- CONQUERING HERO ESPINOZA RETURNS
- BATTLE OF UNBEATENS IN FLORIDA DERBY
- ARGENTINE INVADER MAKES S. DEBUT
- TURF FESTIVAL DEBUTS AT GOLDEN GATE
ESPINOZA BACK IN ONE PIECE FROM DUBAI
Victor Espinoza was back on the beat at Clockers’ Corner Thursday morning, disappearing Claude Rains-like into the crowd, no fanfare, no entourage, no ceremonial welcome, even though it’s just under a week since he guided iconic California-bred California Chrome to a 3 ¾-length victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup despite sashaying solo seesaw-like after his saddle slipped when the gates opened in the mile-and-a-quarter race.
This afternoon, it’s business as usual for the 43-year-old Espinoza, with two mounts on the card, 4-1 morning line chance Lynne’s Legacy for Jim Cassidy in the second race and another 4-1 shot, El Huerfano for Peter Miller in the fourth. Total purse money for the two races is $116,000, tip money compared to the $600,000 Espinoza earned for his Evel Knievel-type episode aboard California Chrome. Some of that $600,000 will be donated to Espinoza’s favorite charity, City of Hope.
Friday night, Espinoza throws out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium when Team Blue hosts the Angels in the second of their Freeway Series, with game time at 7:05 p.m.
Otherwise, Espinoza, winner of this year’s Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, is flying under the publicity radar which can reach madcap proportions if not harnessed, although Espinoza always seems to have it under control.
“California Chrome was doing great before the race,” recounted Espinoza, who left Dubai Tuesday night after seeing the sights and spending a day at the beach relaxing with friends.
“For three straight mornings before the race, I walked him from the barn area to the track which is like two-and-a-half miles each way, so I was right next to him. He looked outstanding. He was ready to go.
“But regardless of that, once the race starts, you never know what’s going to happen, right? I felt my best chance from the 11 post was to send right out of the gate and get a position, but the very first jump, the saddle started slipping. It happened right out of the gate. That was the scariest thing for me.
“I didn’t know how far I could go. You never know if you can make it all the away around. But I got a position and it was perfect, right where I wanted to be. Then at the five-eighths pole, I felt like my body started to go backwards.
“I realized I still had a long way to go and a lot of things were running through my head, all in a split second. I squeezed my knees against the saddle to the back of the horse because I didn’t want the saddle to go back further. I was trying to keep it where it was.
“I could have waited a little bit longer, but turning for home and with the saddle so far back, I decided to open it up, thinking if I could open up three or four lengths and see the wire, if something did go wrong, I’d have a chance to correct things and still win.
“I was lucky enough to stay on, maintain good balance, and cross the wire in one piece.”
NYQUIST VS. MOHAYMEN IN FLORIDA DERBY
The racing world looks forward with great anticipation to Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park featuring the two undefeated Kentucky Derby favorites, the East’s Mohaymen and the West’s Nyquist, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile king trained by Doug O’Neill.
Post time is 3:48 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.
“I’m surprised 10 entered, because it was publicized like it was going to be a short field,” said Doug’s brother, Dennis, Thursday morning before embarking to the Sunshine State.
“But I don’t think it affected us that much, as far as the pace is concerned, because most of those horses don’t have much speed.
“We got a great post (four). I love being inside of Mohaymen (nine). If we break clean we should be somewhere near the lead with Mohaymen stalking us. If he gets by us, he gets by us, I guess.”
IL FORNAIO MAKES U.S. DEBUT IN SAN SIMEON
Il Fornaio (the baker) makes his first start in more than eight months and his first in the United States when he runs in Saturday’s Grade III San Simeon Stakes for older horses at about six and a half furlongs on turf.
“He’s been working all right,” Ron McAnally said of the Argentine-bred horse, winner of four of his nine races in his native country. “We didn’t have any other place to run him.
“Normally I’d run him in an allowance race, but we’d have to wait a month if we don’t run Saturday, and even in a month, who’s to say the race will fill? Those three-other-than races are hard to fill. It has to be a race where a horse hasn’t won in a year or something.
“We’ll see what he looks like. You never know until you run them.”
All four of Il Fornaio’s wins have come at San Isidro in Buenos Aires, two at seven furlongs on turf and one at a mile.
Il Fornaio, who worked three furlongs Thursday morning in 36 seconds flat, is named for the Il Fornaio Restaurant in Del Mar, according to Racing Manager Fernando Fantini.
The San Simeon, race seven of 11: Cape Wolfe, Flavien Prat, 5-1; Mr. Sexy, Agapito Delgadillo, 20-1; Producer, Drayden Van Dyke, 15-1; No Silent, Gary Stevens, 7-2; Hay Dude, Tyler Baze, 3-1; Il Fornaio, Joe Talamo, 15-1; Guns Loaded, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; Outside Nashville, Martin Garcia, 6-1; and Aotearoa, Brice Blanc, 12-1.
