- OH, BROTHER! THERE’S PAIN AND MISERY IN MALIBU
- BEN’S DUCHESS SET FOR GRADE I LA BREA STAKES
- GRASS NOT GREENER FOR SISE IN MATHIS MILE
- ‘BUG BOY’ BRUNO IS READY TO MAKE HIS MARK
- WALL CALENDAR AND MORE FREE ON OPENING DAY
OFF TRACK MIGHT RELIEVE PAIN AND MISERY
Pain and Misery’s only race on an off track resulted in a victory, so if it comes up mud in Saturday’s Grade I Malibu Stakes, it might enhance the chances of the Southwestern invader trained by Henry Dominguez for Black Gold Racing.
The bad news is, the win came in a maiden allowance race at Zia Park, not in a Grade I at Santa Anita, which begins its 79th season of world-class racing Saturday.
“The horse came in from New Mexico Sunday and he’s doing well,” said Henry’s brother, Caesar Dominguez, a fixture in California who has been training for 45 years.
“The track was closed for training this morning due to rain, but we may take him to the track to jog later today. He ate up well and he loves the mud.”
As to his younger brother, Caesar said with pride, “He’s more famous than Coca-Cola. He’s the man in New Mexico, one of the leading trainers, but he’s run many times in Southern California, especially at Del Mar. He always sends a string of horses there.”
Henry, a native of El Paso, Texas, has been leading trainer at Zia Park in New Mexico the last three years and has won two of the last three titles at Sunland Park, also in the Land of Enchantment. He earned his spurs during a nine-year tour with D. Wayne Lukas.
“Henry will be busy at Sunland Park Saturday,” Caesar said, “so I will saddle Pain and Misery for him in the Malibu. I’m ready for it, even though I’m 66 and Henry’s 55.
“I’m older but I look younger (chuckling).”
The field for the Malibu, race eight of nine: Pain and Misery, Tyler Baze, 20-1; Marking, Jose Lezcano, 5-2; Watershed, Joel Rosario, 4-1; Runhappy, Gary Stevens, 6-5; El Kabeir, Mike Smith, 8-1; Bad Read Sanchez, Mario Gutierrez, 30-1; and Lord Nelson, Rafael Bejarano, 5-1.
Two additional graded stakes will be decided Opening Day, the Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile and the Grade III Daytona.
First post time opening day is 12 noon. Admission gates open at 10 a.m.
BEN’S DUCHESS SHARP FOR GRADE I LA BREA
Ben’s Duchess seeks her first Grade I victory when she runs in the La Brea Stakes on opening day. The chestnut daughter of Munnings trained by John Sadler for Doubledown Stables, Inc. won the Grade III LA Woman Stakes in her most recent start on Oct. 4.
“The La Brea is a tough race, but she’s doing real well,” Sadler said. “She’s a stakes winner, so she fits in the race. We wanted to run her at Del Mar but the race didn’t fill, so she’s been off nearly three months.
“She’s training really, really well.”
Ben’s Duchess worked five furlongs Monday in a bullet 58.40–best of 70 at the distance.
She has never been out of the money in nine career starts, winning four with one second and four thirds, earning $222,936.
The field for the La Brea, which goes as the seventh race: Birdatthewire, Mike Smith, 6-1; Hot City Girl, Jose Ortiz, 3-1; Cavorting, Irad Ortiz Jr., 5-2; Maybellene, Rafael Bejarano, 15-1; Lily Pod, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1; Ben’s Duchess, Joe Talamo, 3-1; Rattataptap, Tyler Baze, 12-1; Pleasant Tales, James Graham, 20-1; Moyo Honey, Drayden Van Dyke, 20-1; and Finest City, Gary Stevens, 8-1.
DIRT WOULD AID GROUND RULES IN MATHIS MILE
One trainer who wouldn’t mind the Mathis Brothers Mile coming off the turf Saturday is Cliff Sise Jr., conditioner of Ground Rules for owners/breeders Marty and Pam Wygod.
A three-year-old son of Smart Strike, Ground Rules had an eventful start last out in the Let It Ride on turf at Del Mar Oct. 31, finishing a distant sixth.
Otherwise, he has three solid efforts on dirt.
“I entered hoping it would be run on dirt,” Sise said of Ground Rules, who scored his first win in a maiden allowance race on Santa Anita’s main track last June.
The Kentucky-bred bay has two wins from six starts and seeks his first stakes win in the Mathis Brothers Mile.
The field for the Mathis Brothers Mile: Ground Rules, Rafael Bejarano, 12-1; Perfectly Majestic, Kent Desormeaux, 12-1; Crittenden, Martin Garcia, 12-1; Professor Berns, Brice Blanc, 15-1; Soul Driver, Tyler Baze, 8-1; Mister Brightside, Mike Smith, 4-1; Acceptance, Alonso Quinonez, 12-1; Ike Walker, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; Vigilante, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Om, Gary Stevens, 5-2; Ocho Ocho Ocho, Santiago Gonzalez, 10-1; and Fueled by Bourbon, Joel Rosario, 10-1.
