- ECLIPSE AWARD LANDSLIDE BY SO-CAL HORSES
- ASHLEYLUVSSUGAR READY FOR TURF CLASSIC
- SPECIAL FIRST POST TIME SATURDAY: 11:45 A.M.
- DESERT STEEL RETURNS TO TURF VS. CAL-BREDS
- UNIQUE BELLA FIRES BULLET FOR LAS VIRGENES
SOUTHERN CAL HORSES DOMINATE ECLIPSE AWARDS
Headed by Horse of the Year California Chrome, Southern California-based horses dominated Saturday night’s Eclipse Awards Dinner at Gulfstream Park, as seven horses took home a total of eight Eclipse trophies. Not only did the legendary six-year-old California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit win for the second time in the Horse of the Year category, he was also voted Eclipse Champion Older Dirt Male.
“Chrome,” who began his 2016 campaign for trainer Art Sherman with an authoritative victory in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 9, would go on to win six consecutive races, including the Grade I Awesome Again Stakes here on Oct. 1, before running second by a half length to Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Nov. 5.
A winner of the 2014 Santa Anita and Kentucky Derbies, California Chrome is tentatively scheduled to retire to stud at co-owner Taylor Made Farms in Kentucky following Saturday’s $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream.
Bob Baffert’s Santa Anita-based Arrogate, who followed his record-shattering win in the Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 27 with his Breeders’ Cup Classic victory over California Chrome in only his sixth career start, was voted Eclipse Champion 3-year-old Male.
Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Arrogate was a perfect three for three at The Great Race Place in 2016, beginning with his maiden special weight win on June 5.
In addition to Arrogate, Baffert also tasted Eclipse victory with Drefong, who was voted Eclipse Champion Male Sprinter. Unbeaten in three starts here last year, Drefong capped his championship season with a 1 ¼ length win in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint Nov. 5.
“It just goes to show you how tough it is out here in California,” said Baffert. “We work very hard to compete at the top level, win big races and championships . . . that’s always our goal. I’m proud of our team and what we’ve accomplished.”
In a masterstroke that has been commonplace throughout his incredible Hall of Fame career, trainer Richard Mandella oversaw Santa Anita-based Beholder’s fifth and final racing campaign, which was culminated by an epic nose victory over previously undefeated Songbird in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 4. That, along with two other graded victories at Santa Anita, enabled the Spendthrift Farm color bearer to be named Eclipse Champion Older Dirt Female, making her a four-time Eclipse Champion.
Undefeated in seven starts leading into the Distaff, Santa Anita-based Songbird began 2016 by streaking to four consecutive victories: in the Grade II Las Virgenes on Feb. 6, the Grade III Santa Ysabel on March 5, the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks on April 9 and the Grade II Summertime Oaks on June 18, by a combined 20 ½ lengths.
Owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Songbird’s nose loss to Beholder in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff will no doubt go down as one of the greatest Distaffs of all-time, rivaling the 1989 showdown between Personal Ensign and Winning Colors.
In what trainer Ian Kruljac, 28, described as “a once-in-a-lifetime day,” his prized filly, Finest City, won Saturday’s Grade II Santa Monica Stakes, while Kruljac’s father, Eric, was on hand at Gulfstream to pinch hit for his son and receive Finest City’s Eclipse Award as Champion Female Sprinter.
Based throughout the year at Santa Anita, Finest City, a four-year-old filly by City Zip, capped 2016 with a three-quarter length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint here on Nov. 5. Owned by Seltzer Thoroughbreds, Finest City was 8-2-2-2 on the year and amassed annual earnings of $823,200.
Like Kruljac, trainer Peter Eurton brought home his first Eclipse Award as well, as his Champagne Room was voted Champion 2-year-old Filly. Based at Santa Anita, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Broken Vow broke her maiden in the Grade II Sorrento Stakes Aug. 6 at Del Mar and culminated her freshman season with an upset win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies here Nov. 5. Owned by Ciaglia, Exline-Border, Gulliver Racing, R. Christiansen and Sharon Alesia, Champagne Room has a 5-2-1-1 mark and earnings of $1,286,600.
In addition to eight equine Eclipse Awards, Santa Anita-based Baffert and jockey Mike Smith were also finalists in their respective categories.
Suffice to say, Santa Anita was The Great Race Place to be in 2016!
CAL-BREDS NOT UNDERESTIMATED BY PETER EURTON
Ashleyluvssugar has run in a Grade I or a Grade II stakes in nine of his last 10 starts, so it might appear he’s in a softer spot Saturday when he runs in the ungraded $250,000 California Cup Turf Classic presented by City National Bank for California-bred or sired horses.
Not so says Peter Eurton, who trains the consistent six-year-old gelded son of Game Plan, winner of eight of 19 career starts, with three seconds, three thirds and earnings of $1,007,504.
“We’ll try to get him to run his race from the rail,” Eurton said. “The one hole is the one hole. (Flavien) Prat is a great rider so he’ll do his best to get him into a good position. The horse is doing well.
“Even though it’s not a Grade I race, the Cal-breds are good. We never underestimate anybody.”
The field for the Turf Classic, which goes as race seven: Ashleyluvssugar, Flavien Part; Ward ‘n Jerry, Stewart Elliott; Ralis, Mario Gutierrez; Temple Keys, Santiago Gonzalez; Cardiac, Corey Nakatani; What a View, Tyler Baze; He Will, Rafael Bejarano; Patriots Rule, Joe Talamo; Tamarando, Martin Garcia; and Poshky, Jamie Theriot.
