David Flores has ridden many top Thoroughbreds in a career spanning more than a quarter century. Whether Turbulent Descent will be one of the ones remains to be seen, but the facts are these: She is unbeaten in three starts, all over Hollywood Park’s synthetic Cushion Track, has been favored in each one, and is the 4-5 morning line choice when she makes her 3-year-old debut in the Grade I, $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile on Saturday.

“She’s just push-button,” said Flores, who celebrates his 43rd birthday tomorrow. “She relaxes, she doesn’t rush, she jumps good out of the gate and I can pretty much place her anywhere I want. Whatever you want her to do, she does it very easily.”

Turbulent Descent, a Florida-bred daughter of Congrats trained by Mike Puype, has been working sharply for the Las Virgenes since winning the Grade I Hollywood Starlet in her last start, on Dec. 11.

“I’ve worked her every time,” Flores said, including a bullet :59 1/5, breezing, at Hollywood on Jan. 30. “So far, she’s shown enough talent to win in easy fashion each time. I hope she keeps showing that, and I think she will with more experience. It should be just a matter of time.”

Added Puype: “She’s coming along good. Everything’s ready to go, so we’ll see what we can do. It looks like a good spot, on paper at least. There’s a lot of speed, and she’s a good filly. The only thing we don’t know about is the dirt. She hasn’t run on the dirt, but we’ll find out tomorrow.”

Bob Baffert, meanwhile, is committed to May Day Rose being on the lead. “It’s a tough spot because she’s one dimensional,” the trainer said of the front-running winner of the Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes. “She’s got to just go. She’s going to get the lead at all costs.”

The field for the Las Virgenes, Saturday’s fourth race: Plum Pretty, Martin Garcia, 8-1; Tiz the Route, Brice Blanc, 20-1; California Nectar, Patrick Valenzuela, 4-1; May Day Rose, Rafael Bejarano, 9-2; Turbulent Descent, David Flores, 4-5; and Zazu, Joel Rosario, 9-2. Bluegrass Chatter was scratched.


Alexis Barba is inclined to draw a line through Make Music for Me’s last race. That would be the Grade II San Fernando Stakes on Jan. 15, when the son of Bernstein finished seventh of eight on a speed-favoring track. The 58-year-old trainer is hoping for a surface more to the Kentucky-bred’s liking when he runs in Saturday’s Grade II Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles.

“He had no shot (in the San Fernando),” Barba said. “That’s how I see it. How can you go (a half-mile) in :47 and make up any ground? He only got beat six lengths and he was wide the whole way. (The actual half-mile split was 46.80).

“It seems like there’s more speed in the Strub, at least that’s what we’re looking at. There’s a little more speed and the track’s been a little bit more fair (to closers) lately.”

Chantal Sutherland rides Make Music for Me for the first time in a race Saturday. “She worked him the other day and they went very well,” Barba said.

The field for the Strub, which goes as the ninth of 10 races Saturday: Honour the Deputy, Garrett Gomez, 8-1; Indian Firewater, Mike Smith, 6-1; Twirling Candy, Joel Rosario, 1-1; Tweebster, Rafael Bejarano, 5-1; Paris Vegas, Brice Blanc, 20-1; Make Music for Me, Chantal Sutherland, 10-1; Do It All, Patrick Valenzuela, 8-1; and Oilisblackgold, Victor Espinoza, 8-1. Each is assigned 118 pounds except Indian Firewater and Twirling Candy, who have 123 each.


Saturday’s hunch play: Victor Espinoza on Victor’s Cry. The two already teamed up for a victory in the Grade II Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park last Nov. 27, when they rallied from next-to-last in a field of 10 to capture the mile and one-sixteenth turf race by nearly two lengths at odds of 11-1 for trainer Eoin Harty.

Saturday’s objective is the Grade III Thunder Road Handicap at one mile on turf.

“He ran big that day,” Espinoza said of the Citation. “I had never ridden him before. That was my first time. Eoin just told me to be patient and make one run and that’s just what happened. I hear he’s been training well and coming up to this race in good shape. I haven’t worked him. I just ride him. I save my energy for the race.”

The field for the Thunder Road: Blue Chagall, Garrett Gomez, 8-1; Fluke, Joe Talamo, 7-2; Dakota Phone, Joel Rosario, 8-1; Proudinsky, Patrick Valenzuela, 7-2; Meteore, Alonso Quinonez, 10-1; Jazzman’s Dance, Kayla Stra, 50-1; Skyrush, Martin Pedroza, 20-1; Colgan’s Chip, Brice Blanc, 7-2; and Victor’s Cry, Espinoza, 3-1.


Streaking Aggie Engineer goes after his fourth straight win in Sunday’s Grade II, $150,000 San Antonio Stakes, a major steppingstone to the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 5.

“He seems good,” trainer Paddy Gallagher said of the gelded son of E Dubai, who won the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes impressively last out on Jan. 8.

