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SANTA ANITA STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• FOR SHERMAN, WINNING WAS ALWAYS IN THE CARDS
• ‘NEW FACES’ MAKE PRESENCE FELT AT SANTA ANITA
• GAME ON DUDE IN BULLET WORK FOR CHARLES TOWN
WORK OF ART PAYS OFF FOR TRAINER SHERMAN
Art Sherman and Vince DeGregory are two peas from the same generational pod: old, old school. They are racing’s Sunshine Boys.
Sherman at 77 and DeGregory approaching 82 have outlived multitudes of their peers, their history and their memory marching ever on, and racing is the better for it.
Six decades ago, Sherman and DeGregory were two young lions out to make their marks, Sherman as a jockey and DeGregory as an agent. As fate would have it, DeGregory represented Sherman circa 1960.
DeGregory never reached the heights with Sherman he later would with Victor Espinoza, Darrel McHargue, Joel Rosario, and Alex Solis, and earlier with Hall of Fame greats Bill Shoemaker, Angel Cordero Jr., Chris McCarron, Laffit Pincay Jr., Jacinto Vasquez and Jorge Velasquez.
But that’s OK. To each his own. As the finish line nears, memories are all we have.
“I had Artie’s book at Saratoga,” DeGregory remembered. “Larry Gilligan was there. I think Larry had 10 winners and Artie won one race. Business wasn’t that great, but Artie loved the game and became a standby jockey. He would stay until the last race. If any jockey took off a horse, he was obligated to ride it.”
Back in the day when the Racing Form (nee Morning Telegraph) cost 50 cents, tracks would pay a designated rider to spend the day in the jockeys’ room and ride a horse when the need presented itself.
“A lot of times, he didn’t ride any horses, but he still got paid,” DeGregory said. “The main thing was, Artie wanted to be in the jocks’ room, because he was a very, very good card player at race horse rummy.
“He used to make three or four hundred in cash, beating those riders. Artie always was sharp. I’m very happy for him to see that through the years, he’s been successful training up in Northern California. His son (Steve) is doing well, and now Artie, too, with California Chrome.”
California Chrome, for those who might have spent the winter on another planet, is the rags-to-riches California-bred colt who has thrust his way into the favorite’s role for the Kentucky Derby on May 3.
“It reminds me of when I had Solis and we were riding Snow Chief for Mel Stute,” DeGregory said. “Hopefully, California Chrome will do better. Snow Chief lost the Kentucky Derby but won the Preakness. He couldn’t go that far in the Belmont, so he skipped that and won the Jersey Derby.
“It was an honor for California breeding to have Snow Chief as the favorite for the Kentucky Derby, just like it is with California Chrome. Hopefully, he’ll win the Kentucky Derby.
“That will be the greatest thing for California.”
If it’s in the cards, call it a work of Art.
‘NEW FACE’ BALTAS MAKES MOST OF OPPORTUNITIES
Richard Baltas is one of the fresh faces appearing regularly in Santa Anita’s winner’s circle these days.
His most recent showing came yesterday, after he saddled a horse he claimed for $20,000, California-bred Big Macher, to a nose victory over 7-5 favorite Wild Dude in the Grade II, $200,000 Potrero Grande Stakes.
It was his biggest win since he sent out a horse he claimed for $32,000, Freedom Crest, to win the $500,000 Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap at an $80 payoff under Kent Desormeaux in 2001.
“But the Potrero Grande is more special,” Baltas said, “because my career is going really well now. I’ve got a lot of young babies (2-year-olds) coming in and about 33 head overall, so I’m getting more opportunities.
“It’s really gratifying. I’ve always loved this business. It’s been hard on me, going back and forth, training, not training, but I’ve stayed with it, because I don’t care. I love the game.
“Even if I have to be an assistant, I don’t care. I want to be around horses. Now I’ve got my opportunity and it looks like better things are coming.”
Big Macher came out of the race in good shape, Baltas said Sunday morning, but likely will remain sprinting.
“I think the horse can go further, but I don’t like to change things that aren’t broken,” he said. “But I do think he’ll go a mile. He’s got tactical speed and he’s just the type of horse where you can do anything you want with him.”
