- SADLER HOPES TO ‘ACCELERATE’ AT SANTA ANITA
- RECOVERING VICTOR ESPINOZA PLANS TO RIDE AGAIN
- TRAINER FINDS HIS NICHE IN HORSE RACING AND FILMS
- YOUNG AT HEART MATOS SET WITH STEVENS, ROMAN
HORSE OF THE YEAR HOPEFUL ACCELERATE SET FOR AWESOME AGAIN
John Sadler, as much a fixture in Southern California as beaches and bikinis, hopes to continue his successful run in the Golden State when Santa Anita begins its eagerly anticipated 22-day Autumn Meet next Friday, Sept. 28.
The 62-year-old trainer, a native of Long Beach, has a plethora of horses ready for opening weekend’s stakes races, headed by Horse of the Year candidate Accelerate in the Grade I Awesome Again Stakes for three-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles.
It is one of five Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events opening weekend that provides a fees paid berth to the winner for their respective Breeders’ Cup races Nov. 2 and 3.
“We had a great summer at Del Mar and we’re very happy about that,” said Sadler, who sent out Accelerate to capture the Pacific Classic by more than a dozen lengths under Joel Rosario, who will be back aboard for the Awesome Again.
Accelerate, a five-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky owned by Sadler’s principal clients, Kosta and Peter Hronis, is scheduled to work 6:30 Saturday morning for the Awesome Again.
Even though the winner won’t be announced for three months, a question on the tip of every racing fan’s tongue is, Who will be Horse of the Year, the retired Justify, only the second undefeated Triple Crown winner in history, or perhaps Accelerate, should he go on to capture the Awesome Again and the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4?
With a vested interested obvious, Sadler laughed and said, “I’ll vote for Accelerate,” adding in a more serious vein, “that’s a tough call.”
ESPINOZA CONTINUES RECOVERY, PLANS TO RIDE AGAIN
Victor Espinoza continues his lengthy recovery from a fractured vertebra in his neck suffered in a training mishap at Del Mar on July 22.
Recognized worldwide for his Triple Crown sweep aboard American Pharoah in 2015 and as the regular rider of two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome, the popular 46-year-old Hall of Fame jockey soldiers on from the most serious injury in his career of more than a quarter century.
“He’s progressing every day,” said his agent, Brian Beach, who also represents top apprentice Asa Espinoza, Victor’s 18-year-old nephew. “He says he kind of takes two steps forward and one step backwards.
“When you’re dealing with nerve damage, it responds in different ways. One day, you wake up and everything works again, so it’s kind of frustrating. He’s still in San Diego where he goes to rehab three days a week.
“He walks in his neighborhood three times a day and he’s trying to do as much as they’re letting him do. He doesn’t have to wear the neck brace all the time anymore, but he puts it on for different things, like riding in a car, because doctors want him to protect himself from sudden movements.
“He’s not allowed to drive yet, so he has to have someone drive him back and forth to physical therapy. He’s been in good spirits and he’s got a bright outlook, but this is all foreign territory for him. He’s really had a relatively injury-free career. He’s never spent a night in the hospital before.
“He had a broken wrist up at Bay Meadows way back and that was about it. He’s trying to follow doctors’ orders and he’ll see them again the first week in October. We’ll know more then. They’ll take new X-rays, MRIs and all that.”
Asked if all goes well would Victor resume riding, Beach said, “Yes. Unless he’s shut down by the doctors, he plans to come back. He’s never wavered from that since day one, and that’s all I can go on . . . He’s never given me any indication of anything else.”
BAROCIO HAS PASSION FOR HORSES AND FILMS
Trainer Librado (Lee) Barocio had two seconds at the recent Del Mar meet and has one victory at the current Los Alamitos session.
Nothing to write home about on the surface, but considering he has only five horses, 40 percent is a rarified number, and the 52-year-old native of Richmond in Northern California who took out his trainer’s license in 1998 is looking forward to bigger and better things as Santa Anita gears up for its Autumn Meet.
“I love horses and I love being around them,” Barocio said at Barn 1C Thursday morning, “although this is not my primary business. I direct and produce films, including major ones such as The Boyz Klub, The USS Indianapolis, and one we just finished called Speed Kills. One starred John Travolta, one Nick Cage and another Beau Bridges and Patrick Renna.
“That’s kind of what I do as a profession, but I treat racing as a profession, too. I found my niche with these old, hard-knocking horses, six, seven-year-olds that love the turf. I’ve had success in the past with reclamation projects like Is It True Mex and Trail Mix.
“I have a good groom (Gabriel Martinez), we work hard, and we’ve been lucky, thank God.”
VETERAN AGENT MATOS READY TO GO WITH ROMAN & STEVENS
Puerto Rican native Tony Matos, who’s been scouring the backstretches of America for jockey mounts for “more than 50 years” is bullish about the prospects of his current two-jockey stable as Santa Anita’s 22-day Autumn Meet approaches.
“Both Gary (Stevens) and Evin (Roman) are doing fantastic and we can’t wait for the meet to open,” said the ever up-beat Matos Thursday morning at Clockers’ Corner.
Stevens, 55 and a Hall of Famer who has won more than 5,000 races, including three Kentucky Derbies, and 20 year-old Roman, America’s Eclipse Award-winning Apprentice in 2017, provide Matos with a potent one-two punch heading into the fall.
“Both of my riders are doing good. Gary rides four at Laurel (Park, Md.) on Saturday and he’s on two for Sunday at Los Alamitos. We’re looking forward to having a great meet with both riders and believe me, it’s always great to be back at Santa Anita.”
Matos, the epitome of an indefatigable agent, is evasive whenever asked about his age but was happy to address how, at this point in his career, he continues to maintain such an optimistic outlook.
“I’m fortunate. I’ve had a lot of great riders (such as Angel Cordero Jr., Laffit Pincay Jr., Corey Nakatani, Victor Espinoza, Darrel McHargue, Garrett Gomez and others) and with Gary and Evin, I’ve got two outstanding riders at different stages of their careers.
“At this stage of my career, I love what I do.”
FINISH LINES: Elliott Walden, President, CEO and Racing Manager of WinStar Farm, was a visitor at Clockers’ Corner Thursday morning. “We’re just checking over some two-year-olds here with Bob (Baffert),” Walden said, adding they hold some breeding shares to undefeated Triple Crown king Justify (now at Ashford Stud in Kentucky), “and we’re looking forward to that. We don’t have any mares lined up but we’re getting ready to start next month, and we can’t wait to figure it out. We’re excited.” . . . .Champion West Coast and Ax Man each worked six furlongs in company for Baffert Thursday morning in a bullet 1:12.60 handily from the gate . . . Venerable Hoppertunity, earner of more than $4 million, also worked for Baffert, going five furlongs in 1:01.20 . . . Thom Mitchell, a clocker for the past 16 years, has turned in his stop watch to become a first-time agent, representing jockey Martin Garcia. “I’ve had his book since Del Mar ended,” said Mitchell, who can be reached at 714-856 5890. “We’re looking forward to a good meet.” . . . Brothers Eddie and Jerry Truman were reunited at Clockers’ Corner this morning happily recounting the old days when both were jockeys. Jerry, 78, is in from Sebastian, Florida, eight miles from Vero Beach, while Eddie, 71, is still a successful trainer in Southern California . . . Condolences to the families of long-time Santa Anita employees Kelly Knisley and Isidore Cazares, who both passed away within the past 10 days. Knisley, 60, was a popular program seller, while Cazares, 78, had been an usher for several decades.