- MEXICAN STANDOFF LOOMS IN KENTUCKY DERBY
- LUZZI TO RECEIVE WOOLF AWARD NEXT SUNDAY
- SANTA ANITA DERBY DAY 5K RUN A SUCCESS
- ESPINOZA, SADLER BASK IN FOUR-WIN SATURDAY
ESPINOZA, GARCIA ON KENTUCKY DERBY FAVORITES
In a setting as American as apple pie, Twin Spires and all, a Mexican mano a mano
battle looms at storied Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May between Victor Espinoza and Martin Garcia, natives of Mexico and the regular riders of the two favorites for the 141st Kentucky Derby, American Pharoah and Dortmund.
Espinoza, 42, from the metropolis of Mexico City, and Garcia, 30, from the touristy beach town of Vera Cruz, some 500 miles away, could decide not only which is the best 3-year-old trained by Bob Baffert, American Pharoah ridden by Espinoza or Dortmund ridden by Garcia, but also who wins the Run for the Roses.
Dortmund’s smashing victory in Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby only added to his wow factor. Should this red Mack truck of a horse–call him The Diesel–win the Kentucky Derby, it would mark the third time in the last four years the Santa Anita Derby winner had done so, I’ll Have Another winning in 2012 and California Chrome last year.
American Pharoah, meanwhile, is poised to capture the $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, which would set up a match between two stablemates that harkens back to those thrilling days of yesteryear when the entry of Citation and Coaltown from
legendary Calumet Farm ran one-two at 40 cents to the dollar in the 1948 Derby.
All was fine Sunday with Dortmund, said Baffert, who watched American Pharoah work six furlongs with Garcia up in a bullet 1:11.60. “That was perfect,” Baffert said. “I got him galloping out (seven furlongs) in 1:24.80. He’s right on schedule. He does everything real easy. He’ll leave Wednesday for Oaklawn.”
Thus the countdown diminishes, for the racing world as a whole, and for two jockeys from south of the border, who, before gaining prominence at the top of their profession, were eking out an existence, Garcia as a no habla ingles hash slinger in a Pleasanton deli and Espinoza as a bus driver in his native country.
“He was so small,” said his agent, Brian Beach, “he could hardly see over the steering wheel.”
Espinoza made light of the fact that he was from a big town and Garcia was not.
“We’re all Mexicans,” Espinoza said. “It’s all the same.”
Now the Kentucky Derby, less than a month away, grows ever larger in importance, with all prospective participants focused on keeping their charges fit and healthy. They know full well that anything can happen in the world of sports, horse racing no exception.
After all, Kentucky’s Wildcats fell after a 38-0 start.
But they were human. American Pharoah and Dortmund are not.
MIKE LUZZI TO ACCEPT WOOLF AWARD NEXT SUNDAY
Mike Luzzi will accept Santa Anita’s 2015 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award next Sunday, April 12, in a ceremony between races.
Sidelined because of a broken leg and a fractured pelvis sustained in a paddock accident last Nov. 2 at Aqueduct, Luzzi has undergone reconstructive surgery and is going through rehabilitation for a return to the saddle at some point this year.
Presented annually by Santa Anita since 1950, the Woolf Award is one of the most coveted honors in racing, as it recognizes riders whose careers and personal character have earned esteem for both the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing.
Luzzi, who has won 3,420 career races, is expected to be accompanied by his wife, Tania, and children Larue and Lane.
CAMACHO, RAMIREZ SISTERS, FLORES TOP DERBY DAY 5K RUNS
On a day when Bob Baffert’s Dortmund and One Lucky Dane punched their tickets to the Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita employees and jockeys showed their own athletic prowess in the Derby Day 5K Run & Walk yesterday.
Even prominent trainers like John Sadler (30:46, 1245th overall) and Dan Blacker (19:30, 39th overall) showed they know a little about running themselves.
Outrider Jesus Camacho, who ran a close second to Autopark’s Tony Ortega, turned the table to finish first among male Santa Anita employees with a respectable time of 20:56, good for 87th overall in field of more than 5,700 participants. Rene Henriquez, a perennial DD5K contender, finished second, with Ortega completing the trifecta.
Autopark’s Norma and Nancy Ramirez made the 5K a family affair, taking the top two spots, with Sandy Hoar, who works on the Inner Mezz, taking third.
Eswan Flores won the jockeys division in 20:20 and 65th overall.
Santa Anita Employees — Men
Jesus Camacho Racing 20:56
Rene Henriquez Starting Gate 21:44
Tony Ortega Parking 22:25
Jorge Mier Laborers 24:36
Joe Chile HRTV 26:27
Alec Jimenez Corp Yard 27:19
Jerry Gutierrez Janitors 31:40 Joe Morris TOC 37:17
Raymundo Franco A-Gate 49:19
Santa Anita Employees — Women
Norma Ramirez Parking 24:08
Nancy Ramirez Parking 29:35
Sandy Hoar Hospitality 31:19
Christine Beer Racing 35:39
Jennifer Cirillo Accounting 36:55
Lisa Bisgaard Stable Café 49:22
Maria Bisgaard Stable Café 53:21
Voni Walker Parking 58:35
Terri Hanks Accounting 1:02:55
Santa Anita Jockeys
Eswan Flores 20:20
Joe Steiner 21:59
Aaron Gryder 22:38
Elvis Trujillo 23:19
Alex Solis 24:34
Tiago Pereira 30:01
Kayla Stra 30:10
Omar Figueroa 1:05:26
FINISH LINES: Simon Callaghan, trainer of Sunland Derby winner Firing Line, twice beaten a head by Dortmund, on the latter’s Santa Anita Derby romp: “It was definitely nice to see Dortmund win as impressively as he did. Firing Line, Dortmund and American Pharoah seem to have similar front-running styles, but in the Kentucky Derby, you’ve got to get a good post position, and that determines a lot of things, but I like the way our horse is doing.” Callaghan said Firing Line is scheduled work “either Friday or Saturday.” . . . Victor Espinoza was back to work Sunday morning after winning four races Saturday, including the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks on Stellar Wind for John Sadler, who also won four races, three of them with Espinoza. It was not Espinoza’s greatest day. He won seven races, the first six in a row, to set a Del Mar record in 2006. “We’ve won four in one day before,” said Sadler, “so it was a big day, no question. We thought we were pretty well-spotted with the last three. Kristo (nose winner of the fifth race at $25) was a little more of a pleasant surprise, but we thought we were running the favorite in the Oaks and the other two were short prices. We looked to have a good day, but a lot of times it doesn’t go that way. Yesterday everything went really well.” . . . Scott McClellan has Joe Talamo booked on Home Run Kitten for David Hofmans next Friday in the Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland . . . Legendary Hall of Fame jockey Manuel Ycaza will visit the Great Race Place for the first time in many years next weekend as the fiercely competitive Panamanian will be on-hand for the 66th George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award presentation on Sunday . . .The 20 cent Golden Pick 6 Jackpot at Golden Gate Fields went down again Saturday at a $280,459 payout. It was the second time this meet it’s been hit. On Feb. 20, the 20 cent payoff was $363,424, quite a bonanza.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Saturday, April 4)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||209||23||26||24||11%||$1,452,387|
|A. C. Avila||25||7||2||3||28%||$208,298|