No less an authority than respected syndicated handicapper and horse owner Bob Ike is on board with the significance and importance of “new” faces like Baltas and Adam Kitchingman earning their spurs against the established “Usual Suspects.”
Kitchingman saddled California-bred Tribal Spy to win Saturday’s Las Cienegas Stakes in an 11-1 upset,
“We've all come to expect one of the Big Five to be leading trainer at any given meet,” Ike said. “Generally, you can just put those names in a hat and draw one because Baffert, Hollendorfer, Sadler, O'Neill or Miller is going to lead the meet. They send out the most horses and they have the strongest barns.
“But ironically, in Brad Free's notebook today on DRF.com, he points out that those five are a combined 3-for-90 during the month of April. So you take a look at the standings and you see a number of barns having excellent meets, hitting at better than 20 percent with a smaller number of starters. Guys like Proctor, Jones, Ellis, Mullins, Bonde, Diodoro, Cerin, Mandella, Machowsky, Callaghan and Spawr are all hitting at a very good percentage.
“And throw in Art Sherman with California Chrome, and Baltas and Kitchingman winning stakes races with Cal-breds yesterday, and we've seen the success spread around quite a bit during this meet.”
SANTA ANITA INFIELD OPEN FOR LIVE RACING FOR TRIPLE CROWN & BEYOND
Santa Anita will offer fans free weekend admission to its spacious Infield Area and free parking via Infield Gate 6, beginning Saturday, April 26, through the conclusion of the upcoming Spring Meet on Sunday, June 29.
“Our Spring Meet will open on Friday, April 25 and for the first time ever, we will be open for live racing during the Triple Crown,” said Santa Anita Vice President of Marketing Nate Newby. “Our Infield has been and remains an incredibly popular area for young people, families and groups and we are excited to be able to showcase our entire facility leading into the Kentucky Derby and through the Belmont Stakes.
“By offering free parking and free admission in the Infield, we’re hoping to attract many thousands of new and existing fans and expose them to the best our sport has to offer. In addition to great racing both here and around the country, we’re also going to let folks know that they are welcome to bring beach chairs to the Infield, coolers with picnic items and non-alcoholic beverages.”
Santa Anita’s Gate 6 is accessible via Colorado Place on the track’s northern perimeter. Anyone choosing to cross over from the Infield to the Grandstand may do so by purchasing General Admission for $5. Santa Anita Thoroughbreds Club members can purchase General Admission for just $3. The Thoroughbreds reward membership program is free to join and fans may do so on-track on any racing day.
General Parking on Santa Anita’s Grandstand side remains at $4. For more information on Santa Anita’s upcoming Summer Meet, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-6417.
FINISH LINES: Following today’s races, Santa Anita will be dark Monday through Friday, and resume racing next Saturday, April 19, with a first post time of 12:30 p.m. Santa Anita will be open for simulcast wagering Thursday and Friday . . . Three-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude worked six furlongs on the main track Sunday in a bullet 1:11 under Martin Garcia in preparation for next Saturday’s $1.5 million Charles Town Classic, where Bob Baffert hopes to win the rich race for the second straight year with the multimillionaire gelding. Scheduled to leave Southern California Tuesday with Game On Dude for the West Virginia race are Clubhouse Ride (Tyler Baze), Imperative (Kent Desormeaux) and Moreno . . . Congrats to trainers Jose Jimenez, Kristin Mulhall and Marcelo Polanco, who won their first races of the meet on Saturday. The 64-year-old Jimenez, a native of Mexico, saddled Tancred to win the fourth race at a $16.80 payoff under Geovanni Franco, who picked up the mount after two riders opted off. Previously trained by Baffert, Tancred had only one prior start, finishing fifth in a maiden allowance race at Del Mar on Sept. 2, 2012. “I only had the horse (actually, a ridgling) for a month and a half,” Jimenez said. “I wasn’t surprised he won. He’d been training good.” . . . Jockeys Fernando Perez, Joe Talamo and Tyler Baze each recorded two wins yesterday, Perez and Baze capturing the early and late daily double races, respectively . . . NBA fans, HRTV’s Kurt Hoover points out a hunch exacta for today’s San Simeon Stakes: Lakerville and Artest.