- DISTINCTIV PASSION ONE TO CATCH AGAIN
- A RAPID PACE WOULD FAVOR KOBE’S BACK
- ROUTINE EXERCISE FOR AMERICAN PHAROAH
- EDDIE D. RETURNS FOR RACE IN HIS HONOR
- ESPINOZA BACK RIDING WITH THE STARS
BONDE’S HORSE HAS A PASSION FOR THE LEAD
Barring the unforeseen, Distinctiv Passion will be where he always is when he runs in Saturday’s $300,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge race at six furlongs: in front as far as he goes.
The 5-year-old Florida-bred horse trained by Jeff Bonde has been on the lead at some point in all of his 19 career starts save the first, when he could get no closer than second by a head after a quarter mile, eventually winding up third.
Other than that, the versatile son of With Distinction has been a gem of consistency, winning eight races, with two seconds and four thirds, earning $476,400, running on dirt, turf and synthetic and winning over each surface. He has never raced beyond seven furlongs and will be ridden for the first time by Martin Pedroza on Saturday.
“He tries hard every time,” Bonde said. “He’s an honest horse.”
The field for the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, race eight of 10: San Onofre, Alex Solis, 6-1; Masochistic, Tyler Baze, 9-5; Glacken Too, Edwin Maldonado, 20-1; Kobe’s Back, Gary Stevens, 8-1; Distinctiv Passion, Martin Pedroza, 6-1; Wild Dude, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Indexical, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1; and Gimme Da Lute, Martin Garcia, 3-1.
PACE MAKES RACE FOR KOBE’S BACK, EURTON SAYS
On paper, it looks like there is enough pace in Saturday’s Santa Anita Sprint
Championship at six furlongs to aid the late running style of Kobe’s Back. But don’t count on it, trainer Peter Eurton says.
“The six furlong races have more pace than the seven furlong races,” he said. “He had no chance at Del Mar (fourth by 9 ½ lengths in the seven furlong Pat O’Brien Aug. 22, in which the first two fractions were 23 1/5 and 45 3/5). He had no chance at that point.
“With those kind of horses, you’ve got to have a 21 first quarter, just to soften things up a little bit.”
The Sprint Championship is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge race, with the winner gaining a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland Oct. 30 and 31.
Kobe’s Back, a 4-year-old gray son of A.P. Indy, has been away slowly in at least eight of his 14 career starts, but Eurton is inclined to dismiss those as excuses for his defeats.
“That’s not so critical,” he said. “He’s gotten off bad practically his whole life. It just depends on the pace and if he’s enjoying the race track. He doesn’t want to be too close too early, seemingly. Gary’s (Stevens) got his work cut out for him. He does a great job, but the horse has to comply, and he’s doing so well.
“The horse had a nice work last week, (five furlongs in a bullet 58 seconds) and he did it easily, so if Kobe wants to do it, he’ll make his presence felt.”
AMERICAN PHAROAH CONTINUES ON ROAD TO CLASSIC
Triple Crown winner American Pharoah continued to move towards the Breeders’ Cup
Classic at Keeneland Oct. 31, exercising under ideal conditions at the 6:30 a.m. break Thursday morning at Santa Anita.
Bob Baffert had the son of Pioneerof the Nile jog one mile and gallop one mile. American Pharoah was given a five furlong time of one minute flat for his workout at Santa Anita Sunday morning.
DELAHOUSSAYE ON HAND FOR EDDIE D. STAKES
Looking happy and healthy, 64-year-old Eddie Delahoussaye was a welcome visitor from his native Louisiana at Clockers’ Corner Thursday morning in advance of presenting a trophy to the winning connections of a race named in his honor Saturday, the Grade III, $100,000 Eddie D. Stakes for three-year-olds and up at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.
“Everything’s good,” said the popular Hall of Fame jockey, who retired in 2002. “We recently built a house in Lafayette and moved in three weeks ago. I was born in New Iberia, and Lafayette is about 25 miles south of there.
“Building the house was a nightmare. It took 10 ½ months; it required a lot of patience.
“But other than that, everything’s good. I can’t complain. We’re adjusting very well. I haven’t been doing too much otherwise, although Paddy Gallagher has a couple of horses here for me and some partners. We’re trying to keep things going in that regard.
“It’s good to be back and see everybody. I’ll tell you, Louisiana is good, but driving here again, you realize that California is just beautiful.”
Inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 1993, Delahoussaye began his career in 1967 and won 6,384 races from 39,213 rides, 16.30 percent. He is one of only four jockeys to win consecutive runnings of the Kentucky Derby, having done so with Gato del Sol in 1982 and Sunny’s Halo in 1983.
