- CALIFORNIA: A CHAMPIONSHIP STATE OF MIND
- BAFFERT HOLDING STRONG HAND FOR DERBY
- OCHO OCHO OCHO SEEKING BLUER PASTURES?
‘WEATHER’ OR NOT, SANTA ANITA IS ‘PARADISE ON EARTH’
The other night at The Meadowlands in North Jersey, trotters were running through
snow flakes the size of golf balls.
Meanwhile, 3,000 miles away in California, the sun was out and temperatures were in the 80’s.
Call it coincidence. Credit the good purses, the good racing surfaces and the great
weather, but whatever it is, from north to south, California currently is the home of the best and the brightest in the business, to wit:
Los Alamitos Race Course in Orange County is the headquarters of 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome; Golden Gate Fields in the Bay Area is the stomping grounds of the best horse in America, Santa Anita Handicap winner Shared Belief; Santa Anita is the permanent residence of the two Kentucky Derby favorites, American Pharoah and Dortmund; and, with all due respect to Untapable, the home court of the best older mares in training, Beholder and Warren’s Veneda.
“It’s paradise on earth,” said native Los Angelino Craig Lewis, who trains Warren’s Veneda, the streaking California-bred mare who has won three straight, including the Grade I Santa Margarita Stakes on March 14.
“The surfaces and the purses are very good, and you can’t beat the weather,” Lewis said. “Hot Springs (Oaklawn Park in Arkansas) calls me every day trying to get me to run Warren’s Veneda there (in the Grade I, $600,000 Apple Blossom on April 10), and I said to the guy, ‘Why would I come all the way across the country to run against the best mare in the country, Untapable?’
“And he told me, ‘You’ve got the best mare in the country.’
“You can’t beat the weather we’ve got. We’re fortunate to be here.”
CLOCKER FANCIES BAFFERT DUO FOR KENTUCKY DERBY
The Kentucky Derby is six weeks hence, but twisting Gary Young’s arm today for his picks, he wouldn’t deviate from the obvious.
“If I had to name a Derby winner on three notes right now it’d be American Pharoah, Dortmund and Carpe Diem,” said the respected private clocker, referring to Bob Baffert’s dynamic duo and Tampa Bay Derby winner Carpe Diem, trained by Todd Pletcher.
“As far as the two Baffert horses are concerned, I think Pharoah is probably the more brilliant horse,” Young said. “But just looking at who’s bigger, looking at their bodies and their stride, Dortmund might have a better chance of getting a mile and quarter than Pharoah.
“You’ve got to go back a long time since one guy had two horses as strong as this, six weeks from the Derby. These are two good horses.
“One thing about Baffert: he gets good horses and he’s not afraid to train them.”
In other Santa Anita Derby news:
Trainer Jim Cassidy said he may opt out of the Santa Anita Derby in favor of the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 4 for Delta Jackpot winner Ocho Ocho Ocho, who suffered superficial leg cuts when finishing eighth behind Dortmund in the San Felipe Stakes.
In either case, his current go-to rider, Santiago Gonzalez, would have the mount.
Santa Anita offers a $750,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 pool and a $300,000 guaranteed Pick 6 pool on Santa Anita Derby Day.
FINISH LINES: In addition to the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic against males on April 18 and the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn, Craig Lewis is considering the Grade I, $300,000 Vanity Stakes on May 9 for Warren’s Veneda, and if all went well, the $1 million Ogden Phipps on Belmont Day, June 6 . . . Thanks mainly to a Zenyatta-like last-to-first finish by first-time starter Rutile (44.80) in Saturday’s fifth race, there is a hefty Pick 6 carryover of $92,696.80 going into Sunday’s card. Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss of Zenyatta fame, Rutile is a half-sister to speed deficient 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, also owned by the Mosses . . .Multiple graded stakes winner Sahara Sky, a candidate for the Grade II, $200,000 Kona Gold Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs on April 11, worked six furlongs Sunday in 1:13.20 for Jerry Hollendorfer . . . Santa Anita Handicap third-place finisher Catch a Flight, possible for the Charles Town Classic, worked five furlongs for Richard Mandella in 1:03.40 . . . Perennial SoCal leader Rafael Bejarano has opened a 58-34 lead over runner-up Tyler Baze in Santa Anita’s jockey standings through 51 racing days. Kent Desormeaux and Victor Espinoza share third with 31 wins apiece . . . With two triumphs yesterday, Peter Miller inched to within 28-26 of training leader Hollendorfer . . . Favorites are winning at a 35.68 percent clip (157 of 440) . . . Next Saturday, March 28, the Grade III Tokyo City Cup will be the feature race on Japan Family Day, with the Ramen Yokocho Festival in the infield. For more details, visit www.tokyocitycup.com.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Saturday, March 21)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||179||21||21||23||12%||$1,347,810|
|A. C. Avila||25||7||2||3||28%||$208,298|