- CHROME READY FOR SAN PASQUAL, RAIN OR SHINE
- O’NEILL HAS THREE FOR THE MONEY IN SHAM STAKES
- SONGBIRD TO WORK BEFORE FRIDAY’S FIRST RACE
- AUTHOR WEST TO SIGN ‘RIDE TO WIN . . . ‘ ON SATURDAY
CALIFORNIA CHROME AWAITS SATURDAY’S SAN PASQUAL
California Chrome is at the ready for his first race in nine months Saturday despite El Nino’s futile effort to turn racing into El Nono.
“We’ve had five and two-tenths inches of rain since the early part of the week,” said Santa Anita Track Superintendent Dennis Moore Thursday morning, as rain stopped and the sun broke through, illuminating snow on the apex of the San Gabriel Mountains, creating a picture-postcard setting. “The track was sealed after the last race Sunday.”
Still, the main track has not been open for workouts for four days, from Monday through Thursday morning.
California Chrome, meanwhile, got in his final major breeze for Saturday’s Grade II San Pasqual Stakes prior to last Saturday’s first race, going six furlongs under regular rider Victor Espinoza in a snappy and stylish 1:10.04.
“We got a good draw and I don’t think the track will be a problem,” said trainer Art Sherman, who has never run California Chrome on an off track. Save for a lone start and subsequent victory on grass in the Grade I Hollywood Derby Nov. 29, 2014, California Chrome’s other 17 career races have been on conventional dirt or synthetic surfaces.
“So far,” Sherman said, “everything is good.”
The field for the San Pasqual, race eight of nine: Alfa Bird, Tyler Baze, 20-1; Blingo, Alex Solis, 20-1; Point Piper, Rafael Bejarano, 10-1; California Chrome, Victor Espinoza, 4-5; Hoppertunity, Martin Garcia, 5-2; Hard Aces, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Mystery Train, Mike Smith, 30-1; and Imperative, Mario Gutierrez, 6-1.
Richard Baltas, atop the trainer standings with five wins from 12 runners through seven racing days, said Imperative “probably won’t run” because of a sore foot, “but if he’s good by race day, I’ll run him.”
Trainer Victor Garcia expects longshot Alfa Bird to be close to or on the lead from his rail post position.
“Whether we’re in front depends on California Chrome,” Garcia said. “I think he’s going to be fresh coming off a long layoff, but I think we’ll go to the lead behind California Chrome. It all depends on how the track plays, too.”
FOUND MONEY HEADS O’NEILL TRIO IN SHAM STAKES
Doug O’Neill has three of the nine three-year-olds entered in Saturday’s Grade III Sham Stakes at one mile, the most experienced of which is Found Money, winner of three of seven starts for owners/breeders Paul and Zillah Reddam.
A son of Square Eddie, Found Money captured the King Glorious Stakes at one mile Dec. 12 at Los Alamitos.
“He’s coming off a nice win at Los Al,” O’Neill said of Found Money. “He tries hard every time and I thought he deserved a chance.”
O’Neill also has Semper Fortis, winner of his last two starts, and maiden Sorryaboutnothing entered. The latter runs in blinkers for the first time.
The field for the Sham, which goes as race six: Rare Candy, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Dressed in Hermes, Mike Smith, 7-2; Let’s Meet in Rio, Kent Desormeaux, 6-1; Found Money, Mario Gutierrez, 6-1; Semper Fortis, Kieren Fallon, 8-1; Laoban, Tyler Baze, 15-1; I’malreadythere, Rafael Bejarano, 5-1; Sorryaboutnothing, Flavien Prat, 15-1; and Collected, Martin Garcia, 3-1.
PUBLIC CAN SUBMIT PIX WITH PHAROAH TO NTRA, XPRESSBET
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) and Xpressbet are asking fans and horsemen to submit personal photos with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah for inclusion in a video montage to be shown at the 45th Annual Eclipse Awards ceremony Jan. 16.
Submissions can be made on Twitter by tagging @NTRA or using the hashtag #APandMe; via Facebook by posting an image to the wall of the official NTRA page (Facebook.com/NTRA1); or by e-mail at APandMe@NTRA.com.
The deadline to submit is Jan. 12. Only JPG files will be accepted at the e-mail address.
“American Pharoah has served as racing’s greatest ambassador in the past year, posing for photos with thousands of visitors,” said Keith Chamblin, NTRA Chief Operating Officer and Senior Executive Producer of the Eclipse Awards. “This Eclipse Awards ceremony will be a celebration not only of the Triple Crown winner’s historic feats on the track but also of his immense popularity and influence beyond racing. With everyone’s participation the NTRA and Xpressbet hope to demonstrate the special connection American Pharoah had with the public in a very personal way.”
The Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony will be held for the fourth straight year at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The Eclipse Awards are presented by Daily Racing Form, Breeders’ Cup and The Stronach Group and produced by the NTRA.
AUTHOR GARY WEST HERE SATURDAY TO SIGN ‘RIDE TO WIN . . . ‘
Award-winning turf writer Gary West will be on hand Saturday in the East Paddock Gardens at 10:30 a.m. to sign copies of his newest book, “Ride To Win, An Inside Look at the Jockey’s Craft.” A New Orleans native and the son of a jockey-turned trainer, West and co-author Bob Fortus have a combined 50-plus years covering Thoroughbred racing and the pair interviewed over 100 jockeys, trainers, owners, stewards and jockey agents in preparing the book, which was published by JockeyTalk360.com.