A winner of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Distaff with Princess Rooney at Hollywood Park in 1984, Delahoussaye won seven Breeders’ Cup races overall, including the 1992 Classic with A.P. Indy, who “Eddie D.” has consistently rated as the best horse he ever rode.
Delahoussaye led all North American jockeys with 384 wins in 1978 and was presented with Santa Anita’s prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1981.
The Eddie D.: Jimmy Bouncer, Mario Gutierrez, 4-1; Majestic City, Rafael Bejarano, 6-1; Midnight Storm, Tyler Baze, 7-2; Mr. Sexy, Drayden Van Dyke, 20-1; Quick and Silver, Brice Blanc, 30-1; No Silent, Gary Stevens, 5-1; Toowindytohaulrox, Tiago Pereira, 5-1; Maltes, Martin Pedroza, 20-1; Chips All In, Alonso Quinonez, 5-1; Safety Belt, Felipe Valdez, 12-1; and Melatonin, Martin Garcia, 15-1.
ESPINOZA DANCES BACK TO RACING
The most miscalculated evaluation in show business history is this infamous assessment from a casting director on legendary dancer Fred Astaire: “Can’t act, can’t sing, slightly bald, can dance a little.”
Fred Astaire was an original. Michael Jackson stole moves from him.
But Astaire had nothing to fall back on. Victor Espinoza does. So when he was voted off “Dancing With the Stars” after just over a week and three dances, the jockey who is one day headed to the Hall of Fame returned to what he does best: riding race horses.
“It was quite an experience for me, completely different from anything I had expected,” said a slimmed down version of the regular rider of American Pharoah, the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years and destined to be named Horse of the Year, as was California Chrome, who Espinoza rode to victory in two legs of the Triple Crown last year.
“It was fun after all, but a lot of work, a lot of training, and long, long days for the big day,” Espinoza said of his DWTS escapade. “I met a lot of incredible people there and everybody was super-nice. They all wanted to know what it was like to be a jockey, because I was the first one ever to be on the show. They were curious about me, very excited, and now they all want to come and watch the races.”
In that sense, there’s little doubt Espinoza’s and racing’s mainstream exposure on the highly-rated ABC-TV hit, now in its 21st season, helped the game. To use an old Yiddish expression, “It couldn’t hoit.”
Perhaps it was fate that brought Espinoza back to his main gig, but in any case, it was time. He had riding commitments, the most important of which is American Pharoah’s finale in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 31.
Like most jockeys a workaholic when it comes to fitness, the 43-year-old Espinoza is in better shape now than when he left to learn the finer points of terpsichorean lore.
“I dropped a lot of weight when I was training for the show,” he said. “I haven’t been this light since I was a bug boy (more than 20 years ago). I was tacking 116 pounds before the show. Now I’m like 113.
“I trained every day, no days off, six, seven hours a day. I had too much to learn on all those dances, all those moves and it was a lot to maintain mentally. I had to learn things in a short period of time, and for me, someone who had never danced before, it was more difficult.”
Judge Bruno Tonioli praised Espinoza for having “the commanding presence of a giant.” After all, Victor and his partner, Karina Smirnoff, did outlast singer Chaka Khan, the first star bounced from the show.
“I had to get into the proper rhythm, learn all the steps and have the right mind set,” Espinoza said. “But in the end, it was time for me to come back and ride, because it would be very, very difficult for me to continue be a dancer and a rider at the same time.”
Victor Espinoza: Can’t act, can’t sing, can dance a little.
FINISH LINES: Broadcast Analyst and top handicapper Jeff Siegel lists American Pharoah, Beholder and Honor Code as his top three picks among his Elite 8 in the Breeders’ Cup rankings. All Siegel’s rankings are updated when news breaks and appear at jsiegelracing.blogspot.com . . . Big Macher, winner of the Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes last July and smashing 4 ¾-length winner of the restricted Pirates Bounty Sept. on 7, passed on Saturday’s Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship. “He’ll train up to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (Oct. 31 at Keeneland),” trainer Richard Baltas said of the 5-year-old California-bred gelding. “He runs well fresh.” . . . Tom Quigley‘s guests this weekend in the East Paddock Gardens at 11:50 a.m. will be Santa Anita Simulcast host Millie Ball, Saturday, and Jeff Siegel Sunday . . . Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux had the highest win percentage, 19, of any member of the main jockey colony at the recent Del Mar meet. He had 21 wins from 108 mounts, with $1,147,144 in purse earnings . . . Tomorrow is Photography Day at Santa Anita. Photographers can receive special photo credentials that include Clubhouse Admission, hot breakfast, a Seabiscuit backstretch tour, a track program, and enjoy a panel conducted by trainers and jockeys. A $10 discount is available by using promo code HORSE2015 online only. Advance tickets are available at www.santaanita.com/events.