- EURTON COMEBACKERS SURFACE THIS WEEKEND
- NO PLACE LIKE HOME (SANTA ANITA) FOR STEVENS
- KYLE NOT FRAYED BY HIS FIRST BIG APPLE VICTORY
- FRANCO RIDING FOR TITLE ON ‘TOUGHEST CIRCUIT’
EURTON EYES SUCCESSFUL STAKES WEEKEND
Trainer Peter Eurton hopes Cheekaboo and Ashleyluvssugar run well fresh in their Santa Anita stakes engagements this weekend, the former in the $100,000 Fran’s Valentine at a mile on turf Saturday, the latter in Sunday’s $100,000 Crystal Water, also at a mile on grass.
Cheekaboo, a five-year-old Unusual Heat mare, last raced on March 17, 2017, finishing fourth in the Irish O’Brien. Ashleyluvssugar, a seven-year-old gelded son of Game Plan, led into the stretch before eventually winding up sixth in his most recent start, the Grade II Del Mar Handicap last Aug. 19.
“She needed some rest,” Eurton explained of Cheekaboo’s lengthy absence. “She had some minor issues that right now, knock on wood, are very good. Sunday’s race is a good spot for Ashley, regardless of how tough it comes up.
“It’s a mile, he’s trained well to this point, and we’ll have to see what we have in mind for him after that, because he is seven years old.”
The field for the Fran’s Valentine, race nine of 12 with a 12 noon first post time: Speakers, Drayden Van Dyke; Halo Darlin, Stewart Elliott; Cheekaboo, Rafael Bejarano; Coco Kisses, Gary Stevens; Lynn’s Legacy, Kyle Frey; Moonless Sky, Kent Desormeaux; Desert Steel, Brice Blanc; supplemental nominee Cordiality, Tyler Baze; Shy Carmelita, Joe Talamo; supplemental nominee How About Zero, Mario Gutierrez; and Barbara Beatrice, Tiago Pereira.
STEVENS BACK HOME AT SANTA ANITA WITH MATOS
Gary Stevens was a welcome and familiar sight at Santa Anita Thursday morning after a successful campaign in Arkansas and Kentucky.
“It’s good to be home,” the Hall of Fame veteran said under a spectacular setting dominated by blue skies and sunshine. “I had a good winter at Oaklawn and I’m looking forward to getting busy back home.”
Booking mounts for Stevens will be veteran agent Tony Matos, who also represents Evin Roman, Eclipse Award winner as outstanding apprentice of 2017. Needless to say, this is not the first rodeo for either Stevens or Matos.
“Between the two of us,” Stevens said, “we ought to be able to rustle up something.”
FREY SAVORS FIRST-EVER STAKES WIN AT BELMONT PARK
Kyle Frey was back on the beat at Santa Anita Thursday morning after a milestone triumph at Belmont Park last Saturday. The 26-year-old native of Tracy, California, piloted Blended Citizen to victory in the Grade III, $350,000 Peter Pan for Doug O’Neill.
It was Frey’s first-ever stakes win at vast Belmont Park.
“It was probably my biggest purse, as far as graded stakes go,” said Frey, who is represented by Bill Sadoo, now in his fourth year as an agent. “It was a blessing, that’s for sure. I was happy to have the opportunity to prove what the horse can do.”
If all goes well, Frey (pronounced FRAY) and Blended Citizen will return to Belmont Park for the June 9 Belmont Stakes, final jewel in the Triple Crown.
FRANCO IN PURSUIT OF SANTA ANITA CROWN
If Geovanni Franco doesn’t win Santa Anita’s Spring Meet riding title, it won’t be for lack of trying. Even though he starts a four-day suspension tomorrow through May 24, the 27-year-old Mexico City native has more mounts through 18 days than any other rider, 87, and with 16 victories, is only two behind leader Flavien Prat.
“We’ve been working hard and we’re very happy,” Franco said, alluding to his agent, James Giannone. “This is the toughest circuit, but thanks to Jim and The Man Upstairs, we’ve been doing all right. It’s been very enjoyable, riding good horses and receiving respect and support from horsemen.
“It’s too bad we won’t be riding the next few days because of the suspension, but we’ll be happy to be back soon.”
Giannone and Franco first hooked up in 2013 at Turf Paradise where he won the riding title, parted ways for a while before reuniting in 2015, enjoying tours at the Fair Grounds, Remington Park and Canterbury Park.
Franco has made the most of his Santa Anita stakes opportunities, primarily with streaking winner Fault, trained by Phil D’Amato.
“He’s got a good set of hands, a good clock in his head and patience,” D’Amato said. “They are three attributes important for any successful jockey, and they’ve really helped Geo.”
FINISH LINES: Fans can enjoy Preakness Day this Saturday at Santa Anita, which will offer live music, Michelada flavors and a Michelada Rumble in the Infield, a trackside beer festival, brunch in the FrontRunner, a two-day Preakness betting challenge, the Bud Light Lounge and the Family Fun Zone. Tickets can be purchased at www.santaanita.com/events. Must be 21 or older . . . There is a massive Single Ticket Pick Six Jackpot carryover of $479,931 into Thursday, and a $300,000 guaranteed Late Pick Four pool of $300,000 . . . Trainer Dan Hendricks has veteran graded stakes winner Om ticketed for Memorial Day’s Grade I Shoemaker Mile, the first United States Breeders’ Cup Challenge qualifier of the 2018 series, a Win and You’re In event for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Sunday, May 13)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||56||8||9||7||14%||43%||$425,498|