ROSARIO, ANDERSON RETURN TO SANTA ANITA FULL TIME
SADLER: ‘TWO GOOD CHOICES’ FOR HORSE OF THE YEAR
AIR STRIKE TESTED FOR CLASS IN GRADE I MALIBU STAKES
NEW FACES FOR SADLER IN SAN ANTONIO, MATHIS BROS. MILE
POPULAR WALL CALENDAR FREE TO FANS ON OPENING DAY
OPENING DAY BEER & CIDER FESTIVAL ON GRANDSTAND APRON
ROSARIO REACHES APEX UNDER AGENT’S GUIDANCE
Joel Rosario was a superstar waiting to happen before Ron Anderson took his book.
Since the jockey and agent joined forces in August of 2012, it’s been a match made in heaven, a rocket ship ride that has catapulted the 33-year-old Dominican Republic native and his 63-year-old mentor among racing’s elite.
Rosario’s career likely will one day be culminated with a place in the Hall of Fame.
Anderson’s agenda has Rosario riding full time at Santa Anita this meet, which makes sense, considering he is the regular rider of Horse of the Year contender Accelerate, bound for the $9 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park Jan. 26, and undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and early Kentucky Derby favorite Game Winner, both based at Santa Anita.
Rosario had made his headquarters primarily on the East Coast before heading west again. He had made Southern California his home in the past, however.
“There are lots of things going on,” said Anderson, who in a career of some four decades has also represented Jerry Bailey, Gary Stevens, Chris Antley, Garrett Gomez and Kent Desormeaux. “With Joel, we were just looking for a change, that’s all . . . We just wanted a change and we’ll see what happens.”
Anderson attributes basic common sense to his success over the years.
“At the end of the day, it’s not jockey racing; it’s horse racing,” he said. “So the agent and the jockey have to get on the right horse. Generally, a jockey can’t make a horse win. It’s a combination of things, and I’ve been lucky enough to have represented the right riders.
“People have asked me what it takes to become a top agent, and there’s no real blueprint to any of this. It’s all about being correct with people . . . We’re in a business that if you’re winning at 15 or 20 percent, you’re setting the world on fire, so it’s a lot more negative than positive.
“Plus, there’s so much more going on in most people’s lives than winning the third race on Friday. It could be turmoil with parents or kids, health issues, problems at work, trouble with the spouses, so you’ve got to understand that when you approach people to make a pitch, it’s good to catch them at the right time and not be a source of annoyance.”
ACCELERATE ONE OF ‘TWO GOOD CHOICES’ FOR HORSE OF THE YEAR
Horse of the Year will be announced Jan. 24, and it will be either Justify or Accelerate, currently in a pitched battle for honors five weeks before the winner will be revealed.
To the credit of both camps, there has been no vicious or vindictive mud slinging, personal attacks or demonizing, as is rampant 24/7 in today’s political arena, where uncorroborated allegations have become the norm.
Bob Baffert, trainer of undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify, has been benign in his recognition of the accomplishments of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate, trained by John Sadler, who received equal time Tuesday to lobby for his candidate, winner of six of seven starts this year, five of them Grade I stakes, four at a mile and a quarter.
“They are two good choices; that’s what’s really nice about it,” Sadler said. “All I can do is make the case for my horse, who achieved many remarkable achievements this year: five Grade Is, four at the classic distance of a mile and a quarter, most of the time carrying high weight (from 122 pounds to 126), which is not easy to do.
“He won the Pacific Classic by the largest margin (12 ½ lengths) by which any horse has ever won it. He won good races all year long against whatever horses they put against him. In the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he faced the best horses and beat them all (13 rivals by a length while breaking from the extreme outside 14 post position).
“Accelerate and Justify had spectacular campaigns, although Accelerate earned slightly faster speed ratings and his Ragozin numbers were excellent. I think perhaps some voters were waiting to see how the three-year-olds fared in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, so there’s a little cloud floating out there in that respect.
“It wasn’t Justify’s fault he got hurt (and was retired after winning the Belmont Stakes on June 9). That said, Accelerate’s had a wonderful career, so the voters will decide.”
Accelerate still has the Grade I, $9 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 26 as his final race before being retired to stud at Lane’s End in Versailles, Ky. The five-year-old chestnut son of Lookin At Lucky has had two breezes towards that prestigious race staged by The Stronach Group since capturing the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4.
“We’re looking forward to the Pegasus,” Sadler said. “Accelerate will breeze five furlongs again this Saturday, and he’s right on target.”
AIR STRIKE GETS CLASS TEST IN GRADE I MALIBU
Air Strike, a consistent and versatile son of Street Sense, will get tested for class in the Grade I Malibu Stakes opening day, Wednesday, Dec. 26, but trainer Phil D’Amato is optimistic.
“He’s a horse that continues to improve, and he’s going to have to keep improving for the Malibu,” D’Amato said. “But he likes it here at Santa Anita where he won (an allowance race on Oct 8). The Malibu is the last Grade I (of the year) for three-year-olds, so we’ll give it a shot.”
Florent Geroux, who rode Air Strike to a second-place finish last out in the Zia Park Derby Nov. 21, retains the mount in the Malibu.
As to the outlook for Santa Anita’s premier meet, D’Amato once again has a diverse stable that figures to make its presence felt throughout the campaign.
“We’re going to have a lot of new faces here, horses I’ve acquired from back east, abroad, you name it,” D’Amato said. “We’re looking forward to getting them started here and hopefully developing them into some nice horses.”
First post time for the 10-race opening day card is 11:30 a.m.
