- MINOR AWARDS MAJOR IN SANTA ANITA HANDICAP
- ROOKIE EYES GIANT BIG ‘CAP UPSET ON 50-1 SHOT
- HOLLENDORFER’S EFFORTS ARE A WORK OF ART
- DENMAN REMEMBERS HIS GREATEST BIG ‘CAPS
- TRAINER ‘SISES’ UP SAN FELIPE AS ‘TRIP’ RACE
- CONQUEST TWO STEP ON THE MARK FOR SAN CARLOS
- MEGA HEAT HOT HORSE FOR GRADE I KILROE MILE
- VINTAGE COLOR SEABISCUIT VIDEO TO AIR ON SIMULCAST NET
MANDELLA EYES FOURTH WIN IN SANTA ANITA HANDICAP
Richard Mandella has been known to kill a giant or two in a Hall of Fame career that began in 1974. Perhaps his most memorable hit came in 1996 when Dare and Go ended Cigar’s 16-race winning streak in the Pacific Classic.
Mandella will attempt to add another notch on his holster when he sends out Catch a Flight in Saturday’s Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino.
Catch a Flight, a 5-year-old Argentine-bred horse, registered his first U.S. victory from his second stateside start when he won an overnight race at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 13 under Gary Stevens, who will be seeking his fifth Big ‘Cap win, his last coming in 2005 aboard Rock Hard Ten, who also was trained by Mandella.
“He’s an improving horse and those are always dangerous, I think,” Mandella said of Catch a Flight, a son of Giant’s Causeway who won six of 10 starts in his native country. “He’s showed enough to give the Big ‘Cap a try. I’m not sure if he’s up to this level, but we’re going to find out. You can’t win if you’re not in.”
Noting the obvious in stating Shared Belief is the horse to beat, Mandella pointed out, “They pay pretty good down the line,” alluding to Big ‘Cap second money of $200,000; third, $120,000, fourth $50,000; fifth $20,000; and sixth $10,000. The winner gets $600,000.
“This is a race anybody in racing wants to win, particularly if they’re from California,” said Mandella, who was born in Altadena and has captured the Santa Anita Handicap three times, with Siphon (1997), Malek (1998) and Rock Hard Ten.
The Santa Anita Handicap: Cool Samurai, Aaron Gryder, 30-1; Diamond Bachelor, Martin Garcia, 50-1; Sr. Quisqueyano, Joe Talamo, 10-1; Dynamic Sky, Corey Nakatani, 15-1; Shared Belief, Mike Smith, 3-5; Moreno, Santiago Gonzalez, 6-1; Patrioticandproud, Elvis Trujillo, 20-1; You Know I Know, Drayden Van Dyke, 30-1; Crimson Giant, Brandon Boulanger, 50-1; Imperative, Kent Desormeaux, 30-1; Bronzo, Tyler Baze, 10-1; Catch a Flight, Gary Stevens, 12-1; and Hard Aces, Victor Espinoza, 12-1.
In other Big ‘Cap news:
Brandon Boulanger rides in his biggest race yet in the Big ‘Cap aboard 50-1 Crimson Giant. “This will be my first Grade I race,” said the 21-year-old apprentice who is represented by agent Ken Huth. Born in San Ramon, California and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida, Brandon is the son of veteran jockey Gary Boulanger.
“I’ve been riding since October of 2012 and watched my dad ride at Golden Gate,” Brandon said. “I’m not really too sure how to feel about my chances Saturday, but Crimson Giant is a nice horse and last time out he showed a lot of heart (second by a nose going a mile against four rivals on Feb. 20).
“I’ve got to take all the blame for that loss, getting my whip tangled in the reins. If I’d have gotten my whip out to urge him three or four strides earlier, we could have won the race by a good length. Only the Lord knows how the Big ‘Cap is going to go when we come to the top of the stretch.
“Shared Belief is a monster of a horse, and we all know that. We saw what he did against California Chrome . . . I just hope the racing gods are in our favor.”
Victor Espinoza on Hard Aces, recently acquired by Hronis Racing for trainer John Sadler: “I worked him three-quarters so I got to know him a bit. He’s a bit lazy in the morning but I guess he’s different in the afternoons. He knows when it counts.”
