- CHROME READY TO SHINE, BUT NOT DORTMUND
- MORE THAN 300 WORKERS IN ADVANCE OF RAIN
- LONG-TIME RACING OFFICIAL DICK WHEELER DIES
- GOOD LUCK, HARD WORK PAY OFF FOR BLANC
CALIFORNIA CHROME AWAITS SATURDAY’S SAN PASQUAL
After a stylish six furlong workout in 1:10.04 before yesterday’s first race at Santa Anita, California Chrome was at the ready Sunday for his first race in nine months come this Saturday, the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes, but Dortmund’s status for the race was questionable at best following a seven furlong breeze Sunday in a bullet 1:25.80.
The time equaled that of Point Piper, also San Pasqual-bound for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Only five horses worked at the seven furlong distance Sunday.
“I missed a little time with him after that second quarter crack and he didn’t really finish the way I like to see him finish,” Bob Baffert said of Dortmund after his drill under Martin Garcia following the second renovation break at 7:45 a.m.
“I wanted to see him finish up a little better than he did . . . Our goal for him is the Big Cap (Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Handicap at 11/4 miles on March 12).”
The Hall of Fame trainer added that last year’s San Pasqual winner, Hoppertunity, was still “possible” for the San Pasqual.
Also working Sunday in advance of imminent rain forecast starting tonight was Imperative for red-hot Richard Baltas, atop the trainer standings with five wins from 10 runners through six racing days.
Imperative worked four furlongs in 48 seconds.
“I got him in 24 flat the last quarter, just breezing,” Baltas said. “He galloped out real strong, so he looks good. He’s ready to go.”
Also working for the San Pasqual was Harry F. Brubaker Stakes winner Point Piper with Rafael Bejarano aboard.
Meanwhile, all was calm with California Chrome, who had his customary walk under the shed row the day after his workout.
Private clocker Gary Young was among those impressed with Chrome’s work.
“He was cruising,” Young said. “He went in one-10, he didn’t seem to be asked and Victor (Espinoza) was just sitting on him. It was an unbelievable work.”
Probable for the San Pasqual: Alfa Bird, Tyler Baze; California Chrome, Victor Espinoza; Hard Aces, Joe Talamo; Hoppertunity, Martin Garcia; Imperative, Mario Gutierrez; Mystery Train, no rider; and Point Piper, Rafael Bejarano.
TRACK DENSE WITH WORKERS BEFORE RAIN COMES
With rain forecast tonight and through the upcoming week, horsemen took full advantage of clear skies and a fast track Sunday, keeping clockers at fever pitch with 333 recorded works on Santa Anita’s tab.
Among the workers was unbeaten Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Nyquist who went five furlongs in 1:00.40 for his three-year-old debut in the San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 15, weather permitting.
“He breezed great,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “He galloped out super. I couldn’t be happier.”
Also working was Los Alamitos Futurity winner and runner-up Mor Spirit and Toews on Ice, the former going six furlongs in company with Coach Q and the latter going four furlongs in company with Mt Veeder.
Mor Spirit was clocked in 1:13, Coach Q in 1:12.60. Toews on Ice and Mt Veeder went in the identical time of 48.80.
RACING MOURNS DEATH OF DICK WHEELER
Racing mourned the passing of long-time California racing official Richard (Dick) Wheeler, who died at his Monrovia home Saturday at the age of 69.
Wheeler worked in several capacities throughout the Golden State for nearly four decades, including Santa Anita and defunct Fairplex Park, where he was Racing Secretary. Wheeler retired 18 months ago.
“He was kind to everybody; everybody loved him,” said Santa Anita Clerk of Scales Kevin Colosi, a long-time friend and associate. “He had been sick for a while and stopped eating. He just shut down.”
Wheeler requested that there be no services, Colosi said.
Added trainer David Bernstein, who knew Wheeler back in the day: “We had a lot of fun. We were young, 18, 19 years old and he and one of my clients, Bob Brown, used to meet in Santa Anita’s infield every Saturday.
“Brown also passed away. Now I’m the last of the Mohicans.”
PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF FOR BLANC ABOARD FLAMBOYANT
French native Brice Blanc chalks up Saturday’s neck victory for trainer Paddy Gallagher aboard the French-bred Flamboyant, $94.20 winner of the Grade II San Gabriel Stakes, to a combination of good luck and hard work.
“I got lucky,” Blanc said Sunday morning during a break from working five horses. “One day last October Paddy asked me to work him, and I told Aaron (his agent, Aaron Hesz) that he worked awesome.
“Aaron was somewhat surprised because he’s not that good of a work horse, but since that time he’s been working lights out, even at Del Mar during the fall, but the races didn’t go.
“Missing works didn’t seem to bother him, though, because he ran his butt off yesterday.” The 45-1 upset cemented a Pick Six carryover into Sunday of $80,409.
FAN WINS $1,000 IN MYSTERY MUTUEL CONTEST
Congratulations to THOROUGHBRED member Robert Robbins on winning $1,000 in Saturday’s Mystery Mutuel Contest at Santa Anita.
Robbins attended North Hollywood High School and currently resides in Eagle Rock. Santa Anita is his favorite track, and he has fond memories of visiting The Great Race Place with his father, and still visits the track frequently with his brother.
“I’ve only won $2 from the Mystery Mutuel in the past. I didn’t think any bigger amounts were available. I can’t believe I won a thousand bucks.”
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita’s jockeys’ room will have two open spots shortly. James Graham and Corey Nakatani are leaving for greener and likely colder pastures, Graham departing for the Fair Grounds and Nakatani bound for Oaklawn Park when it starts its meet Jan. 15. “Things have slowed down and I just need to go back where I’m comfortable,” Graham said. “I can’t sustain my family doing what we’re doing right now, so I have to keep going, I have to find something new.” Through six racing days, Graham was winless from 19 mounts, while Nakatani was zero for three . . . Probable for Saturday’s Grade III Sham Stakes for three-year-olds at one mile: Collected, Martin Garcia; Dressed in Hermes, Mike Smith; Frank Conversation, no rider; Imalreadythere, Rafael Bejarano; Laoban, no rider; Rare Candy, no rider; and Sorryaboutnothing, Flavien Prat.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Saturday, Jan. 2)|
|Doug F. O’Neill||24||2||2||6||8%||42%||$122,882|