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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• ALL OPTIONS OPEN FOR THE FACTOR, INCLUDING SANTA ANITA DERBY
• WEDNESDAY RACING, FREE FRIDAYS AT SANTA ANITA NEXT WEEK
• JOHN SHEAR IMPROVING AFTER ACT OF HEROISM
THE FACTOR IN GOOD SHAPE AFTER REBEL ROMP
It was water, water everywhere at Santa Anita Sunday morning as the heavens unleashed yet another winter storm, but it did not rain on Bob Baffert’s parade.
The Hall of Fame trainer was basking in the glow of The Factor’s devastating win in Saturday’s Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, and said that all options were open for the colt’s next race. That would include the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on April 9.
The Factor thrust himself front and center in the Kentucky Derby picture with a wire-to-wire victory in the Grade II Rebel, winning the mile and a sixteenth test by 6 1/4 lengths under Martin Garcia.
The son of War Front drew off with ease through the stretch.
“He looked good today, he ate up well and all reports are positive,” said Baffert by telephone Sunday morning. “I think he comes back to Santa Anita tomorrow. I don’t know (if he’ll run in the Arkansas Derby). Right now, I would say he’s going back to the Arkansas Derby. I could leave him at Santa Anita, but I don’t know. I’m just going to get him back here and look at him and I’ll let him tell me where he wants to go.” The $1 million, Grade I Arkansas Derby will be run April 16 at 1 1/8 miles at Oaklawn Park.
Asked if it was a concern with only a three-week gap should he run in Arkansas Derby and come back in the Run for the Roses on May 7, Baffert said, “You know what? I don’t know. I just don’t know. I have a lot of options with him. I could go anywhere. He’s nominated everywhere. You never know where I’m going to go.”
As long as The Factor stays healthy, however, the sky’s the limit. A wow! performance like the Rebel seems always at the ready.
“I thought he might run like that,” Baffert said of the Rebel. “He was doing that well.”
SANTA ANITA RESUMES WEDNESDAY RACING, FREE FRIDAYS NEXT WEEK
Santa Anita embarks on an expanded five-day race week this Wednesday, March 23, and will reinstitute its popular “Free Fridays” promotion beginning Friday, March 25. In addition to March 25, all patrons will receive free General Admission on April 1, 8 and 15. Santa Anita’s 74th winter/spring meeting concludes April 17.
“We made the decision to expand to a five-day race week the final four weeks of the meet and we think it makes sense to offer ‘Free Fridays’ as well,” said Santa Anita President George Haines.
“In addition to free General Admission, we’re going to offer free box seats on those remaining Fridays, while they last. Along with that, we’ll be offering $2 beers, soft drinks and hot dogs and we expect this to be very well received also.”
90-YEAR-OLD JOHN SHEAR RECOVERING AFTER PADDOCK MISHAP
Santa Anita paddock guard John Shear, a Santa Anita employee for nearly half a century, continues to make progress after he suffered multiple injuries following an act of heroism at Santa Anita on March 13.
The 90-year-old Shear was injured while shielding a 5-year-old girl from a runaway loose horse prior to Santa Anita’s third race. Shear has been employed at Santa Anita since Dec. 23, 1961.
“He’s been taken off the critical list and was taken out of intensive care this morning,” said long-time Shear friend Gail McNeal, who recently retired from Santa Anita after 33 years. She operated the press box elevator since 1980 until her retirement, thus earning the nickname, “Elevator Gail.”
“I saw him yesterday at Huntington Memorial Hospital,” McNeal continued. “His spirits are good; he’s chatty and positive and wants to get well and get out of there. He wants to go home to his wife (Diane) in Sierra Madre. After that, we’re talking about taking another one of our trips to Las Vegas.”
Shear’s act of selfless heroism has created national interest.
“I’m completely blown away and humbled by the response from fans at the track and from those on all the social media sites,” Shear’s 44-year-old son, Mike, told the Santa Anita Publicity Department earlier. “It’s amazing how many people who don’t even know my dad have expressed their well wishes.”
MEDINA TAKES TO LIFE IN THE FAST LANE AT SANTA ANITA
Luis Medina’s life in the fast lane has been brief. The 25-year-old native of Puerto Rico rode Twin Sparks to victory in world record time of 1:06.49 for six furlongs at Turf Paradise in November of 2009, and is proud to have that statistic on his resume.
But making a dent at a major venue like Santa Anita takes considerably more time. Medina and his agent, Manuel Sanchez are putting in the effort, however. Through Saturday, Medina had a second and a third from eight mounts. He spends many of his mornings on assignment at Bob Baffert’s barn.
“I had every reason to believe Twin Sparks could set a record that day,” Medina recalled of his day in the sun. “He had been working fast and had class and speed. Turf Paradise is known as a ‘speed’ track, but still, that’s really moving.”
Medina galloped 15 horses a day in Puerto Rico before starting his career in earnest at Calder in Florida. He later rode at Aqueduct and Gulfstream, and received welcome coaching from countryman and Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero Jr., as well as help from John Velazquez, who donated $4,000 worth of his riding equipment to Medina.
“I have two sisters and three brothers, and three of them are jockeys,” Medina said, referring to sister Jesiry and brothers Jose and Tony.
Medina is represented by 49-year-old Colombia native Sanchez, who has been an agent for 25 years and been with Medina for seven months.
FINISH LINES: Rain forecast for Santa Anita the past 24 hours fell far short of expectations. “We had just below a half-inch that started at 7 o’clock this morning, Track Superintendent Richard Tedesco said Sunday morning. “The three inches they predicated never happened, so I don’t know what to believe now.” Santa Anita has been hit with some 20 inches of rain to date this meet, compared with 21 all of last meet, Tedesco said . . . Chantal Sutherland will be the guest on HRTV’s “Across the Board” show this Wednesday at 5 p.m. . . . 2010 Santa Maria Stakes winner St Trinians worked three furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Sunday in :37.80 under Joe Talamo for trainer Mike Mitchell . . . Congratulations to California Horse Racing Board steward Scott Chaney on winning the Pasadena Triathlon for the third straight year Saturday. “It’s a reverse sprint,” Chaney explained, “actually run, bike, swim. I went in 47 minutes and 58 seconds. It’s a tune-up for a Half-Ironman event I’ll be in two weeks from now in Oceanside. That event hurts a lot. It consists of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a half-marathon of about 13 miles. I’ve been doing this sort of thing four or five years, but I’m 38 now and the kids are getting faster and faster. I had to try hard to win this year.”