Santa Anita offers two huge guaranteed pools on Big ‘Cap Day, $1 million on the Late Pick 4 and $250,000 on the Pick 6. There will be a Beerfest and live music in the Infield.
SHARED BELIEF SEEKS TO BE BIG FAVORITE TO WIN THE BIG ‘CAP
Shared Belief, who has lost just once in 10 career starts, will attempt to become one of the heaviest favorites to win the Santa Anita Handicap when he starts in the prestigious event Saturday. He is the 3-5 favorite on the Big ‘Cap morning line issued by Santa Anita oddsmaker Jon White.
“The biggest favorite of all the Big ‘Cap winners was Round Table,” said White, who also provides pre-race television commentary for Santa Anita’s simulcast network. “Round Table was just slightly lower than 1-5 when he won the Big ‘Cap in 1958. He paid $2.30 to win for a $2 win ticket.
“When Spectacular Bid won the Big ‘Cap in 1980, he was 1-5 on the tote board and paid $2.60. Prove It was 2-5 when he won in 1961, paying $2.80.”
White noted that Round Table, Spectacular Bid and Prove It had something else in common besides being heavy favorites to win the Big ‘Cap.
“All three were ridden by (Bill) Shoemaker,” White said.
“Two of the other heaviest favorites to ever win the Big ‘Cap were Lava Man and Seabiscuit,” White added. “Lava Man was 3-5 when he won his second Big ‘Cap (in 2006), returning $3.20. And in 1940, Seabiscuit and Kayak II were coupled in the betting when Seabiscuit won the Santa Anita Handicap in the final start of his incredible career. Seabiscuit and Kayak II were 3-5 on the tote board and paid $3.40.”
DUBAI-BOUND SHERMAN WISHES HOLLENDORFER WELL
Art Sherman and Jerry Hollendorfer have matched wits for decades on the Northern California racing circuit, where they were proverbial Big Fishes in a Small Pond.
Now major players in Southern California, they’ve carried their rivalry to Santa Anita, where Sherman’s California Chrome was third and Hollendorfer’s Shared Belief a troubled fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last Nov. 1.
No meeting between the two handicap stars is imminent, since Horse of the Year California Chrome is headed to Dubai for the $10 million World Cup on March 28, while once-beaten two-year-old male champion of 2013 Shared Belief is the odds-on favorite in Saturday’s $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.
Still, Sherman, 78, understandably has the utmost respect for both Hollendorfer, 68, and Shared Belief.
“Jerry is very dedicated and does a helluva job,” Sherman said of Santa Anita’s leading trainer this meet with 23 wins through Thursday. “He deserves everything that he has. He’s a workaholic and I’ve known him for years.”
Sherman, meanwhile, has all his i’s dotted and t’s crossed as he prepares for his first trip to Dubai.
“Chrome leaves on March 17 and I leave on the 22nd,” Sherman said. “He’ll have one breeze over the track there before the race.
“All the details are completed now, and there was quite a bit of paper work. But I’m looking forward to the trip. I’m going to have a good time. Everything looks like it’s going well. ”
Under exercise rider Anna Wells at Los Alamitos Friday morning, California Chrome worked six furlongs in 1:11 and galloped out seven furlongs in 1:24.60.
DENMAN TRAVELS DOWN BIG ‘CAP MEMORY LANE
Trevor Denman raised the bar to unprecedented heights in North American race calling when he came to Santa Anita more than three decades ago from his native South Africa.
The 2014-15 meeting marks Denman’s 32nd anniversary as Public Address Commentator at The Great Race Place, where he started in 1983.
Following are recollections of his most memorable calls of the Santa Anita Handicap, for which he will do honors again Saturday.
“One of the best surely would have been Greinton versus Herat (in 1986). That still sticks in my brain. Of course, the first one you call is memorable. That was Lord at War (1985) with Bill Shoemaker. That was great, too.
“Martial Law (1989) still stands out as one of the biggest upsets in history (at 50-1). That was a great Big ‘Cap. Lava Man (2006 and 2007) was a very popular winner. Obviously, Game On Dude has to be one of the highlights of Santa Anita Handicap history, particularly his win in 2013 by a Big ‘Cap record 7 3/4 lengths.
