- MIDNIGHT STORM, PRAT READY FOR RICH GOLD CUP
- SANTA ANITA HONORS VETS WITH MEMORIAL DAY BBQ
- AVENGE FIRING BULLETS FOR THE GRADE I GAMELY
- ILLUMINANT GOES IN MONROVIA ‘WITH CONFIDENCE’
- HOME RUN KITTEN ‘FRESH’ FOR RETURN IN DAYTONA
- SONGBIRD TO MAKE 4-YEAR-OLD DEBUT IN NEW YORK
- SANTA ANITA LATE PICK 4 AND PICK 6 CONTINUE TO LEAD WAY
- CHAMBERS, STEVENS STILL A WINNING COMBINATION
D’AMATO HOPES FAMILIARTY BREEDS GOLD CUP VICTORY
Trainer Phil D’Amato hopes Midnight Storm gets an ideal trip from his number five post
position under new rider Flavien Prat in Saturday’s Grade I, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita for three-year-olds and up at a mile and a quarter.
“Flavien breezed him the other day and got to know him a little bit,” D’Amato said of the six-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile, who, with 10 wins from 23 starts, has earned $1,681,110.
“It’s going to be a very tactical race up front, and our horse can kind of do it all. He can be on the lead or he can track a little bit. He’s ready to go and in Flavien’s hands.”
The Gold Cup, race nine of 10 with a first post time of 1 p.m.: $10,000 supplemental nominee American Freedom, Martin Garcia, 4-1; Follow Me Crev, Kent Desormeaux, 4-1; Texas Ryano, Gary Stevens, 15-1; Prime Attraction, Jamie Theriot, 30-1; Midnight Storm, Flavien Prat, 5-2; Cupid, Rafael Bejarano, 6-1; Big John B, Mike Smith, 8-1; Accelerate, Tyler Baze, 4-1; and 2015 Gold Cup winner Hard Aces, Santiago Gonzalez, 8-1.
MEMORIAL DAY TRACKSIDE BBQ TO SUPPORT VETS MONDAY
.On Memorial Day, Monday, fans can offer their thanks to active and former service members and help support the local Veterans’ Memorial, sponsored by the Rotary Club Foundation of Arcadia.
A $5 donation (all proceeds go directly to the Veterans’ Memorial) includes General Admission to Santa Anita Park, a program, access to special trackside seating, and walking tours to the Paddock and Winner’s Circle throughout the day.
Delicious BBQ will also be available for purchase. Veterans or active military with valid Military ID will receive a voucher good for a free lunch, courtesy of Santa Anita horse owners, industry personnel, and Santa Anita Park. The BBQ menu ($12 per meal) offers spare ribs or pulled pork and two sides from a choice of three: baked beans, potato salad or cole slaw, plus a slice of white bread, pickles and onions.
The Rotary Club of Arcadia is spearheading an effort to build a local Veterans’ Memorial. The Field of Honor Project, involving 1,000 American Flags displayed at County Park at the corner of Huntington and Santa Anita during the week preceding Memorial Day will help to raise funds.
Those wishing to participate or donate should make their contribution to The Arcadia Rotary Club Foundation, Veterans’ Memorial Fund.
Please visit http://www.santaanita.com/events/memorial-day-charity-trackside/ for more information.
AVENGE SHARP FOR RETURN IN GAMELY
Avenge makes her first start in nearly seven months Saturday in the Grade I, $300,000 Gamely Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up, at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
The six-year-old War Front mare trained by Richard Mandella for owner Ramona Bass, LLC, last raced Nov. 5, 2016, finishing third by only a length after setting the pace in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita. She has been firing bullets for her return.
“Avenge has been away for a while but she looks good and has been working great,” Mandella said. “It’s a tough race. She’s been off a long time and was turned out basically just for R&R, but she’s trained real well since coming back.”
Two of her last six published workouts have been the fastest of the day for the distance. Avenge has won six of 13 career starts, with earnings of $651,996.
The field for the Gamely, race five: Avenge, Flavien Prat, 5-2; September Stars, Gary Stevens, 12-1; Pretty Girl, Mike Smith, 12-1; Goodyearforroses, Corey Nakatani, 4-1; Mokat, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; and Lady Eli, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 4-5.