“He worked good since the San Pasqual,” Gallagher continued. “If he’s doing as well as he was before the San Pasqual, that would be nice. I don’t know how the pace scenario will set up, but the horse is doing fine.”

The field for the San Antonio, the sixth race on an eight-race Super Bowl Sunday card that starts at 11 a.m.: Gladding, Rafael Bejarano; Big Shot Syd, Alonso Quinonez; Dakota Phone, Corey Nakatani; Quindici Man, Patrick Valenzuela; Pode Ir, David Flores; Spurrier, Joel Rosario; and Aggie Engineer, Joe Talamo.

First post time for Super Bowl Sunday’s eight-race program is 11 a.m. Gates open at 9:30 a.m. There will be no Early Bird wagering on “Big Game” Sunday. The main track will close at 8:30 a.m. Sunday and there will be no schooling in the paddock.


Rafael Bejarano has regained the mount on 2010 three-year-old filly champion Blind Luck for the Grade II La Caňada Stakes on Feb. 13, and beyond, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Friday morning after Santa Anita’s leading jockey worked the Eclipse Award winner five furlongs in :59.80. “Down the line, we don’t want to get into a switch with Switch,” Hollendorfer said, pun intended, referring to La Brea and Santa Monica Stakes winner Switch, whose regular rider is Joel Rosario.

Rosario had ridden Blind Luck in her last five starts, the most recent being a second-place finish in the Grade II El Encino Stakes on Jan. 16. Blind luck was beaten 3 ½ lengths as the 3-5 favorite. Bejarano rode Blind Luck in six straight races, winning four, before Rosario took over in the Delaware Oaks last July 10, a race she won by a nose as the 1-5 favorite.

In all, Rosario had two wins and three seconds aboard the chestnut daughter of Pollard’s Vision.


Santa Anita’s popular Champions! Gift Shop will be busier than usual on Saturday. For those who can’t get enough of Vox Populi (Secretariat/Zenyatta), here’s what’s happening tomorrow:

From 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Penny Chenery, Jerry Moss, John Shirreffs and Mike Smith will autograph a special poster, Racing’s Royalty, featuring a portrait of both Secretariat and Zenyatta. Each poster sells for $40, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Secretariat Fund.

The autograph session is expected to last about one hour, so fans are advised to line up early and asked not to bring any outside memorabilia. It will take place in the event tent across from Champions! The print can be purchased at the event.

From 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Kate Tweedy (Penny Chenery’s daughter) will autograph her book, “Secretariat’s Meadow.” Books are available at Champions!

All day Saturday, jewelry designer Jane Heart will present her Secretariat jewelry at Champions! A portion of her sales also goes to support the Secretariat Fund.

FINISH LINES: Bob Baffert reports that Triple Crown hopeful The Factor is back on the track after missing three days with a foot bruise. “He had a little setback,” Santa Anita’s leading trainer said of the 3-year-old who set a track record of 1:06.98 for six furlongs on Dec. 26. Baffert said the San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs on Feb. 20 was still a possibility for the son of War Front . . . Brice Blanc took off his scheduled two mounts Friday after escaping serious injury in a mishap turning for home in Thursday’s second race aboard 3-2 favorite All Star Heart, who slipped on the grass while making what could have been a winning move. “He was a little stiff, and we didn’t want to risk it today,” said Blanc’s agent, Mike Ciani . . . Corey Nakatani will be at Gulfstream Park Saturday to ride Square Eddie for Doug O’Neill in the Donn Handicap. . . John Shirreffs said Robert J. Frankel Stakes runner-up Harmonious is scheduled to work Sunday, after which a decision will be made on whether she changes surfaces and runs in the Feb. 13 La Caňada Stakes on dirt . . . 2009 Malibu Stakes winner M One Rifle worked six furlongs Friday in a bullet 1:11 for Bruce Headley. “He’ll probably run in the Potrero Grande,” the trainer said. “I’d be going for my seventh win in that race.” The Grade II handicap for older horses at 6 ½ furlongs on the main track will be run April 3 . . .Trainer Bill Spawr reports that Amazombie, 11-1 winner of the Sunshine Millions Sprint on dirt, will be nominated to the $100,000 Sensational Star Handicap for Cal-breds at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf Feb. 27…Spawr scored in Thursday’s seventh race with Sammartino, a half-brother to Spawr’s multiple stakes winning sprinter, Bordonaro. . . .Jim Cassidy is pointing Sunshine Millions Turf runner-up The Usual Q.T. to the Grade I Kilroe Mile on turf March 5, “but we’ve also been invited to Dubai,” the trainer added, referring to the $2 million Duty Free at 1 1/8 miles on grass March 27 . . . Seventeen-year-old Andrea Rosario, who has sung the National Anthem at Yankee Stadium, will do the honors at 12 noon Saturday at Santa Anita . . . Clocker Bruno De Julio invites fans to join him on Facebook for racing updates, photos and more.