- SMITH SEEKS AN UNPRECEDENTED TRIPLE IN BIG ‘CAP
- BRONZO, HARD ACES WORK FOR SANTA ANITA HANDCAP
COOL HAND SMITH EYES THIRD STRAIGHT BIG ‘CAP WIN
Mike Smith has been down this road before. The Hall of Fame jockey has ridden in hundreds of major races throughout his career of more than 33 years, but winning one never grows old nor does the buzz that surrounds it.
Still, the native of Roswell, New Mexico, who turns 50 on August 10, manages to keep his emotions under control, both before and during the race. He’ll do that again when he rides prohibitive favorite Shared Belief in next Saturday’s Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, a race he will be seeking to win for an unprecedented third straight year, having won it with Game On Dude in 2013 and 2014.
Johnny Longden, Corey Nakatani, Bill Shoemaker and Gary Stevens have won the race twice in a row, Shoe on two separate occasions, but no one has achieved the elusive “Triple.”
Not even immortals such as Eddie Arcaro, Longden, Shoemaker and George Woolf himself, who won the inaugural Santa Anita Handicap in 1935 aboard the 7-year-old Azucar, were able to win the Big ‘Cap three straight years in 77 previous runnings of the historic race.
“I’m excited about it,” Smith said of the Big ‘Cap. “I’m not sure who’s running in it yet, but Shared Belief has proved he can definitely go the mile and a quarter, and given the opportunity, he’s going to be tough to beat. He’s a good horse and he’s proved that, and I think his last race (beating Horse of the Year California Chrome in the San Antonio Invitational on Feb. 7) really proved it.”
That endorsement aside, Smith feels we haven’t yet seen the best of Shared Belief.
“I think there’s room for him to step up even a little bit more than he’s shown, so we’ll see what happens,” Smith said. “He’s been training really well since, from what I hear, so all systems are go. We’re excited about it.”
FINISH LINES: Chilean-bred Bronzo, working in company with the Irish-bred Circling for Neil Drysdale, worked seven furlongs on an unexpectedly rain-free Saturday morning in 1:27.20 for next Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap. Circling was given 1:28.40 . . . East Coast invader Hard Aces, recently acquired by Hronis Racing for trainer John Sadler, worked six furlongs for the Big ‘Cap under Victor Espinoza in 1:14.40. Espinoza has the Big ‘Cap mount on the 5-year-old Hard Spun horse, winner of the restricted Louisiana Handicap last out at the Fair Grounds on Jan. 17. . . Santa Anita offers two huge guaranteed pools on Big ‘Cap Day, $1 million in the Late Pick 4 and $250,000 in the Pick 6 . . . Brian Beach, agent for Espinoza, the regular rider of Horse of the Year California Chrome, has engaged his rider on Eddie Logan winner Bolo for Carla Gaines in next Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes . . . With Martin Garcia in the saddle, Damascus Stakes winner Chitu, prepping for the Grade II San Carlos Stakes next Saturday, worked five furlongs in company for Bob Baffert in a bullet 58.40, fastest of 69 works at the distance, the average time of which 1:01.20. Stablemate Pimpernel was timed in 58.80. Sky Kingdom also fired a bullet for Baffert, going four furlongs in 47 flat while stablemate Opsec was timed in 47.20 . . . Trainer Cliff Sise Jr. reports Prospect Park came out of his five furlong work yesterday “great” for the San Felipe . . . Next Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap will mark a personal milestone for dedicated racing fan Ray Ware, as the Glendora resident will be on hand for his 50th consecutive edition of America’s longest continually run “Hundred Grander.” Ware’s first Big ‘Cap was in 1966, when Lucky Debonair, ridden by Bill Shoemaker, cruised to a one-length victory as the 3-1 favorite . . . Trainer Bob Hess Jr. has the $200,000 Echo Eddie Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs penciled in for California Cup Derby winner Mischief Clem . . . The Racetrack Chaplaincy of So Cal, which supports the backstretch workers’ children’s ministry, will hold its charity golf event, “Tee Up Fore Kids Charity Golf Tournament” April 6 at Glendora Country Club. To register, contact Sharla Sanders at 626 733-3815 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for a donation form . . . Not only are jockeys Tyler Baze, Kent Desormeaux and Espinoza in a donnybrook for the runner-up spot in wins behind runaway leader Rafael Bejarano in Santa Anita’s jockeys’ standings with 26, 25 and 23, respectively, through Friday, they were bunched in purse earnings, too, at $1,441,444, $1,389,110 and $1,400,408 . . .The Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) invite all to an open forum at Santa Anita on March 14 at 10:30 a.m. in the Baldwin Conference Room on the third level of the Clubhouse. For more information, call 626 574-6620 or visit www.toconline.com . . . California racing rarity: two Oklahoma-breds, Wildly Excessive and Lust for Life, run in today’s second race.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Friday, Feb. 27)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||137||15||16||18||11%||$822,306|
|A. C. Avila||23||6||2||3||26%||$156,974|