- AWESOME AGAIN NEXT RACE FOR MELATONIN?
- SONGBIRD WORKS FOR EAST COAST CAMPAIGN
- NYQUIST ‘FANTASTIC’ AFTER PUBLIC WORKOUT
- MICHAEL WRONA & THE GOLD CUP–THEN & NOW
- REMATCH LOOMS FOR BEHOLDER, STELLAR WIIND
MELATONIN ‘LOOKS GOOD,’ COULD WAIT FOR AWESOME AGAIN
Melatonin, racing’s newest “overnight sensation,” was resting on his expanding laurels Sunday at Santa Anita, where the son of Kodiak Kowboy is unbeaten in four races, including two Grade I’s, the Santa Anita Handicap and yesterday’s Gold Cup at Santa Anita.
The growing fan base of the five-year-old gelding trained by David Hofmans for Susan Osborne’s Tarabilla Farms may have to wait three months to see their hero race again.
“So far he looks good,” said Hofmans, back on the beat as usual with his assistant and nephew, Brent Fabbri. “He ate up last night which is a key thing, because horses that run as hard as he did sometimes don’t eat up.
“I was very proud of him. That was his best race. He ran two seconds faster than his last race at a mile and a quarter (1:59.79 for the Gold Cup; 2:02 flat for the Santa Anita Handicap on March 12). I was very pleased with his effort yesterday.
“I don’t have a race in mind for him right now. I’ve got to give him time, because he’s not that big a horse. Maybe the Awesome Again here. I don’t know. We’ll see.”
The Awesome Again will be run at Santa Anita on Oct. 1.
Melatonin had not raced for two months before the Gold Cup, having finished second to Effinex in the Oaklawn Handicap April 16.
For the 73-year-old Hofmans, who celebrated his fourth wedding anniversary Saturday with his wife, Linda Murray, widow of the late, great Los Angeles Times columnist, Jim Murray, Melatonin’s surprising success was but one in the 42-year racetrack run for the Los Angeles native.
Hofmans won the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Distaff with 40-1 shot Adoration; the 2008 Turf Sprint at 36-1 with Desert Code; and the $4 million Classic in 1996 with Alphabet Soup, who paid $41.70 in upsetting two-time Horse of the Year Cigar. Hofmans also saddled Touch Gold for Frank Stronach to win the 1997 Belmont Stakes, costing Silver Charm the Triple Crown.
The Gold Cup was a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race, insuring a fees-paid berth to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 5, waiving a $150,000 entry fee.
SONGBIRD BREEZES FOR EAST COAST SWING
Superstar filly Songbird, preparing for a tour back East that will include the Grade I Alabama Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 20, worked four furlongs under regular rider Mike Smith early Sunday morning in 49.20 for Jerry Hollendorfer, who won six races Saturday, three at Santa Anita and three at the Oak Tree at Pleasanton session.
“It was just a real nice work,” said the Hall of Fame trainer who has sent out more than 7,100 winners. “She went off slow and finished up good. We were all happy afterwards.”
Addressing Saturday’s six victories, Hollendorfer took it in stride. “We had a real good day,” he said. “We’re very grateful.”
Asked if he had ever won six races in one day, Hollendorfer said, “I don’t remember.”
NYQUIST WORK ‘EXACTLY WHAT WE WANTED’
Kentucky Derby king Nyquist treated his fans to a public workout Saturday, recording his second breeze since finishing third in the Preakness Stakes on May 21, going five furlongs in 1:02.07 before the first race at Santa Anita.
Regular rider Mario Gutierrez was aboard for the drill, which took place on a pristine track some 45 minutes before the first race of the day that went off at 1:32 p.m.
Nyquist went the first quarter mile in a leisurely 26.08, then picked up the pace considerably to reach the half-mile marker in 49.20 before achieving a final time of 1:02.07.
“It wasn’t super-fast, but it was exactly what we wanted,” trainer Doug O’Neill said after the work. “It was only his second breeze since the Preakness and I like the way he finished.
“Our ultimate goal is the Breeders’ Cup Classic (at Santa Anita Nov. 5), so we’ll huddle up with the Reddams (Paul and Zillah) and the rest of the team and work backwards from that race. We’ll know more as we go along before coming up with a target race. He looked fantastic Sunday morning.”
A decision on the next race for Nyquist may not surface for at least a week, because O’Neill is going on a rare and welcome vacation next week to Montana.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
TWENTY SIX YEARS LATER, WRONA IS AGAIN SPOT-ON WITH GOLD CUP CALL
It was 26 years ago, June 24, 1990, when a newly arrived 24-year-old Australian race caller named Michael Wrona called the action as reigning Breeders’ Cup Classic Champion, Horse of the Year and past Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence went toe to toe with eventual Horse of the Year Criminal Type in the 50th Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup.