“Chantal Sutherland became the first female rider to win it (in 2011 on Game On Dude, who would go on to make history by being the only horse to win the race three times).
“I wasn’t here when John Henry actually won the Big ‘Cap in 1981 and 1982, but I called his race the year before he retired. His races would have to be among the most memorable.
“But Game On Dude really dominated the last decade, when you think about.”
On Shared Belief, the 3-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s classic: “He’s head and shoulders above this field. If nothing weird happens, nobody comes close to him in that field.
“But you know horse racing. There’s no such thing as a certainty, is there? But beyond the unbelievable, he has to win. He’s by far the best. Without Bayern and without California Chrome, gosh, they don’t have a shot against him, do they?”
GOOD TRIP CRUCIAL IN SAN FELIPE STAKES
Trainer Cliff Sise Jr. hopes Prospect Park takes a major step forward on the Triple Crown trail when the son of Tapit owned and bred by Marty and Pam Wygod runs in Saturday’s Grade II, $400,000 San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.
It will mark the first stakes race for the colt, who broke his maiden impressively by 5 ¼ lengths at one mile on Jan. 30.
Sise says the trip could be crucial.
“”That’s what it’s going to end up being,” Sise said, alluding to which horse gets the best trip. “With (Bob) Baffert drawing the one and three (post positions with Lord Nelson and Dortmund, respectively), he’s got to get position early or else he’s going to get shuffled back.
“So he’s got to use his horses in a little different manner. I think I drew well (six of 10). I’m going to try and sit like three (lengths) off of them. But it’s going to be a trip race. That’s what I think.”
The field for the San Felipe: Lord Nelson, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Ocho Ocho Ocho, Mike Smith, 4-1; Dortmund, Martin Garcia, 8-5; The Gomper, Tyler Baze, 15-1; Kenjisstorm, Agapito Delgadillo, 50-1; Prospect Park, Kent Desormeaux, 4-1; Bolo, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; Pulmarack, Drayden Van Dyke, 20-1; Sir Samson, Joe Talamo, 12-1; and Pain and Misery, Flavien Prat, 15-1.
The San Felipe offers 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner, with 20 for second, 10 for third and five for fourth.
Trainer Carla Gaines on Bolo, whose three career races have been on turf: “The owners wanted to try him on the dirt, and that’s how the decision evolved. He’s working well, but sometimes you don’t know until you run them, so we’re just going to give it a whirl and see.”
Trainer Ron Ellis on The Gomper, who steadied when finishing fourth as the 1-2 favorite on Jan. 30: “He might not be ready to go on, but we want to give him one more chance. His last race was an inexplicably poor effort. There’s nothing wrong with him physically. I hope the pace is a little more favorable for him this time.”
HOT MEGA HEAT GOES FOR GRADE I GOLD IN KILROE
Mega Heat seeks his first stakes victory when he runs in Saturday’s Grade I, $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf.
The 6-year-old Unusual Heat gelding couldn’t be coming up to the race in better form, winning his last two starts at a mile on grass in come-from-behind style under Corey Nakatani.
Winner of 10 of 22 career starts, Mega Heat was seventh in the 2012 Kilroe but was sidelined 13 months after that race. “He had a relatively serious injury, not life-threatening, of course,” said trainer Peter Eurton.
“This is a step up but he’s won two in a row at a mile on grass and Corey really rides him well. He’s found a new dimension by not going up there and tackling the lead. He can be very versatile now.
“We got a good draw and I think it will come down to who gets the first jump, because if he’s up there close, he will fight.”
The Kilroe lineup: Hay Dude, Kent Desormeaux, 8-1; Winning Prize, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Holy Lute, Tyler Baze, 8-1; Mr. Commons, Martin Garcia, 20-1; Silentio, Flavien Prat, 8-1; Mega Heat, Corey Nakatani, 8-1; Summer Front, Victor Espinoza, 7-2; Home Run Kitten, Gary Stevens, 8-1; Ring Weekend, Drayden Van Dyke, 8-1; Za Approval, Mike Smith, 6-1; and Dimension, Joe Talamo, 20-1.
Talco was scratched.