Among those interviewed over a three year period were Hall of Fame jockeys such as Jerry Bailey, Calvin Borel, Pat Day, Eddie Delahoussaye, Chris McCarron, Mike Smith and Gary Stevens.
“Jockeys are probably the most misunderstood and least appreciated workers at the racetrack,” said West. “Even serious fans have no idea what’s necessary to ride a racehorse or what’s going on out there on the track. The sport and the few turf writers who actually understand the game need to do a better job of explaining its complexities, and maybe this book is a step in that direction.”
Fortus, a longtime turf writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper, derived his idea for the book by listening to hard-core handicappers engaging in incessant banter while watching races at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans.
“Just listening to the ‘jockey-ologists,’ it always struck me how little people know (about) what’s really going on in a race,” Fortus said. “These are world class athletes, and they have to make decisions while they’re on a horse (that’s) running. “It’s fluid, all on the fly. It’s pretty amazing. There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.”
Bailey, who retired in 2006 while regarded as one of the game’s best prepared and all-time great game-day tacticians, is quoted extensively in “Ride To Win . . . ”
“Yes, I watched video, hours of video,” he told West and Fortus. “I read the Racing Form like it was my bible.”
West will be accompanied at the signing by retired Hall of Fame great, Laffit Pincay, Jr., and top rider Joe Talamo. Copies of “Ride to Win, An Inside Look at the Jockey’s Craft,” will be available for sale as well. (Pincay will also present the trophy for Saturday’s Grade II San Pasqual Stakes.)
‘PHAROAH’ TO RECEIVE VOX POPULI AWARD
Triple Crown champion American Pharoah, the first ever winner of Thoroughbred racing’s “Grand Slam” with his win at the Breeders’ Cup Classic, has been selected to receive the 2015 Secretariat Vox Populi, or “Voice of the People,” Award. The award recognizes the horse whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the American public and gained recognition for Thoroughbred racing.
American Pharoah was the clear favorite among the voters in the Vox Populi online poll recording the largest margin of victory in the award’s existence. The Zayat Stables colt was one of a select group of nominees submitted by the Vox Populi Committee and Mrs. Penny Chenery, owner of beloved Triple Crown champion Secretariat in whose name she established the award in 2010. In the honor’s true spirit of celebrating fan favorites, several other popular horses received a groundswell of write-in support, including the former Vox Populi nominee and recently departed champion Shared Belief.
American Pharoah’s victorious Triple Crown campaign was the first in 37 years and added his name to an elite list of only 11 other horses in history to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.
Then just a few months later, the 3-year-old champion thrilled both the record multitude at Keeneland Racecourse and the largest Breeders’ Cup television audience in 20 years when he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic by a commanding 6 1/2 lengths. Sports media have dubbed the sum of these four hallmark wins as Thoroughbred racing’s first ever “Grand Slam.”
“American Pharoah’s 2015 racing campaign was a true gift to the fans inside and outside the sport who have been waiting so long for their next Triple Crown champion,” said Mrs. Chenery. “In his efforts, we were able to once again witness greatness, and we were reminded that excellence can still be achieved. This racing hero has inspired a whole new generation of young fans, which I find most exciting for the future of the Thoroughbred racing. I congratulate American Pharoah’s team on their amazing year, and I am delighted to present them with the Secretariat Vox Populi Award.”
Jockey Victor Espinoza and trainer Bob Baffert guided American Pharoah during his history-making career, with earnings totaling almost $8.7 million and nine wins in 11 starts. American Pharoah has been retired and will stand at Kentucky’s Ashford Stud.
“American Pharoah is a horse of a lifetime, and we have been blessed to have bred him. His legacy will be forever lasting in my mind and in my heart and I am so happy that he was able to give a thrill to all of his fans and racing as a whole,” said owner Ahmed Zayat.
“His greatness has been defined, his place in history has been secured. The love he has given us has been boundless. We knew he was special from the moment he first stepped onto the track, and we were so fortunate to watch him fulfill his destiny. I thank the racing fans who have been so supportive during this past year and as the recipient of this wonderful award for the second time after my beloved Paynter, it makes it even more special. My team and I are especially honored and deeply moved.”
Zayat Stables’ Paynter received the Vox Populi Award in 2012, and American Pharoah joins other previous winners California Chrome (2014), Mucho Macho Man (2013), Rapid Redux (2011) and Zenyatta (inaugural 2010).
Mrs. Chenery will present the custom-made Vox Populi trophy to the American Pharaoh team on Jan. 9 at Santa Anita Park. In conjunction with the presentation, a special Vox Populi poster give-away and autograph signing will be offered to the public. For more information about the Secretariat Vox Populi Award, visit Secretariat.com, the official website for the legendary Thoroughbred champion.
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita hosts a Burger & Brewfest Saturday. Fans can enjoy their repast while watching Thoroughbred racing at its best on the trackside apron. Visit www.santaanita.com/events for package and pricing information . . . Undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Songbird works five furlongs under Mike Smith before Friday’s first race as she prepares for her three-year-old debut in the Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile on Feb. 6 . . . Trainer Eric Guillot has Grade I Whitney winner Moreno back in training and hopes the son of Ghostzapper can defend his title in the Charles Town Classic in April. “He’s had his issues,” Guillot said. “As soon as he might show he’s off a little bit, I’ll put him back in the van and retire him on the farm with no damage done.” . . . Brad Pegram, who handles business for Mike Smith, also now represents Drayden Van Dyke . . . Retired all-time great Laffit Pincay, Jr., will present the trophy for Saturday’s San Pasqual Stakes.
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