ILLUMINANT OPTS FOR MONROVIA OVER GAMELY
Illuminant, who was nominated to both the Grade I, $300,000 Gamely Stakes and the Grade II, $200,000 Monrovia Stakes on Saturday, runs in the latter at about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf instead of the nine furlong Gamely on grass, which she won last year.
Illuminant won the restricted Wishing Well Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on Santa Anita’s turf March 10 before finishing seventh in the Grade I Jenny Wiley at 1 1/16 on Keeneland’s turf course April 15.
“She’s obviously been very good going down the hill and at 1 1/8 miles on turf, having won over both courses,” explained trainer Michael McCarthy. “She won the Gamely last year and has impressed the four times she’s run down the hill.
“There were a few things that went into our decision to run in the Monrovia: we can continue with Flavien Prat (who has ridden the five-year-old Quality Road mare in her last six races, winning three), plus, it still sets us up nicely for a summer program.
“Either way, we’re going to lead her over there with a lot of confidence.”
The Monrovia: Swift Lady, Martin Garcia, 15-1; Spy Ring, Mike Smith, 20-1; Watch This Cat, Rafael Bejarano, 10-1; Illuminant, Flavien Prat, 9-5; Coniah, Irad Ortiz Jr., 8-1; Juno, Kent Desormeaux, 8-1; Paquita Coqueta, Gary Stevens, 8-1; Enola Gray, Tyler Baze, 5-2; and Anita Partner, Brice Blanc, 12-1.
HOME RUN KITTEN TAKES THE FIELD FOR DAYTONA STAKES
Home Run Kitten makes his first start in nearly 10 months in Saturday’s Grade III, $150,000 Daytona Stakes for three-year-olds and up at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.
The six-year-old son of prolific grass stallion Kitten’s Joy runs well fresh, however, and trainer David Hofmans is hopeful the chestnut full horse owned by principal owner Tarabilla Farms continues that trend.
“He’s coming back fresh and strong, but it’s really a tough race he’s in,” Hofmans said. “I have no other place to run him right now, so here we are.”
Hofmans said Home Run Kitten’s extended absence was due to a foot problem incurred after his last race, the Grade I Bing Crosby on dirt at Del Mar July 31, 2016, “but he’s OK now.”
The Daytona: Ambitious Brew, Mike Smith, 5-2; Blackjackcat, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; Eddie Haskell, Mario Gutierrez, 10-1; Roy H, Edwin Maldonado, 4-1; Home Run Kitten, Joe Talamo, 6-1; and Stormy Liberal, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 6-5.
TWO-TIME CHAMP SONGBIRD BREEZES FOR OGDEN PHIPPS
Two-time champion Songbird will make her four-year-old debut in the Grade I, $750,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont Park on June 10, in lieu of the Grade I, $400,000 Beholder Mile at Santa Anita June 3, Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said after the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro worked six furlongs in 1:13.80 at 6:30 a.m. Thursday under Mike Smith.
“It was a real good work,” Hollendorfer said of Songbird, whose only loss in 12 starts was by an excruciating nose to Beholder in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita last Nov. 5.
“She surely will (go in the Phipps),” Hollendorfer said. “We think Stellar Wind and Vale Dori (both scheduled to run in the Beholder) are two of the best fillies in the country, and we think there are a lot of good fillies who are going to run in the Phipps, too, but the boss (owner Rick Porter, who races as Fox Hill Farms) wanted to run there.”
Songbird was given fractional times of 24, 48.20 and 1:01, with a seven furlong gallop out clocking of 1:27.
Added Smith, who has ridden Songbird in all 12 of her races: “She looks good, seems happy, and is hitting the ground good. Everything’s great. She’s fit, and she’s still got another work to go, so that’s even better.”
Also working Thursday was Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Battle of Midway, going five furlongs in 1:01.80. Hollendorfer noted if all goes well, Battle of Midway would run in “the Affirmed for sure,” and possibly the Grade I, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park after that. The Affirmed, named for the 1978 Triple Crown winner, is a Grade III race at Santa Anita on June 24. The Haskell will be run July 30.
