family.
Westfield Santa Anita, the LA Arboretum, Yoobi, Run with US and Saucony will be represented as well.
Registration is available online at derbyday5k.com, at Westfield Santa Anita on Friday, April 8, or the day of the event at Santa Anita’s Gate 3, starting at 6:30 a.m. For more information, call Kinane Events at (760) 434-5255, or email email@example.com.
BALDWIN AVE. CLOSED MORNING OF SANTA ANITA DERBY
Those wishing to spend the morning at Santa Anita’s Clockers’ Corner on Santa Anita Derby Day, Saturday, April 9, are advised that Baldwin Ave. will be closed to vehicular traffic between the 210 Freeway and Huntington Drive from 7:30 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. in order to accommodate foot traffic related to Santa Anita’s annual Derby Day 5K Run and Walk.
Accordingly, Santa Anita’s Gate 8, which adjoins the Westfield Shopping Mall on Baldwin Ave., and Gate 7, at the track’s northwest end, will also be closed to vehicles during the same time frame.
Those wishing to visit Clockers’ Corner on Derby Day morning will be able to enter the track on Santa Anita’s northeast perimeter, through Gate 5, or on the track’s southern perimeter, through Gate 3. Gates 3 and 5 will be open for easy access to Clockers’ Corner beginning at 5 a.m. and will remain open throughout the day. Santa Anita’s main track will be closed for training at 7:30 a.m.
Gate 3 is located at the intersection of Holly Ave. and Huntington Drive. Gate 5 is located at the confluence of Colorado Place and Huntington Drive.
For additional information on the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby and on the Derby Day 5K Run and Walk, fans are encouraged to visit santaanita.com/events, or call (626) 574-RACE.
FINISH LINES: Agent J.R. Pegram has Edwin Maldonado booked to ride multiple stakes winner Sunday Rules for Phil D’Amato in next Saturday’s Madison at Keeneland, and Rocket Heat for Vann Belvoir in the Shakertown. With 41 victories and a 20 percent winning average, Maldonado is enjoying a solid Winter Meet, fourth in the standings behind runaway leader Rafael Bejarano (71), Santiago Gonzalez (47) and Flavien Prat (44). The trainers’ race seems destined to go down to the wire, as Doug O’Neill and D’Amato were tied at 32 wins each with five days remaining in the meet that ends next Sunday . . . With two winners Saturday, including one by rejuvenated claimer Guns Loaded in the Grade III San Simeon Stakes, O’Neill enjoyed a banner day from coast to coast, capped by Nyquist‘s smashing triumph in the Florida Derby . . . Jason Levin, host of Inside Racing on KEIB AM 1150 Saturdays at 7 a.m., will hold a handicapping seminar next Saturday in Santa Anita’s Baldwin Terrace room at 10:30 a.m. Joining Levin will be Jay Friedlander and 2014 NHC king Jose Arias. Cost is $25 and includes program, coffee, donuts and a full card analysis . . . Congrats to longtime racing photographer Bill Mochon, who was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Saturday, April 2)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||174||17||17||27||10%||35%||$1,061,212|
|J. Keith Desormeaux||49||8||6||10||16%||49%||$351,974|