The California Cup Turf Classic is one of five stakes Saturday in the Golden State Series for California-bred or sired horses, offering a total of $1 million in purse money.
SPECIAL FIRST POST TIME SATURDAY IS 11:45 A.M.
In an effort to better accommodate both the inaugural running of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational from Gulfstream and a 10-race Sunshine Millions/California Cup card locally, Santa Anita has moved first post time on Saturday up to 11:45 a.m. Approximate post time for the Pegasus World Cup is at 2:44 p.m. PST.
The Pegasus, which features a widely anticipated rematch between all-time North American money-won leader California Chrome and Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Arrogate, has generated tremendous interest nationwide and Santa Anita is thus expecting a large crowd for it and its Sunshine Millions/Cal Cup program.
Separated by just a half-length in their only meeting, Arrogate prevailed in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic here Nov. 5, but it was Chrome who took home his second Eclipse Award Horse of the Year title this past Saturday, in addition to being voted Eclipse Champion Older Dirt Male.
A California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit, California Chrome has been trained throughout his amazing career by Art Sherman, 79, who sent him out to win the 2014 Santa Anita and Kentucky Derbies. Owned by California Chrome, LLC, he has won 16 of his 26 starts and amassed earnings of $14,502,650.
Trained by Bob Baffert and owned by Juddmonte Farms, Arrogate followed up on a record-setting 13 ½ length win in the prestigious Grade I Travers Stakes Aug. 27, with his Classic win over Chrome in what was only his sixth career start. He was thus voted Eclipse Champion 3-year-old Male for 2016.
For scratches, changes and complete Sunshine Millions/Cal Cup entries and morning line information, please visit santaanita.com.
UNIQUE BELLA IN BULLET DRILL FOR LAS VIRGENES
Budding superstar Unique Bella worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Thursday in a bullet 58.20 under exercise rider Edgar Rodriguez for the Grade II Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile on Feb. 5.
“It was a very good work,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “We usually don’t work them that fast, but she was doing it all on her own.”
Two-time Eclipse champion Songbird, meanwhile, arrived from Kentucky on Monday to prepare for her four-year-old campaign.
“She trained Tuesday, Wednesday and today, but she won’t be working (breezing) for at least a month,” Hollendorfer said of the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm, who has not raced since absorbing her first loss after 11 straight facile triumphs, to Beholder by a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita Nov. 4.
The 58.20 clocking, also recorded by the Richard Baltas-trained Lunar Empress, was the fastest of 86 drills at the distance, the average time of which was 1:01.24.
DESERT STEEL RETURNS TO TURF IN SUNSHINE MILLION TEST
Desert Steel returns to the grass Saturday where she has run 11 of her 15 career races. She is coming off a wide third-place finish in a minor stakes over Golden Gate’s synthetic Tapeta surface, but prior to that ran in 11 straight grass races, winning three.
The six-year-old gray Desert Code mare bred by Harris Farms runs Saturday in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint at about 6 ½ furlongs.
“I think she’s definitely better on turf,” trainer Simon Callaghan said. “I don’t think she liked the surface last time, and she ran a good second last time she ran down the hill (in the California Distaff Handicap last Oct. 15) to Enola Gray. She’s the one to beat but my mare is sharp so we’re going to give it a go.”
The Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint, race two: Desert Steel, Rafael Bejarano; Enola Gray, Tyler Baze; How Unusual, Kent Desormeaux; All That heat, Flavien Prat; Tale of Papa Nick, Drayden Van Dyke; Late ‘n Left, Edwin Maldonado; Smoove It, Mario Gutierrez; Lucy De, Stewart Elliott; and Cuddle Alert, Agapito Delgadillo.
FINISH LINES: According to Track Superintendent Dennis Moore, Santa Anita has absorbed a whopping 11.32 inches of rain this month. Although Sunday’s races were cancelled due to extremely wet conditions, Moore has today’s main track in “fast” condition . . . Old warhorse Royal F J, still earning his keep at age 10, makes his 92nd start in today’s eighth race. Trained by Jack Carava, the chestnut Royal Academy gelding comes off a rousing 2 ½ length win at Del Mar on Dec. 3. With an overall record of 91-8-17-14, he’s earned $535,540 . . . Sham Stakes winner. Gormley, mentioned by trainer John Shirreffs as possible for the March 11 San Felipe Stakes, worked five furlongs under Chantal Sutherland in company with Hollywood Strike Gormley went in 1:00.60, while Hollywood Strike got 1:00.80 . . . Play ball! Of the 234 recorded workouts Thursday on Santa Anita’s fast main track (215) and dirt track (19), two were by horses named for diamond Hall of Famers, Catfish Hunter and Pee Wee Reese . . . Santa Anita simulcast host Megan Devine and XBTV.com’s Jeff Siegel will offer their selections at 10:50 a.m. Saturday and 11:20 a.m. Sunday, respectively, in the East Paddock Gardens. Tom Quigley hosts.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Saturday, Jan. 21)|
|Norberto Arroyo, Jr.||50||7||4||2||14%||26%||$331,230|
|Drayden Van Dyke||50||5||9||2||10%||32%||$319,441|
|J. Keith Desormeaux||17||6||2||4||35%||71%||$368,675|