SANTA ANITA LATE PICK 4 AND PICK 6 ARE NATION’S LARGEST
Starting with the 2017 Winter Meet that began last Dec. 26 and extending into the Spring portion currently underway, Santa Anita continues to offer the nation’s biggest Late Pick 4 and Pick 6 pools.
The average Late Pick 4 pool from Dec. 26 through May 21 was $699,347. The average weekend Late pick 4 pool during that span was $851,720.
The average Pick 6 pool from Dec. 26 through May 21 was $220,211; the average Pick 6 payout during that period was $64,246.
In addition, Santa Anita’s Single Ticket Pick 6 Jackpot has been hit 11 times from Dec. 26 through May 21, at an average payout of $289,063. The popular Jackpot made a player a millionaire on April 6, returning $1,199,286.40.
‘DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN’ AS CHAMBERS, STEVENS TEAM FOR WIN
To quote the late Yogi Berra, it was “Déjà vu all over again” this past Saturday at Santa Anita, as Gary Stevens once again brought his Hall of Fame riding skills to bear in the 11th and final race aboard a horse trained by his longtime friend Mike Chambers, who helped Stevens launch his incredible career 36 years ago at Longacres Park near Seattle.
Most recently campaigned at Turf Paradise, Wood Machine, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Curlin, was entered for a $32,000 claiming tag at a flat mile on turf. Off at 9-1 in a field of eight, he rallied four-wide turning for home and in a protracted drive, was up to win by a half length.
“I first started riding for Mike in 1981 and he really helped me get going,” said Stevens, from the Santa Anita Jockeys’ Room on Sunday. “He got me rolling in Seattle and that led to a snowball for me down here. I was at his barn first thing in the morning, every morning. We’re super close, we’re like brothers.”
A jockey/trainer combination to be reckoned with in any locale and on any stage, Stevens and Chambers teamed up to win the1985 Hollywood Juvenile Championship by eight lengths with Washington-bred Hilco Scamper. Twelve years later, they partnered with the multiple graded stakes winning sprinter Hesabull in the 1997 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Hollywood Park. Although he led well inside the sixteenth pole, Hesabull was beaten a half length by a fast finishing Elmhurst, with Corey Nakatani up.
“When I won that race Saturday, I told some guys here in the room, ‘It’s been about 30 years since I won a race in these colors. He wasn’t able to be here, he’s up in Alaska right now, but I texted him and he texted back, ‘You’re the best. We’ve still got it!’
“Coming into that race, Mike had 10 starters this year, with three winners,” Stevens said. “He’s got horses here now and he wants to build his stable. It’s great to have him back.”
With Stevens still going strong at 54 and Chambers, 69, back in Southern California with a small stable, it’s safe to say we haven’t heard the last of this timeless duo, who’ve shared a lot of wins and even more laughs through parts of four decades.
FINISH LINES: Trainer Ian Kruljac plans to work champion Finest City Saturday “to see if she feels like running in the Beholder.” . . . Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint runner-up Om, who worked six furlongs Wednesday in 1:14.20 as he nears a return to the races, could surface at Santa Anita before the meet ends July 4, trainer Dan Hendricks said . . . Musical agents, take two: J.R. Pegram now represents Edwin Maldonado in addition to Stewart Elliott; Nelson Arroyo has Kent Desormeaux and his brother, Norberto Jr.; Tommy Ball has Israel Ocampo and Chantal Sutherland; apprentice Ruben Fuentes has Saul Marquez; and Joe Griffin, who formerly had Maldonado, is looking for a rider . . . Outside looking in dept.: Thisone’sforjimmy, 8-1 morning line chance in today’s fifth race, starts from post position three after landing the one hole in her last four races . . . There is a single ticket Pick Six carryover today of $253,350 . . . Martin Pedroza is suspended three days through May 29 for causing interference on Crown the Kitten in Saturday’s 11th race, resulting in a disqualification from second to fifth.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Sunday, May 21)|
|Norberto Arroyo, Jr.||45||7||6||8||16%||47%||$392,348|