- BAFFERT RETURNS ‘HOME’ AFTER TRIPLE CROWN
- ‘PHAROAH’ COLLECTOR’S PRINT FREE AT SANTA ANITA
- BEHOLDER RETURNS IN ADORATION ON SATURDAY
- BAL A BALI GOES FOR 10 IN A ROW IN SHOEMAKER
- DENMAN: ‘AND AWAY HE GOES’ ON BRIEF RESPITE
- SANTA ANITA DERBY WINNER DORTMUND BREEZES
- BAFFERTS MAKE MAJOR DONATIONS TO CHARITIES
PHAROAH GAVE BAFFERT GOOD VIBES FOR THE BELMONT
Bob Baffert, unmistakable with his snow white hair, signature jeans and cowboy boots,
was back on the beat early Thursday morning at Santa Anita, radio in hand, calling the shots for his blueblood stock including Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund, before heading to Kentucky where Triple Crown winner American Pharoah will go back to the track at Churchill Downs Friday morning.
Baffert, who handled the media frenzy on the Triple Crown trail with typical carefree aplomb, calling on his experience from being down the path three times previously, took time to recount American Pharoah’s front-running triumph in the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes under regular rider Victor Espinoza last Saturday, winning by 5 ½ lengths to become the first horse to capture racing’s most elusive and coveted prize since Affirmed in 1978.
“American Pharoah has a high cruising speed and he wants to dominate, and it’s neat to watch him run like that,” Baffert said. “All the way down the backside, even though I could barely see, you could tell he was having fun. When he got to the three-quarter (mark), he was still pulling on Victor.
“You could tell by Victor’s body language that on the far turn the other jockeys had a lot of respect for the horse. Watching the replays, Materiality had to work just to hold his spot in second. At the three-eighths pole he was still there and the one horse (Mubtaahij) made a run, and I knew he had great stamina because Mike de Kock is a great trainer and his horse had trained for a mile and a half, but then I could see he was struggling.
“(Joel) Rosario saved ground and rode a really good race on the gray horse (Frosted, who would finish second). He tilted him out there and we really didn’t know how good he was, but turning for home, you could tell Victor was really loaded for bear.
“Secretariat, when he turned for home, he was like that. Victor could have easily left a little bit earlier to separate himself, but he took care of the horse, just sat on him, and when he asked him to go, he just took off with him.
“Victor got to take it all in, although he said he didn’t hear the crowd noise. That shows what was going through his head. He was enjoying it, and that’s got to be the greatest feeling for a jockey, to know that you’re actually going to win the race in the first turn. You just hope nothing drastic happens from there to the wire.
“Going into the Belmont, the horse gave us a vibe that he was going to do it. People in the industry and in the stands at Belmont felt it was time, this is the horse, and that’s the vibe I felt going in there. I knew when I saddled him he was doing better than for all the other races.
“I told that to Victor and when I did, his eyes just lit up. I said, ‘You can be aggressive. He’s going to give it to you.’ And Victor said the minute he jumped on his back in the paddock, he just gushed. I think they know when they get on them, and Victor looked at me like, ‘Hey, he’s ready.’
“You have to have great people around you and I’m really fortunate that I don’t have to worry about anything. I would get completely burned out if I had to do this on my own. You can’t do it without a great staff.
“But the horse just gave me that vibe. We were just worried about the break . . . but once he hustled him to the lead, the horse got rolling and he doesn’t use much energy. He’s so quick he can just get to a spot, and once he did, that was it.”
Baffert was non-committal on when American Pharoah would run next.
“Everybody’s trying to pin me down,” Baffert said. “He’s going to go back to the track tomorrow. Jimmy (assistant Jim Barnes) said the horse is getting pretty anxious to get back, so he’ll train, he’ll come here (to Santa Anita, on June 18) and we’ll look for something.
“Our options are the Jim Dandy and the Travers (at Saratoga), the Haskell (at Monmouth), but first I’ve got to see how he is. Everybody’s dying to be the first one to get the news. As soon as he crossed the wire, everybody was asking, ‘Where is he running next?’
“But the whole key is how the horse is doing.”
Fellow Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella summed up best the feelings of Baffert’s peers at Santa Anita when he shook his hand and told him Thursday morning, “You made us all proud.”
FIRST 5,000 FANS TO RECEIVE TRIPLE CROWN PRINT SATURDAY
Santa Anita has announced that it will provide the first 5,000 attendees on Saturday a beautiful American Pharoah Triple Crown Champion collectible print, free of charge with paid General Admission. Each item will be accompanied by a protective plastic roll-up sleeve.
The print showcases the Bob Baffert-conditioned Triple Crown Champ and jockey Victor Espinoza in three must-see shots–winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes–and thereby becoming racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years this past Saturday. (All photos were shot by acclaimed equine photographer, Skip Dickstein).
First post time on Saturday at Santa Anita is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m. (Please note, the American Pharoah Triple Crown Champion poster will not be available in Santa Anita’s Infield Area).
MANDELLA EYES SATURDAY STAKES SWEEP
Two-time Eclipse Award champion Beholder seeks her 10th win from 11 career starts at Santa Anita when she runs in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Adoration Stakes for fillies and mares, 3 and up, at 1 1/16 miles.
