- BEHOLDER MILE IS ALL IT WAS CRACKED UP TO BE
- BIG MACHER DRILLS FOR RETURN IN THOR’S ECHO
- TALAMO SURGE NARROWS GAP IN JOCKEYS’ RACE
- GORMLEY BELMONT DECISION ‘PLANE,’ NOT SIMPLE
BEHOLDER MILE DIDN’T DISAPPOINT IN EXCITEMENT
The Beholder Mile lived up to its advance billing.
If it wasn’t the Race of the Year to date, it assuredly was Santa Anita’s Race of the Meet, with 1-2 favorite Stellar Wind pressing pacesetter Vale Dori throughout and prevailing by a neck in a no-holds-barred stretch battle, with Finest City a non-menacing third, five lengths behind Stellar Wind in the field of three.
The race played out just as Stellar Wind’s trainer John Sadler had envisioned, leaving the race strategy up to Espinoza, who had ridden the three-year-old filly champion of 2105 in her last 11 races, winning seven.
“Victor knows her well enough that he can’t let a really good horse like Vale Dori get an easy lead,” Sadler said Sunday morning. “He broke a little slow but then he went up and got with her. She looks good this morning, and the Clement Hirsch (Grade I, 1 1/16 miles at Del Mar July 30) is probably the most logical spot for her next race. It keeps her on a schedule for the Breeders’ Cup (Distaff) at Del Mar in November.
“It was a good horse race. The other mare is very good, she won six in a row, so it was a good win.”
Bob Baffert, trainer of Vale Dori, was gracious in defeat. “I knew I was in trouble when I saw Stellar Wind in the paddock,” he said Sunday morning. “After the race she came by my barn prancing and bucking like nothing happened.”
BIG MACHER RETURNS AFTER 18 MONTHS
Big Macher, the horse that put Richard Baltas “on the map,” so to speak, is back.
The seven-year-old California-bred gelding, claimed out of his first race for $20,000 on July 17, 2013, makes his first start in more than a year and half when he runs in next Sunday’s $100,000 Thor’s Echo Handicap for three-year-olds and up at six furlongs.
A bay son of Beau Genius, Big Macher worked five furlongs from the gate Sunday in a minute flat under Rafael Bejarano, who rides him in the Thor’s Echo.
Big Macher caught the eyes of the racing world when he won the Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar on July 27, 2014, nine races after he was claimed. Baltas estimates Big Macher has earned some $600,000 for owners Tom Mansor and Tachycardia Stables since being haltered.
“When he won the Bing Crosby, it was the first Grade I win I ever had, so it helped put me on the map,” recalled Baltas, currently second in Santa Anita’s trainers’ standings with 18 victories from 74 starts, 24 percent.
“But there’s more to it than that, more to it than the money. Big Macher took us to Dubai, he took us to two Breeders’ Cups. He was one of my breakthrough horses, for sure, but I always look at a horse for what it can do for the owners.
“He’s brought a lot of joy to them. A horse is not all about money. There’s a lot more to it than that.”
TEAM TALAMO ON A ROLL IN PURSUIT OF TITLE
Don’t look now sports fans, but there’s a jockeys’ race going on at Santa Anita.
With a consecutive triple in Saturday’s fourth, fifth and sixth races, Joe Talamo moved to within two victories of leader Flavien Prat, 27-25, through 30 days of the Spring portion of the current meet that ends in a month, on Tuesday, July 4.
“We’ve gotten into some barns we haven’t been in for a while,” said Talamo’s agent, Scotty McClellen, explaining in part the reason for the surge. “It’s funny how it goes. Sometimes, all of a sudden, things start clicking.”
At 27, Talamo is only limited as to how many horses he might ride a day by the number of entries and the heated competition on the Southern California circuit. “With so many riders, the possibility to get on eight is slim,” McClellan said. “It’s hard to ride for four or five.”
As it stands, Talamo has ridden 134 horses, more than any other rider, seven more than runner-up Tyler Baze.
“All our barns are doing well,” McClellan said. “We’re riding for (Mike) Machowsky and won a few for him. We ride for (Bill) Spawr, (Ron) Ellis. We ride for everybody, basically. We won a couple races for (Bob) Baffert and even worked a horse for (Jerry) Hollendorfer today and have a couple calls for him, and we haven’t ridden for him in about four years.
“Joe has a good attitude, and that definitely helps. He never gets mad, he’s always laughing, and that makes my job a lot easier.”
To that end, Talamo is set to put the onus on his agent if he doesn’t win the riding title.
“If we don’t,” Joe said, tongue firmly planted in cheek, “it’s all Scotty’s fault.”
FINISH LINES: Trainer John Shirreffs said Sunday morning he has a spot on a plane booked for Santa Anita Derby winner Gormley should he opt to run in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, but had no word on whether the son of Malibu Moon would go in the final leg of the Triple Crown . . . Richard Mandella, pleased as punch with Bal a Bali’s three-quarter length victory in Saturday’s Grade I Shoemaker Mile over runner-up Farhaan, said the seven-year-old Brazilian bred came out of the race in good order and will be pointed to the Aug. 20 Del Mar Mile. Mike Smith rode Bal a Bali for the first time. “The win was especially gratifying knowing we have a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (at Del Mar Nov. 4),” Mandella said. Asked if Smith would retain the mount in the Del Mar Mile, Mandella answered, “It’s his if he wants it.” . . . Faversham, a full brother to two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome owned by Perry Martin, is in training with Art Sherman at Los Alamitos but not yet close to a race. “I’m not pressing him,” Sherman said of the two-year-old chestnut son of Lucky Pulpit-Love the Chase, similar in markings to Chrome, “except for his blaze, which is not quite as long. We’re going to wait a while until we’re ready to run him.” . . . Vladimir Cerin is pointing Gold Cup at Santa Anita runner-up Follow Me Crev to Belmont’s Grade I, $750,000 Suburban Handicap at a mile and a quarter on July 8. “He should love those sweeping turns,” the trainer said of the committed stretch runner . . . Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman had her final major breeze Sunday for next Saturday’s Grade I Acorn Stakes at Belmont, going five furlongs in company in 59.40 for Bob Baffert. Workmate Cat Burglar was clocked in the identical time . . . This Saturday, fans can watch and wager on the Belmont Stakes, the final jewel in the Triple Crown, in Santa Anita’s posh Chandelier Room, featuring a catered menu from one of LA’s hottest chefs, complimentary Tequila tasting, live music from the Ryan Cross Trio with a special guest artist, a racing program, tip sheet, and classic Thoroughbred racing for $85. For more information, visit santaanita.com/events. Also on Saturday, fans are invited to experience the 10th annual “Santa Anita Uncorked” at The Great Race Place. In addition to wine tasting, a souvenir wine glass, cuisine sampling, an art show featuring a silent auction and a day at the races, the Santa Anita Uncorked package includes parking, admission, racing program and a Club House seat all for just $60. Tickets are available from wineofthemonthclub.com or santaanita.com, and the Santa Anita ticket office.
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