- TEAM O’NEILL ALL SMILES OVER CHAMP NYQUIST
- SONGBIRD COULD RETURN IN SUMMERTIME OAKS
- DENMAN’S CALL, MRAZEK SET FOR LAZ BARRERA
- ARCATURE RETURNS TO MILE IN SINGLETARY STAKES
- SANTA ANITA HOSTS TACO FESTIVAL ON SATURDAY
NYQUIST FIT FOR SECOND JEWEL OF TRIPLE CROWN
Team O’Neill hopes it’s déjà vu all over again when Nyquist runs in the Preakness
Stakes on May 21, hopefully following on the path American Pharoah took to capture the Triple Crown last year.
Like American Pharoah, Nyquist calls Santa Anita home, and Like American Pharoah’s regular rider, Victor Espinoza, Nyquist’s pilot, Mario Gutierrez, is a native of Mexico.
All systems were go for Nyquist at Pimlico, where the 141st Preakness will be contested at 1 3/16 miles a week from Saturday.
“Nyquist jogged today at Pimlico, and I received a short clip from Doug with everybody smiling,” said O’Neill assistant of 15 years, Leandro Mora, at Santa Anita Thursday morning. “(Exercise rider) Jonny (Garcia) was on the horse and gave Doug a thumbs up.
“(Assistant) Jack (Sisterson) also sent me a text to keep me posted, so we’re all smiling right now. The track was wet but he jogged at his normal time and he was fit.
“We are not going to breeze him before the Preakness, merely baby-sit him, because with just two weeks from his last race, there’s nothing major you need to do. He just ran a mile and a quarter, so he’s very fit.”
Said O’Neill of Nyquist in a Pimlico press release: “He looks fantastic. The guys are all happy. He’s a horse that gives off such positive vibes. He still continues to talk to us in his own way, and he’s doing really well.”
Kentucky Derby runner-up Exaggerator walked at Churchill Downs Thursday and is scheduled to go to the track the next two days before vanning to Pimlico on Sunday.
Meanwhile, trainer Gary Sherlock plans to work California Chrome Stakes winner Uncle Lino five furlongs tomorrow under regular rider Fernando Perez before shipping to Pimlico Tuesday for the Preakness.
“I’ve never been to Maryland before,” said the 70-year Sherlock, “but I’ve had good luck out of town with Grade I races. I won the only two I ever shipped for, the Humana Distaff and the Ballerina, with Intangaroo in 2008.”
SUMMERTIME OAKS JUNE 18 POSSIBLE FOR SONGBIRD
Undefeated and untested champion Songbird, who missed last Friday’s Kentucky Oaks
due to a fever, could return to the races in the Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita on June 18.
The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro trained by Jerry Hollendorfer has been galloping on Santa Anita’s main track since recovering from a fever that surfaced after her victory in the Santa Anita Oaks on April 9.
“No breeze date has been set,” said Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward. “When she’s ready, we’ll go from there. We’re hoping she can make the Summertime Oaks.”
The Summertime Oaks is a Grade II event at 1 1/16 miles with a purse of $200,000.
IMPROVEMENT EXPECTED FROM DENMAN’S CALL IN BARRERA
Denman’s Call was beaten 24 ½ lengths in the Santa Anita Derby, but Leandro Mora
says you can dismiss that performance because of the sloppy track.
Doug O’Neill’s trusted assistant expects dramatic improvement from the son of Northern
Afleet in Saturday’s Grade III Laz Barrera Stakes for three-year-olds at seven furlongs.
“We kind of drew a line through that race,” Mora said, “not that he was going to beat
anybody, but he kind of took the path that had more water on it, and that doesn’t help a horse that’s always been on the lead.
“I get the feeling he’s going to run better this time. We also have Mrazek in the race,
and he’s been first or second in his five races, all sprints, so we expect another big effort.”
The Barrera, which goes as race six on an 11-race card starting at 2 p.m.: Bistraya,
Santiago Gonzalez, 15-1; Iron Bob, Stewart Elliott, 4-1; Mrazek, Mario Gutierrez, 7-2; Denman’s Call, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; Smokey Image, Victor Espinoza, 4-1; Westbrook, Tiago Pereira, 12-1; and I Will Score, Martin Garcia, 5-2.
ARCATURE RETURNS TO MILE IN SINGLETARY STAKES
Arcature cuts back to a mile in Saturday’s $75,000 Singletary Stakes for three-year-olds
on turf, and trainer Simon Callaghan is confident the son of Archarcharch fits well.
The bay colt owned by Arnold Zetcher was a close fourth in the Pasadena Stakes at a
mile on grass March 13, beaten less than two lengths despite a wide trip.
“A mile is fine,” Callaghan said. “I think anywhere from a mile to a mile and an eighth
suits him, but he’s training great and it looks like he has a really good shot in there.”
Callaghan was understandably delighted with the impressive victory by Taris in the
Grade I Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.
“She definitely likes that distance (seven furlongs),” he said. “She’ll probably go in the
Vanity (Mile) next.” The Vanity is expected to attract champions Beholder and Stellar Wind, so it would definitely be an event worth seeing.
Firing Line, also owned by Zetcher, had his first breeze Tuesday since running in last year’s Preakness. Second to American Pharoah in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, Firing Line went three furlongs in 37.20. “He came out of it great,” Callaghan said.
The Singletary, which goes as the third race: Lucky Bryan, Victor Espinoza, 7-2;
Arcature, Flavien Prat, 8-5; Mr. Roary, Stewart Elliott, 10-1; Tristan’s Trilogy, Brice Blanc, 2-1; Unapologetic, Santiago Gonzalez, 8-1; and Opportunistic, Drayden Van Dyke, 6-1.
FINISH LINES: Trivia question: At what race track did Kelso (five time Horse of the Year from 1960 through 1964) break his maiden?. . . Congrats to Santa Anita Director of Community Services and Special Projects Pete Siberell, a man of many hats and a resident of Sierra Madre the past 20 years, on being named Grand Marshall of the Sierre Madre Fourth of July Parade. The volunteers of the Sierra Madre Fourth of July Committee note that “Pete has demonstrated time and time again that he is the Spirit of Sierra Madre.” . . . Fans can purchase a Trackside Package for the Tacos Y Cerveza Festival Saturday that hosts the best local taco vendors serving their delicious creations, including Mexican Craft beers on the trackside apron. Visit santaanita.com/events to purchase a trackside package for only $35 . . . Horse Racing Nation Southern California correspondent Scott Shapiro and Thoroughbred owner Roddy Valente will be Tom Quigley‘s guests, Saturday and Sunday, respectively, 12:50 p.m., in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Trivia answer: Long gone Atlantic City Race Course in Mays Landing, N.J. Bonus points if you name his rider. It was John Block, the lesser-known brother of jockey Henry Block. Their agent was brother Karl.