‘BUG BOY’ BRUNO HOPES TO FIND A HOME AT SANTA ANITA
Among the world’s most famous Brunos are Bruno Sammartino, who held the World Wide Wrestling Federation championship for 11 straight years, and current pop icon Bruno Mars, singer, song writer and idol of countless music groupies.
Sammartino, now 75 and long retired from the mat, was 5-10 and 265 pounds in his prime. Mars, 30, is 5-5 and 148.
At 5-5 and 110 pounds, Bruno Panicucci doesn’t measure up to either in size or stature, but he’s working on it. Give him time.
The 20-year-old apprentice jockey is of Italian ancestry but was born in Marseilles, France. He came to America to ride a year ago and a major goal was to meet and learn from two Hall of Fame jockeys, Mike Smith and Gary Stevens.
Part of that mission has been gained, but Panicucci still has much to accomplish, and hurdles aside, he’ll get there,
“When he first came here, I asked him how he was getting to the track every day,” said Brandon O’Bryan, who has been Panicucci’s agent since the Del Mar meet ended last summer. “Are you getting a ride, is someone picking you up, are you riding a bike, do you drive?” I would ask him.
“He kind of stared at me like I was out of my mind and then pointed to the tack room. ‘I live there,’ he said. “He was living in a tack room. I thought he was kidding me but all the time, he was living right at the track.”
Panicucci’s sponsor was trainer Leonard Powell, himself a native of France.
“I rode four winners in France and three so far in the United States,” said Panicucci, who benefits from a seven-pound weight allowance.
“He’s improving by working horses every day,” said O’Bryan.
SHOWVIVOR RETURNS OPENING DAY AT SANTA ANITA
Santa Anita’s popular free online “Showvivor” will again be available to fans everywhere opening day, Saturday, Dec. 26.
Showvivor will offer participating fans $5,000 in prize money, highlighted by a $2,500 top prize, to be awarded to the longest “show streak” over the course of Santa Anita’s Winter and Spring Meetings which will conclude in mid-July.
Showvivor participants are required to select one horse from one race per racing day, and that horse must run no worse than third in order for the player to “Showvive.” If the player’s horse fails to finish 1-2-3, that individual is not eliminated, as he or she may start up a new streak the next racing day.
The player with the longest show streak at the conclusion of the Spring Meet will be declared the winner of $2,500.
Along with the longest “show streak” there are five separate ways to win, beginning Dec. 26:
–SHOW STREAK The player who has the longest “show” or no-worse than third-place finish streak at the end of the Spring Meet will win the Grand Prize of $2,500. Players are advised that if they fail to make an online selection on a given day, their streak is still alive, but they will not receive credit for days missed.
–WIN STREAK This carries a $1,000 prize and is intended to reward players who have selected the most consecutive first-place finishers. If a player fails to make a selection on a given day, his or her streak may continue, but the player will not receive credit for any days missed.
–TOTAL WINS At the conclusion of the Spring Meet, the player with the most total wins will win a $500 prize.
TOTAL PLACES This also carries a prize of $500 and rewards the player who selects the most total places (second-place finishes) through both the Winter and Spring meets.
WIN PAYOUT At the end of the Spring Meet, the player who has tabbed the highest single-day win payout will be awarded $500.
Fans are encouraged to sign up as early as possible at santaanita.com/showvivor, although registration will be available after Dec. 26. Daily online selections must be made no later than 10 minutes prior to first post time each racing day. For additional details, visit santaanita.com, or call (626) 574-RACE.
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita will give away its popular full color Wall Calendar free on opening day to all fans at the track with paid admission while supplies last. The theme of the 2016 calendar is “What’s in a name,” describing how some Thoroughbreds come by their peculiar monikers . . . The first 20,000 paid attendees will receive a $100 Mathis Brothers Furniture gift certificate, and the first 5,000 kids 17 and under accompanied by a paid adult will get a plush, mini-Thoroughbred toy, courtesy of the Mathis Brothers . . . Santa Anita will offer an opening day Trackside Package that includes special trackside seating, a free first drink, and an officially licensed American Pharoah T-shirt commemorating the first-ever Grand Slam champion of horse racing. Use promo code PHAROAH for $5 off the package price . . . THERE WILL BE A $1 MILLION GUARANTEED POOL IN THE LATE PICK 4 OPENING DAY, and a $150,000 guaranteed pool on the Pick 6. Each Thursday, Friday and on holiday Mondays, there will be $300,000 guaranteed in the Late Pick 4, and Saturdays and Sundays, it will jump up to $500,000, while the Pick 6 guarantee will remain at $150,000 . . . Multiple stakes winner Taris, who worked four furlongs last Friday in 49.40, could make her next start in one of two races at Santa Anita. “We were happy with it,” trainer Simon Callaghan said of the work. “It was just an easy breeze. We’ll keep an eye on the (Grade II) Santa Monica at seven furlongs (Jan. 23), but more than likely, we’ll wait for the (Grade II) Santa Maria Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth on Feb. 13.” As for Kentucky Derby runner-up Firing Line, Callaghan said, “He’s tack-walking for a little bit longer. He looks great, I’m really happy with him, and we’re going to start training him in two weeks or so.”