- WELL-HEALED TOM’S TRIBUTE SET FOR SAN GABRIEL
- BASEBALL NOSTALGIA REIGNS IN ‘NICK’ OF TIME
- DESORMEAUX OFF TO FAST START AT SANTA ANITA
- OPENING DAY ATTENDANCE & HANDLE NUMBERS WAY UP
TOM’S TRIBUTE SET FOR SATURDAY’S GRADE II SAN GABRIEL
Jim Cassidy expects Tom’s Tribute to rebound from a third-place finish as the 3-2 favorite in the Grade II Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar Nov. 28 when he runs in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
“He got cut up pretty good in the race,” the trainer said. “His whole hind leg was all cut up, but he worked yesterday (five furlongs on turf in 1:06.40), and everything’s all right now.”
With six wins from 15 starts including the Grade I Eddie Read at Del Mar last July, Tom’s Tribute is the most accomplished runner slated for the San Gabriel, having earned $622,880 for the Braly Family Trust.
Probable for the San Gabriel: Avanzare, Gary Stevens; Big Bane Theory, Joe Talamo; Edge of Reality, Flavian Prat; Finnegans Wake, Victor Espinoza; and Tom’s Tribute, Mike Smith.
WHAT’S IN A NAME? IT’S ABOUT BASEBALL FOR NICK ALEXANDER
Horse racing is the Sport of Kings and baseball is America’s Pastime.
Longtime ardent Thoroughbred owner and supporter Nick Alexander has found a way to combine the two games he loves by naming horses after diamond stars of yesteryear and those of mythical fame.
Cal McLish, a 2-year-old gelding owned and trained by Steve Miyadi in today’s second race, is named for Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish, a right-handed pitcher who played Major League baseball from 1944 to 1964, finishing with a 92-92 record for seven teams, starting with the Brooklyn Dodgers and ending with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Alexander also has a 2-year-old colt in today’s sixth at Golden Gate named Nellie Fox, a 15-time Major League All-Star with the Philadelphia Athletics, Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros. He was the American League Most Valuable Player in 1959 with the White Sox.
“Nick names his horses after baseball players,” Miyadi said Sunday morning. “He’s got Preacher Roe, Nellie Fox, Kluszewski (named for Ted “Big Klu” Kluszewski), but the thing is, he gives the horses named after Hall of Famers and near-Hall of Famers to (trainer Phil) D’Amato.
“I get the ones named after minor league players and those in movies. He gave me Marla Hooch from “A League of Their Own,” and Archie Graham from “Field of Dreams.” I get mythical minor leaguers. D’Amato gets Hall of Famers, so that’s a reflection on the trainers.
“Seriously, though, we have a lot of fun. We had another horse that ran in the Bay Area named Van Lingle Mungo, but we lost him.”
Van Lingle Mungo, a pitcher whose sing-song name and fiery off-field antics delighted Brooklyn Dodger fans in the 1930’s, died at 73 in 1985.
If Alexander continues to name horses for baseball players, Trevor Denman might have to change his signature starting gate call from “And away they go!” to “Play ball!”
TO HALL OF FAMER DESORMEAUX, A WIN IS A WIN
Winner of more than 5,600 races in his Hall of Fame career, 44-year-old Kent Desormeaux was excited as a teenager after he won his first race of the meet on opening day aboard Bench Light, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Mike Pender.
It was the sixth straight race Desormeaux had ridden the old class horse, who was in for a $40,000 claiming tag with no takers.
“It was nice to win on opening day, especially with a horse that’s been so good to me,” Desormeaux said. “He’s had some losses, but he always likes to win for me so it’s nice to see him do it again.
“He’s been running against the best turf horses in the state and Friday he was in with his friends. Winning never gets old,” the three-time Kentucky Derby winner said, “even if it’s on a $5,000 claimer.”
With two wins Saturday before departing for Japan to ride Soi Phet at Ohi Race Course in Tokyo for trainer Leonard Powell, Desormeaux increased his career total at Santa Anita to 1,023, good for eighth overall but light years behind leader Laffit Pincay Jr., who has 2,860.
OPENING DAY ATTENDANCE & HANDLE UP DRAMATICALLY
Santa Anita’s opening day on-track attendance Friday of 40,810, fueled in part by the track’s free infield admission program that brought in more than 10,000 race goers, was up 33 percent over last year and was the largest opening day gathering since 2011.
All sources handle of $17,026,448 represented a healthy 29 percent hike over 2013, while the on-track handle of $3,431,886 was up 11 percent over a year ago.
FINISH LINES: Under exercise rider Jesse Cardenas, bargain claim Big Macher worked six furlongs on a brisk Sunday morning in 1:14.60 for the $150,000 California Cup Sprint at six furlongs on Jan. 24. “It was a real easy work,” trainer Richard Baltas said. “He galloped out (seven furlongs) in (one) 28 just cruising around there.” . . . With rain forecast early next week, Big Macher was one of 227 horses that had works recorded on Santa Anita’s main track Sunday morning . . . Warm Breeze, a candidate for next Sunday’s Grade II Monrovia Stakes for older fillies and mares at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf, worked four furlongs on the main track in 47.40 for Simon Callaghan. Kieren Fallon rides in the Monrovia. Others likely for the Monrovia include Biorhythm (Drayden Van Dyke), Heat Trap (Victor Espinoza), Sky Treasure (Corey Nakatani) and Wishing Gate (Gary Stevens) . . . Bob Baffert has impressive maiden winner Callback ticketed for Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 6 ½ furlongs. The Hall of Fame trainer has won the race four times, starting in 2004 with Yearly Report for Golden Eagle Farm and as recently as last year with Awesome Baby for Kaleem Shah . . . Trainer Jeff Bonde, on what he liked when he bought Saturday’s Midnight Lute Stakes winner Distinctiv Passion at the OBS yearling sales for $65,000: “He’s built like Michael Jordan and he runs like him.” . . . Every Thoroughbred turns a year older on New Year’s Day next Thursday, but they’re not alone. Trainer Gary Sherlock celebrates his 69th that day . . . Santa Anita will be dark Monday and Tuesday but reopen for live racing New Year’s Eve, Wednesday, Dec. 31, and race through Sunday, Jan. 4. First post time is 12:30 p.m. . . . Thanks to this item in Sports Illustrated, we end the year on a mirthful note with this nugget of a malaprop from the late baseball great and New York Mets’ announcer for 53 years Ralph Kiner, who died at the age of 91 in 2014: “It’s Father’s Day today at Shea, so to all you fathers out there, happy birthday.”