“She’s ready to go,” said Richard Mandella, who trains the 5-year-old Henny Hughes mare for owner B. Wayne Hughes. “There have been a few bumps in the road, including the temperature that forced her to miss the Grade I Vanity (on May 9), but there are a lot of bumps in this business. Fortunately, Beholder has good shock absorbers.
“She looks great and we’re looking forward to seeing her run.”
Mandella also saddles American Stakes winner Bal a Bali Saturday in the Grade I Shoemaker Mile on turf.
“He’s in good shape,” Mandella said of the 5-year-old Brazilian-bred horse, who won his U.S. debut by a length on May 9, his first start in 11 months. Overall, Bal a Bali has won 12 of 13 starts, including his last nine in a row.
The field for the Shoemaker, race five of nine: Winning Prize, Martin Garcia, 8-1; Talco, Rafael Bejarano, 5-1; Midnight Storm, Tyler Baze, 6-5; Seek Again, Jose Lezcano, 4-1; and Bal a Bali, Flavien Prat, 9-5.
The Adoration, which goes as race eight: My Monet, Gonzalo Nicolas, 15-1; Grandiose Tactics, Drayden Van Dyke, 20-1; Cast in Silver, Flavien Prat, 20-1; Beholder, Gary Stevens, 2-5; Warren’s Veneda, Tyler Baze, 5-2; Wild in the Saddle, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; and Oscar Party, Santiago Gonzalez, 20-1.
MIRAHMADI FILLS IN FOR DENMAN BEHIND THE MIC
Trevor Denman, the treasured voice of Santa Anita since 1983, is on a two-week
break and will return for the final weekend of the Spring Meet on June 27-28.
Denman is at his Minnesota farm in an effort to get things ship-shape while also recharging his batteries from the lengthy season that began last Dec. 26.
The inimitable Frank Mirahmadi, who filled in admirably for Denman last year, once again will take over behind the mic starting today.
“I’ll be back for the Gold Cup weekend,” Denman said before leaving. “As I said last year, it’s a matter of taking care of the 40 little cows on the farm, so I’ve got to go back.”
The farm is located in a dot on the map called Kellogg, 90 miles south of Minneapolis and about 15 miles from Wabasha.
“A house is bad enough,” Denman said. “There’s always something wrong with it, but a farm is five times worse. Pipes break, water doesn’t flow, things go wrong all the time. I have a farmer who actually owns the cows, so he comes over every now and again, but you’ve got to be there.”
Denman welcomed the breather after years of maintaining a shorter schedule at Santa Anita, which extended its meet with the absorption of most of the days lost by Hollywood Park with the closing of its venue in December of 2013.
“I’m so used to that easy calendar every year,” Denman said. “It has been a long meet. They just keep coming at you, so the break is good. They always say, ‘Can you do it?’ Of course you can.
“But you’re going to lose a bit of enthusiasm after a while. If you don’t, you’re not a human being. That battery recharge puts you up to 100 percent again.
“It’s great to have Frank here. I’ve known him for over 20 years. I just feel so comfortable having him as a replacement.”
FINISH LINES: American Pharoah, who will be paraded at Churchill Downs on Saturday, will return to Santa Anita Thursday, June 18 . . . Bob and Jill Baffert have announced major donations to four charities that care for racing’s retired athletes. Following American Pharoah‘s historic victory in the Belmont Stakes and becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, the Bafferts said donations would be given to CARMA, Old Friends, TAA, and PDJF. “Jill and I are blessed and honored to be in a position to be able to donate a portion of my earnings to these four special charities whose work is vital to our industry,” Baffert said. “We hope these contributions will go a long way toward supporting and bringing awareness to the very important work these non-profit organizations do in caring for our human and equine athletes.” Added Madeline Auerbach, CARMA’s Founder and Past President: “I spoke to both Bob and Jill before the race and they told me of their plans to shine a very bright spotlight on horse retirement.” Noted Lucinda Mandella, CARMA’s Executive Director: “We are very grateful to Bob and Jill for making such a substantial contribution to CARMA. Their generosity and support means so much. They have demonstrated exceptional leadership for such an important cause in our industry.” CARMA, (California Retirement Management Account), was founded in 2007 and has granted over $2.5 million dollars to charities that retire, retrain and rehome off-track Thoroughbreds. It is a charitable 501 (c)(3) organization formed to assist Thoroughbred rehabilitation and retirement organizations that facilitate the care and retraining of horses who raced in California and whose racing careers have ended . . . Under regular rider Martin Garcia, Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund worked four furlongs in company Thursday in 49.20, while stablemate Flat Footed Mama went the same distance in 49.80. Baffert called Dortmund’s drill “perfect.” . . . Laz Barrera winner Kentuckian, prepping for the Los Alamitos Derby on July 4, worked five furlongs for Jerry Hollendorfer in a bullet 58.80 . . . Agent Brian Beach said Victor Espinoza will resume riding at Santa Anita next Thursday and not this Sunday as previously announced.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Sunday, June )|
|Drayden Van Dyke||90||13||10||9||14%||$559,600|