NEW FACES FOR SADLER IN SAN ANTONIO, MATHIS BROS. MILE
John Sadler will unveil a newcomer for principal owners Kosta and Peter Hronis when he sends out Gift Box in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes on opening day next Wednesday.
The five-year-old gray has been running in New York but has not raced since last March 24 when he won an allowance test at Aqueduct by nearly nine lengths.
“He’s got a good record back east and he’s training beautifully,” Sadler said of the full horse by Twirling Candy, who has a 3-5-2 record from 13 starts. “I think he could be a player in the handicap division.” Joel Rosario has the mount.
Another new face for Sadler is Sejo, a three-year-old owned by the Hronis brothers who makes his U.S. debut in the Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile for three-year-olds on turf opening day.
“He won his last two races in France,” Sadler said of Sejo, an Irish-bred son of Nathaniel, who has not raced since July 14. Irad Ortiz Jr., the nation’s leading rider this year in victories (more than 329) and purse earnings (over $27 million), has the mount.
Santa Anita and Mathis Brothers Furniture, sponsors of the race, will give away $10,000 worth of scholarships in conjunction with the event. Four students will be randomly selected to each receive a $2,500 scholarship.
For details, please visit santaanita.com/college.
SPECTACULAR SANTA ANITA WALL CALENDAR FREE ON OPENING DAY
Racegoers will again be treated to one of the best gifts of the year, the day after Christmas, as Santa Anita’s 82nd Winter Meet opener on Wednesday, Dec. 26 will provide each attendee with a spectacular Santa Anita Wall Calendar, free with paid admission.
Themed “Santa Anita Triples,” the 2019 calendar will honor three Santa Anita-based Triple Crown Champions; Affirmed (1978), American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018). Along with these three greats, each month will include a photo and brief description of past champions, dating back as far as the track’s founding in 1934, which have graced both the main track and turf course here at The Great Race Place.
Among those from the past who are shown in action at Santa Anita are four-time Eclipse Award winner and 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta; seven-time Eclipse winner and two-time Horse of the Year John Henry (1981 and 84), four-time Eclipse Award winner and three-time Zenyatta Stakes winner Beholder, nine-time Santa Anita stakes winner and three-time Santa Barbara Handicap winner Megahertz, four-time Eclipse winner and two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome (2014 and 16), seven-time Santa Anita stakes winner and three-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude and others.
With many of 2018’s top horses winning three or more major stakes, and in some cases going on to taste victory in the Breeders’ Cup, they will be recognized with large photos atop their respective months, in keeping with the calendar’s theme.
Santa Anita will present five stakes on opening day, headed by a pair of Grade I events at seven furlongs, the Malibu and La Brea. The Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile and the Grade II San Antonio Stakes will round out the graded stakes action, with the Lady of Shamrock Stakes supplementing the stakes roster.
For additional information on Santa Anita’s opening day wall calendar and a variety of opening day promotions and events, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.
SANTA ANITA TO HOST BEER & CIDER FESTIVAL OPENING DAY
In addition to world class racing, fans will be treated to Santa Anita’s Opening Day Beer and Cider Festival on Wednesday, Dec. 26. Held on the track’s Grandstand apron, attendees will be greeted by gourmet food trucks (around the Kingsbury Fountain adjoining the paddock), beer or cider tastings, a $5 wagering voucher, Club House admission, a racing program and access to Trackside and Grandstand seating area.
Additionally, the first 4,000 kids aged 12 and under and accompanied by an adult, will receive a beautiful stuffed toy horse, courtesy of Mathis Brothers Furniture, free of charge. (This offer good only in Grandstand Club House and General Admission areas).
The following Beer and Cider Festival packages are now available at santaanita.com:
GENERAL PACKAGE, available for $32
–Eight (3 oz.) Beer or Cider Tastings
–Five dollar Wagering Voucher
–Club House Admission (Ten Dollar value)
–Wagering Tip Sheet
–Access to Trackside and Grandstand Seating Areas
VIP PACKAGE, available for $75
–Eight (3 oz.) Beer or Cider Tastings
–One “Baldwin Buck” Specialty Cocktail featuring Woodford Reserve
–Five Dollar Wagering Voucher
–Access to Special VIP Trackside Seating
–Vintage Santa Anita Tee Shirt
–Club House Admission (Ten Dollar Value)
–Wagering Tip Sheet
–Access to Trackside and Grandstand Seating
Please note, fans must be 21 years or older to purchase these packages. Children are welcome in trackside seating areas with an adult. Eating is not guaranteed. For additional information, please visit santaanita.com, or call (626) 574-RACE.
FINISH LINES: Agent Scotty McClellan has Joe Talamo booked to ride Dabster, a consistent four-year-old son of Curlin trained by Bob Baffert, in the San Antonio Stakes, while James Giannone has Giovanni Franco named on Midshipman offspring Calexman for Vladimir Cerin in the Malibu. Baffert has engaged Joel Rosario to pilot Solomini in the Malibu . . . Selcourt, who won three stakes at Santa Anita early this year including the Grade II Santa Monica over Eclipse Award contender in the female sprint category Marley’s Freedom, is ticketed for the $75,000 Kalookan Queen Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs Jan. 13, trainer John Sadler said. The lightning-quick daughter of Tiz Wonderful worked five furlongs Sunday in 1:01.20 . . . Trainer Val Brinkerhoff is looking forward to a healthy and prosperous New Year after a 2018 worth remembering. “It was a banner year,” said the 63-year-old former jockey, who still gallops his own horses. He has 24 head for the upcoming meet, headed by the filly Watch Me Burn and the three-year-old gelding Restrainedvengence, who are three-quarters brother and sister, each sired in Kentucky by Hold Me Back.
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