LUCRATIVE TURF FESTIVAL AT GOLDEN GATE
Golden Gate Fields will offer increased purses, free shipping to and from Santa Anita and guaranteed Late Pick 4 pools during its inaugural three-week Turf Festival.
Golden Gate Fields will be the only track in California with turf racing from April 14 through May 1. During that time an extra $125,000 will allocated to turf races.
Free shipping from Santa Anita to Golden Gate Fields will be provided during the Turf Festival. Bob Hubbard Horse Transportation, Inc. will have two vans going north and two vans going south every week during the event.
“The Golden Gate Fields Turf Festival will benefit horsemen throughout California by bolstering purses in the North and giving Southern California horsemen a place to run their grass horses,” said Joe Morris, Senior Vice President of West Coast Operations for The Stronach Group.
“It’s our goal to offer competitive turf racing with big fields, which should be attractive to horseplayers. We hope to generate a strong response from Northern California and Southern California horsemen throughout the Turf Festival.”
There will be three grass stakes during the Turf Festival. The Grade III, $100,000 San Francisco Mile for three-year-olds and up will be conducted Saturday, April 30. The final day of the Turf Festival will feature a pair of one-mile stakes for three-year-old California-breds nominated to the Golden State Series: the $100,000 Campanile for fillies and the $100,000 Silky Sullivan.
In addition, Golden Gate Fields will offer two maiden special weight and two allowance races for California-breds the final weekend of the turf festival. The maiden special weights will be worth $35,000 on April 30. The allowances will be worth $41,000 and will be held May 1. The owners of the maiden special weight winners will receive a $10,000 bonus.
Golden Gate Fields on weekends will guarantee the Late Pick 4 pool at $75,000 during the Turf Festival. The guarantee will be increased to $100,000 on San Francisco Mile Day.
TOC NAMES 2015’S LEADING OWNERS
The Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) has announced the winners of its 2015 statistical awards for leading California owners. Reddam Racing LLC was leading owner in purse money won in California as well as leading owner by number of wins.
Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman led all owners with California stakes wins and Kings River Ranch was leading owner by number of California starts. David and Mark Greco, Patrick Grohl and Brent Malmstrom were selected as Rookies of the Year.
Reddam Racing runners earned $2,922,316 in California last year, with 49 wins from 251 starts. Top earners were Nyquist, winner of the Del Mar Futurity, the FrontRunner and the Best Pal Stakes; Mrazek, winner of the Graduation Stakes; and Found Money, winner of the King Glorious and Santa Anita Juvenile Stakes.
The partnership of Watson, Pegram and Weitman won 10 stakes in California last year. Their leading earners were Hoppertunity, winner of the San Antonio Stakes, Pretty N Cool, winner of the Sorrento Stakes, and multiple stakes winners Gimme Da Lute and Toews On Ice.
Kings River Ranch runners made a remarkable 296 starts in California last year for earnings of $892,153. Their top runners included Bench Ruling, Del Mar Ann, Dive Down, Prevaricator, Play Hard to Get, Odin, Not Too Shiny and Good Stats.
David and Mark Greco made nine starts resulting in one win and $29,671 in earnings with Miz Strawberry Dee. The two brothers share a passion for taking care of racehorses when they retire from the track. Patrick Grohl also focuses on racehorse aftercare as owner of a horse farm and rehabilitation facility. His horse Distinctive Run made three starts in 2015 for $2,305 in earnings.
Brent Malmstrom had two wins from 12 starts last year with Forthenineteen and Egyptian Empire. He named and donated a majority of the earnings of Forethenineteen to a memorial fund for 19 firefighters who died battling a wild fire in Yarnell, Arizona.
All winners will be recognized at TOC’s annual meetings at Del Mar on Saturday, Aug. 6 and at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday, Oct. 22.
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita Handicap winner Melatonin, working for the Oaklawn Handicap on April 16, went six furlongs in company under Joe Talamo Thursday in 1:13.60 for trainer David Hofmans. Stablemate Village Kitten was timed in 1:14.60 . . . Rebel Stakes winner Cupid, prepping for the April 16 Arkansas Derby, caught the eye of clockers, working four furlongs in 50 seconds flat for Bob Baffert with Martin Garcia aboard. Agent Tony Matos has Garcia booked to ride Enchanting Lady for Baffert in the Madison at Keeneland April 9 and 13 ½-length allowance winner Donegal Moon for Todd Pletcher in the Blue Grass the same day . . . Trainer Cliff Sise Jr. has San Felipe winner Danzing Candy set to work Saturday morning under Mike Smith for the Santa Anita Derby on April 9 . . . Nick Hines, TVG host and analyst, and Brooke Hubbard, Racing Manager for SAY Racing, will be Tom Quigley‘s guests Saturday and Sunday, respectively, 11:20 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Jockey Edwin Maldonado has withdrawn his appeal of a suspension issued Jan. 24 and will serve a three-day ban April 9, 10 and 14 . . . The morning line for Saturday’s Grade I HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak for Arabians was made by a representative of the Arabian Jockey Club.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Sunday, March 27)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||167||17||17||26||10%||36%||$1,047,457|