- Wayne Lukas and Jose Santos were to triumph that day by a head over Charlie Whittingham and Patrick Valenzuela in a Gold Cup for the ages.
Fast forward to yesterday, and Wrona, now at age 50 and like the late Whittingham, devoid of “topside cover,” was back at the Gold Cup microphone for the first time since 1999–this time as the newly minted Voice of Santa Anita.
“I have to admit, as I was doing my preparation for the race and then again as they were going to the gate, I did reflect back on that first one with Sunday Silence and Criminal Type,” said Wrona. “There was so much drama with that one and yes, there was a lot of pressure too, because here I was, the new kid on the block and I’m calling what turned out to be one of the biggest races of the year.
“I’m just so thankful to Santa Anita for allowing me the opportunity to do this job and be in a position to again call races of this magnitude. If you talk to guys like Joe Talamo, Gary Stevens and Mike Smith, this is what our sport is all about. Getting the best horses in their respective divisions together and deciding things on the track.”
While Wrona allowed that yesterday’s field wouldn’t be compared to some of the epic runnings of the Gold Cup, dating back to Seabiscuit’s win in the inaugural edition in 1938, his adrenaline was flowing at full speed as the stretch run unfolded.
“In my mind, there was no question that Melatonin was the horse to beat,” he said. “When he took the lead turning for home after those soft fractions, you knew he was going to be extremely tough, but Gary Stevens had other ideas. I mean, he had Win the Space, the longest shot in the race, in a position to win with less than a furlong to run but Melatonin showed his class and was drawing off at the end.”
Wrona described it thusly: “Melatonin’s the leader. He’s pulling away. Dave Hofmans has transformed this gelding into a star stayer! Melatonin wins from Win the Space…”
“We’ve seen some great performances just at this Spring Meet alone,” said Wrona. “From Songbird winning the Summertime Oaks and Beholder winning both the Adoration and the Vanity, Melatonin validated his win in the Big ‘Cap with that win yesterday and he proved he belongs on the same stage with the best horses in the country.”
Fittingly, Michael Wrona has proven himself a worthy successor to one of Santa Anita’s all-time greats as he sets the stage daily in his hard-earned role as The Voice of Santa Anita.
FINISH LINES: Champion females Beholder and Stellar Wind, first and second in the Grade I Vanity Mile on June 4, each worked Sunday at Santa Anita for a possible rematch in the Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on July 30. Beholder went five furlongs in 59 flat for Richard Mandella, while Stellar Wind went the same distance in 1:00.80 for John Sadler, who called the drill “perfect.” Said Mandella: “It was a little faster than I wanted, but it was a nice five-eighths.” . . . San Felipe Stakes winner Danzing Candy worked six furlongs in 1:13 for Bob Baffert, who has the son of Twirling Candy set for next Saturday’s Grade III Affirmed Stakes. Leading rider Rafael Bejarano has the mount in the 1 1/16-mile race for three-year-olds . . . Santa Monica winner Lost Bus, prepping for the $100,000 Spring Fever Handicap on Monday, July 4, worked three furlongs for Gary Sherlock in 36 flat . . . Multiple graded stakes winner Om, back with Dan Hendricks after being turned out, went three furlongs in 38 seconds flat . . . Firing Line, second to Triple Crown king American Pharoah in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 for Simon Callaghan, who has the son of Line of David on course for a meeting with California Chrome in the San Diego Handicap on July 23 . . . Santa Anita clockers had a busy Sunday, with 324 recorded workouts, including 30 on the training track . . . Santiago Gonzalez rides at Monmouth Park today, piloting El Deal for trainer Andrew Lakeman in the $75,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes for three-year-olds and up at six furlongs . . . On Friday, July 1 through Sunday, July 3, the largest Asian-themed night market in the United States takes place at Santa Anita in the form of 626 Night Market. The growing entertainment tradition features merchandise vendors, games, food, music, and more. For more information, visit santaanita.com/events or www.626nightmarket.com . . . Santa Anita resumes live racing on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. There is free Grandstand Admission Thursday and Friday, along with free general admission parking. Santa Anita offers holiday racing on Monday, July 4, with first post time at 1:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 11:30 a.m.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Saturday, June 25)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||57||5||7||8||9%||35%||$321,664|
|Hector O. Palma||20||5||4||0||25%||45%||$92,775|