CONQUEST TWO STEP ‘GOOD AS EVER’ FOR SAN CARLOS
Conquest Two Step has made himself at home at Santa Anita, where the Florida-bred son of Two Step Salsa guns for his third win from five starts at The Great Race Place in Saturday’s Grade II, $250,000 San Carlos Stakes for 4-year-olds and up at seven furlongs.
The 4-year-old colt was second by a neck to none other than once-beaten champion Shared Belief in the Grade I Malibu at seven furlongs on Dec. 26 before winning the Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes at six furlongs on Jan. 31.
“He’s trained and looks as good as he ever has,” trainer Mark Casse said. “I think seven-eighths is his game. The distance is good for him. We’ve got to give everybody weight, but that’s what happens when you win.”
The lineup: Chitu, Martin Garcia, 2-1; Outside Nashville, Kent Desormeaux, 12-1; Majestic City, Tyler Baze, 12-1; Conquest Two Step, Joe Talamo, 5-2; Kobe’s Back, Gary Stevens, 8-1; El Nino Terrible, Fernando Perez, 12-1; Wild Dude, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; Midnight Hawk, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; and Blues Blaster, Juan Sanchez, 30-1.
NEWLY DISCOVERED SEABISCUIT FOOTAGE TO AIR VIA SIMULCAST ON SATURDAY
Santa Anita Park has announced that four minutes of recently acquired color footage of Seabiscuit’s legendary win in the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap will be shown between races six and seven Saturday, Santa Anita Handicap Day. Originally shot on 35 mm film, the video was discovered and edited by longtime Hollywood Park Television Department producer, Kip HannAn, who is now working as a video archivist at UCLA.
“The footage is for the most part, absolutely pristine,” said Santa Anita Vice President, Marketing, Nate Newby. “I think very few people alive today have seen the 1940 ‘Big Cap in color, and when they do, they are going to be amazed.
“We’ve edited this down to four minutes and I think people are going to be blown away by what they see. This is a perfect time to show it, on the 75th anniversary of one of the greatest moments in Santa Anita history.”
Saturday’s 1940 Santa Anita Handicap Seabiscuit video will be broadcast on the track’s simulcast system and will be aired live as well at calracing.com.
FINISH LINES: Martin Pedroza, named on Cigar Mile winner Private Zone in Saturday’s one mile Gulfstream Park Handicap and Diamond Bachelor in the Big ‘Cap at Santa Anita, rides 6-5 morning line favorite Private Zone for trainer Jorge Navarro in Florida. Another Martin—Garcia–rides Diamond Bachelor . . . Eclipse Award winner American Pharoah worked six furlongs from the gate in company in a bullet 1:10.40 under Martin Garcia for his 3-year-old debut in the Rebel Stakes March 14. Workmate Whiskey Ticket was timed in 1:11.80 . . . Two time Eclipse winner Beholder, with designs on the Madison at Keeneland April 4, worked five furlongs in company for Richard Mandella in 59 flat. “She couldn’t look better,” Mandella said of the daughter of Henny Hughes owned by B. Wayne Hughes . . . Jockey Brice Blanc, on the smashing debut of 3-year-old filly Spanish Queen, 5 ¾-length last-to-first winner of Thursday’s fifth race at one mile on turf for trainer Richard Baltas: “She acted up a little in the gate, first time out, and she kind of got left a bit. But she’s shown in the mornings that she’s very intelligent, although a little nervous, a little antsy. But in her works she came inside horses very nicely and had different gears. So I was pretty confident she was fit enough going a mile. Richard did a great job.” . . . Happy 52nd birthday today to Gary Stevens, who rode with the energy of a teenager winning two races Thursday. Birthday congrats too to Rosie Ybarra (63 on March 10) and Roni Walker (65 on March 21) who have been welcoming patrons at Santa Anita’s popular Clockers’ Corner eatery for 36 years . . . Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday. Turn your clocks ahead one hour Saturday night.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Thursday, March 5)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||147||15||16||20||10%||$839,936|
|A. C. Avila||24||7||2||3||29%||$203,774|
|J. Eric Kruljac||36||5||4||5||14%||$247,150|
|J. Keith Desormeaux||20||5||4||2||25%||$164,110|