STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN

• SAN FELIPE WINNER PREMIER PEGASUS SET FOR SANTA ANITA DERBY APRIL 9

• ‘CLASSIC COUNTDOWN’ ON HRTV TONIGHT AT 5:30 P.M.

SANTA ANITA DERBY FAVORITE PREMIER PEGASUS A WINNER IN ANY LANGUAGE

If Premier Pegasus makes it to the Kentucky Derby on May 7, the media might do well to brush up at Berlitz.

English is not the strong suit of Myung Kwon Cho, who owns, trains and bred Premier Pegasus, dominant winner of the San Felipe Stakes March 12 by nearly eight lengths, and the early favorite to win the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 9. Cho was born in North Korea, but grew up in Seoul, South Korea.

Nor is English the native tongue of his long-time assistant, Maria Ayala, who hails from Mexico.

But they get by with their winning personalities and a little help from Cho’s 17-year-old son and trainer-to-be, Raxon. The main thing is, Premier Pegasus responds to Team Cho, and that’s what counts.

“I’ve been with Mr. Cho for 22 years,” said Ayala, whose reluctance to be interviewed is spurred by her fractured Ingles. “Mr. Cho gave me a job as a hot walker and he taught me everything from there.”

For Ayala, who resides in Lawndale, caring for a high-strung Thoroughbred like Premier Pegasus is a walk in the park compared to answering to the innocent anxieties of the 68-year-old Cho.

“The horse is very easy to be around at the barn,” said Ayala, who cares for six other horses at Cho’s compact but efficient operation. “He’s relaxed. He likes to lay down all the time and likes to sleep late. He’s very good. I have no complaints about him.”

Adds Alonso Quinonez, who has ridden Premier Pegasus in each of his five races: “He’s very professional, but when he’s in his stall, he’s like a little baby.”

Mr. Cho, however, is another story. “He gets nervous and excited and calls me too many times a day to see how the horse is doing,” Ayala said with a shy smile.

Can’t blame him for that.

Probable for the Santa Anita Derby: Anthony’s Cross; Bench Points; Comma to the Top, Corey Nakatani; Indian Winter; Mr. Commons, Mike Smith; Offlee Wild Boys; Premier Pegasus, Alonso Quinonez; and Silver Medallion, Garrett Gomez. Silver Medallion worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Saturday in 1:02.40 for Steve Asmussen.

SANTA ANITA DERBY FEATURED TONIGHT ON HRTV’S ‘CLASSIC COUNTDOWN’

The Top 10 winners of the Santa Anita Derby since 1975 will be showcased on a new edition of HRTV’s “Classic Countdown. The program is hosted by Jon White and airs tonight at 5:30 p.m.

“I think racing fans will really enjoy seeing footage of such Hall of Fame horses as Affirmed, A.P, Indy, Point Given, Sunday Silence and Winning Colors,” White said. “Of course, Affirmed not only followed his Santa Anita Derby victory by capturing the Kentucky Derby, he swept the Triple Crown, a feat that has not been duplicated since he achieved it all the way back in 1978.”

“Classic Countdown” celebrates the sport’s finest horses and races in a countdown format. Previous shows featured the prestigious Santa Anita Handicap and Santa Anita’s most important event for fillies and mares, the Santa Margarita Invitational.

POPULAR ‘UNCORKED’ WINE AND CULINARY FESTIVAL AT SANTA ANITA SUNDAY

Santa Anita Park will present its fourth annual “Santa Anita Uncorked” wine and culinary festival in the track’s paddock gardens area tomorrow. The “Uncorked” event features fine wines, cuisine sampling from popular local restaurants, a paddock art show and a full day of world-class racing.

“Santa Anita Uncorked” will again be sponsored by the Wine of the Month Club, based in nearby Monrovia.

“This event has grown each year and we expect it to be even bigger this year,” said Santa Anita Vice President of Marketing Allen Gutterman. “Our Paddock Gardens area is a perfect location for this event and we’ve found that horse racing is a perfect compliment to it. We expect to have several new wineries joining those who have participated in the past.”

“Santa Anita Uncorked” packages will include: parking, Club House admission with a grandstand seat, daily race program, wine tasting, cuisine sampling, art exhibit and a souvenir wine glass.

Tickets for admission, parking, program and restricted area wrist band are available for $60 each and can be purchased at the Santa Anita ticket office, by phone at (626) 574-RACE, or on-line at www.santaanita.com. Proceeds from “Santa Anita Uncorked” will benefit Arcadia High School student programs and CARMA.

CAL-RODS 5TH ANNUAL CAR SHOW AT SANTA ANITA SUNDAY

Street Rods, Classics, Customs and Corvettes will be the order of the day at Santa Anita Sunday as the track showcases Cal-Rods 5th annual Car Show in its spacious infield.

“We’re looking for the biggest Santa Anita car show ever,” said John Niedzwiedz of Santa Anita’s marketing department. “We have more than 500 pre-entries.”

The event is hosted by Cal-Rods San Gabriel Valley. For more information, call 909 616-0300.

FINISH LINES: Garrett Gomez is at the Fair Grounds today where he is named to ride Mission Impazible for Todd Pletcher in the New Orleans Handicap; Niji’s Grand Girl for Ken McPeek in the Fair Grounds Oaks; and Wilkinson for Neil Howard in the Louisiana Derby . . . Agent Ron Ebanks reports that Joel Rosario, who leads the nation in purse earnings with more than $3.5 million and is Santa Anita’s leader in wins with 77, has stakes engagements out of town in two weeks. On April 14, he rides Smiling Tiger for Jeff Bonde in the Count Fleet at Oaklawn Park; on April 15, he rides Switch for John Sadler in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn; and on April 16 he rides Matriarch winner Gypsy Warning for Graham Motion in the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland . . . More than 90 people attended La Salle High School alumni Gino Buccola’s 24th birthday Thursday at the Frontrunner Restaurant and helped raise just under $1,300 to combat the young horse-owner’s exorbitant medical bills in his recent battle with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer that grew from a tumor on his neck last October. He was not covered by health insurance and his bills range well into six figures. After five chemotherapy sessions, his doctors at City of Hope in Duarte are optimistic about his recovery. Krissie Carl, the main organizer of Buccola’s birthday benefit, was well-pleased with the turnout. “I really want to thank Chris Quinn, the Director of Sales at Santa Anita Park for making the arrangements and being so generous,” Carl said . . . Barry Abrams is not concerned about running Jax El back in four days in Sunday’s $70,000 Santa Lucia Stakes. The daughter of Unusual Heat won an allowance race by 3 ¼ lengths on Wednesday. “She wasn’t tired,” the trainer said of Jax El, who would be racing for the third time in nine days (she was fourth on March 17). “I’ll tell Alonso (Quinonez) to go as fast as he can as long as he can. She has a lot more than she showed on Wednesday. It was just a workout.”

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